By JOHN ANDERSON
IT was a late night in Seattle. It was probably raining. Scilla
Andreen was still haunting the offices of her as-yet-to-be-started
Internet movie company, IndieFlix, when the phone rang. It was -- no
surprise -- a young filmmaker.
"He thought we were a local production company," said Ms. Andreen, 43,
a filmmaker herself, as well as an Emmy-nominated costume
designer. "Or a distribution company that might buy his film."
What the young fellow had found in his efforts to support his movie --
which he'd financed by selling his late grandmother's ring -- wasn't a
distribution company, not in the traditional sense, but instead, the
latest wrinkle in the dissemination of independent film.
As cheaper technology and a seemingly inexhaustible hipness quotient
have led to more filmmakers and films being produced, theatrical
distribution has become more expensive, the outlets more cautious, and
the returns on investments more dubious. The Internet has absorbed
some of the spillover, although the bigger success stories -- notably,
the political films of Robert Greenwald ("Uncovered: The War on Iraq,"
"Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism"), or "Faster," a highly
lucrative motorcycle documentary narrated by Ewan McGregor -- have
been niche movies with a core audience.
So what about more general fare with no stars, budgets or hope?
That's where IndieFlix, founded by Ms. Andreen and her business
partner, the filmmaker Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi, comes in. Directors
submit their films, which are then posted on the Web site
(www.indieflix.com). When users log on and click to buy the films that
capture their interest, IndieFlix burns them onto a DVD and ships them
out. The price for a feature-length film is $9.95.
Ms. Andreen's motto: "Own a movie for less than a movie ticket."