SpiritClips upbeat about future

Rob Fried's pay-for-shorts site making progress

Talk about testing one’s resolve.

Two months after Rob Fried‘s SpiritClips launched as a pay web destination for inspirational short films, the economy crumbled and SAG stopped its members from appearing in the micro-budget shorts.

Still, Fried — whose Hollywood resume includes an exec stint at Sony, running Savoy Pictures and producing credits on “Hoosiers,” “Rudy” and “Collateral” — says the feel-good venture is slowly finding its footing.

Fried is serving up the viral equivalent of chicken soup: 3 to 5-minute shorts that, in a scene or two, convey acts of courage, hope and compassion. Subscribers — paying from $9.99 to $24.99 per year — get access to films they can send as electronic greeting cards, and can connect in a social networking environment.

The shorts — 11 of them currently, with a new one added each month — range from “Sally,” a short about a waitress (played by Fried’s wife, actress Nancy Travis) who finds a respite from boorish customers in an act of unexpected generosity, to “Indivisible,” a vignette about courage in a Vietnam POW camp based on the experiences of Sen. John McCain.

“The Fork,” a true story about lost love in the Holocaust, was allowed to spread virally without restriction — resulting in more than 50,000 views in six days.Fried is very hands-on — he writes the films, and the ones he doesn’t direct, he approves shot lists, music and casting on.

“I want to prove the Internet isn’t just an information-based instrument, that it could move people,” says Fried, who has spent a decade running Web businesses after growing disillusioned with the Hollywood power game.

Now he has to figure out a way to turn it into a business.

Fried says he’s got enough startup money for several years — time enough to broaden his constituency with outreach toward churches, schools and institutions. Fried says 425 have so far signed on as premium members.

“Our first phase was to make the films, the second to launch the website, something I’d characterize as successful,” Fried says. “We’re funded to go another couple of years, giving us time to develop and accumulate a client base, and to iron out the user experience and relationship with customers.”

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