Lights, Camera, Auction!

Planet Hollywood in New York hosted the world premiere of underdogs at the New York International Independent Film Video and Arts Festival this past weekend, but, in an effort to get the film from the launch party into the market, the writer-director has listed the rights to the romantic comedy on eBay.

The film was written and directed by American University student Glenn Friedel, who made what he describes as "a miraculous recovery from a debilitating stroke in 1992." Friedel says that "The use of eBay to auction the rights to underdogs is precedent-setting and represents a possible alternative method for film distribution." (Readers can view the film's auction progress here.)

At the same time, recently launched is putting together a forum via which independent film artists can market their wares in an auction-house environment. With the slogan "Distribution by bidding? We're not kidding!," the call for entries was announced September 16; entries will be accepted until December 10. The top 20 finalists will be announced January 21, 2000; a screening for potential buyers will take place in the last few days leading up to the auction on March 3.

Ramiro Gonzalez, one of the partners in Films4Auction, says, "I see a lot of people involved in independent film projects, and I can see their frustration trying to sell their movies. This is another door for them to the distributors." Partner Ricardo Del Rio adds, "What we're talking about here is fairness in a game that was controlled by the buyers. Filmmakers will have a fair chance to have their picture shown, first of all, and to have people compete for a decent or fair price."

Independent filmmaking has been on a roll since The Blair Witch Project, shot for about $60,000, scored over $136 million for Artisan Entertainment, which was able to secure the rights to the film for $1 million at the last Sundance Film Festival. Films4Auction is predicting that the average sale price for the 20 films on the block might be about $175,000 to $250,000—a deal on the BWP scale. "Auctions are offering everything from jewelry to real estate," said Louis Webre, vice president of marketing for the auction house. "Film is just a natural for auction. It's not as out in left field as you would think."