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Monday, August 15, 2005

'This is my universal studio'

In the future, will directors enjoy a more direct connection with their audiences?

Documentarian Robert Greenwalk thinks so - and he's making that future happen now.

The LA Times ran a great piece last week about his latest project, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." (He let his fans vote for their favorite title on the Web.) The story also recaps his release last year of "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," when he worked with MoveOn.org to use the Net to organize house parties; hosts bought a copy of the DVD and held a discussion after the showing. That DVD sold 200,000 copies.

From the Times:

    Ralph Tribbey, editor of the online DVD Release Report, called Greenwald's documentary an example of how the home video explosion has changed moviemaking, diluting the power of the Hollywood hierarchy.

But Greenwald is also using the Web to raise money, cultivate an audience in advance for the film, and even solicit video clips. The piece continues:

    The Web, Greenwald found, is a powerful tool for fundraising and information gathering. So far on Walmartmovie.com, he's raised $750,000 — of which $50,000 came from donors online. (Anyone giving $30 or more gets a free DVD.) The director also used the Internet to sign up 600 field producers, novices as well as professionals, and elicit footage, photos and tips about Wal-Mart. The title of the movie was the winner of an online popularity contest.

    "This is my universal studio," said the 61-year-old filmmaker, pointing to a computer in his Culver City office, once a motel at which, legend has it, MGM executives across the street held their lunchtime trysts. "Through our website we've reached hundreds of thousands of people without a multimillion-dollar marketing push."

    A potential theatrical run is in negotiation, according to Greenwald. After the DVD premiere, more than 2,500 houses of worship, schools, businesses and homes have volunteered to hold screenings that week, followed by a discussion of related issues, he said.

Very cool stuff.