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IFilm Web exposure leads 2 to CAA deal

Helmers Hunt, Branit take short trip to percentery

Entertainment programming on the Web may not yet have attracted mass audiences, but it’s pulled in those who matter most to aspiring filmmakers: agents.

First time helmers Jeremy Hunt, 26, and Bruce Branit, 32, signed with Creative Artists Agency late last week after the duo’s three-minute short “405: The Movie” was posted on Netcaster iFilm.com.

F/x-heavy pic focuses on a jetliner that lands on a Jeep driving on Los Angeles’ always busy 405 freeway.

The filmmakers spent three months creating the short on their home computers with f/x software they already owned, a digital video camera and virtually no budget (though they did have to pay a $75 traffic ticket for filming on the freeway).

Until recently, the duo spent their days working as f/x artists at Digital Muse, creating visuals for TV series “The X-Files,” “Seven Days,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” musicvids and pics. They spent nights working on “405.” Newfound success has led Hunt and Branit to take a leave of absence from their jobs.

An iFilm programmer initially discovered the duo’s film on their Web site (405themovie.com) earlier this month and encouraged the directors to bring the pic to the Netcaster, where an agent with CAA’s new-media division viewed the pic.

A week later, a deal from the tenpercentery was put on the table. No funds were exchanged.

Vids unnecessary

Upon viewing the pic, Dan Adler, head of new media for CAA, e-mailed the short to agents in the division and the film departments, doing away with the need for videotaped copies.

“If it weren’t for the Web, they wouldn’t have reached the audience they did,” Adler said. “These guys are clearly great storytellers. They demonstrated a great deal of talent as filmmakers and got their film seen by people who needed to see it.”

CAA will focus on selling the duo as directors for features and commercials or as writers.

Jump-starting careers

“It’s been a pretty exciting week,” Branit told Daily Variety. “Everything has happened really fast. We just want to tell really cool stories. The Web has helped jump-start our careers,” he added.

“When something that’s pretty good appears on the ‘Net, people tend to take notice of it,” Branit said. “We’re the ultimate moviegoers. We love action sequences or sci-fi. We just wanted to do something fun. Honestly, how many treatises on being a lesbian in Morocco can you watch?”

IFilm receives hundreds of film submissions per week. “405” received over 40,000 hits in its first eight days after the site posted the pic on its front page June 12. Before that, “405” generated over 10,000 downloads in the first week on its own site.

“Our plan initially was to put this on our site and e-mail it to everyone we knew,” Branit said. “We didn’t think the reaction would be as big as it was. Everything we planned to happen in the first three weeks happened in the first three days.”

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