Website offers filmmakers aid

Caan lends name to openfilm.com

Thesp James Caan thinks the film business needs a “kick in the butt,” so he’s lending his name and expertise to a website that’s got $1 million in funding to find the next great indie filmmaker. Caan, his son Scott, Robert Duvall and director Mark Rydell have all signed on as advisers to Openfilm.com, which provides Internet distribution, awards cash prizes to filmmakers and helps submit projects to festivals.

Filmmakers can upload shorts to the site, which has been in beta mode for a little more than a year, and get feedback from viewers. Filmmakers can also sell downloadable versions of those works through the site, with Openfilm taking 69¢ per sale, regardless of the film’s price.

Openfilm says it has 20,000 registered members and more than 5,000 shorts in its library. Already in place is a deal with TiVo, which syndicates three or four films per week from the site. Openfilm also plans to award $1 million in grants over the next 20 months. Four filmmakers will receive $50,000 in cash and $200,000 in financing. Any film uploaded to the site is eligible for the award. The six films that receive the most votes from the community will be viewed by the advisory board, which will select the winner.

“I’m just really interested in finding young talent,” said Caan, who is chairman of the company. “I know there are people out there who are capable. This just opens things up for them.”

To boost the site’s community elements, both Caans, Duvall and Rydell will host monthly live web-cam chats with the site’s users, answering questions about filmmaking and the film industry.

Entrepreneur Mike Zoi, who founded Ener1, an alternative energy company that develops and manufactures lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, is financing the company. He approached Caan through a mutual friend around the time of the beta launch.

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