Friday, August 31, 2007



So... At around 6:00 this evening, NY time, the last vestige of On The Lot (OTL), it's interesting website, just evaporated into space, redirecting all visitors to the FOX web site.

The show had a great concept: filmmakers competing for a development deal with DreamWorks, making a short film each week with professional Hollywood crews and actors, and the public voting for their favorites. More than ten thousand filmmakers submitted films for the contest, and tens of thousands more loaded additional, serious short films onto the website.

Unfortunately, the TV show was marred by poor writing, an awkward hostess, lack of compelling "judging" and no publicity, so it did poorly in the ratings. It was also on Tuesday at 8:00, where it was afraid to create a really edgy style (the website even BLEEPed out words like screw -- as in screw in a lightbulb) and it competed with the popular America's Got Talent.

The website was marred by bugs, and though it had many interesting and excellent features, it lacked a powerful search function (and other features), which were badly needed on a site with so many films, filmmakers, and actors.

And the whole production was marred by frequent changes of direction, and excessive secrecy that alienated many people who would have been its biggest fans.

The result was that neither the website nor the show really got any traction.

Yet it's a great loss. The concept was great, and had the execution been as good as the concept it would have been a blockbuster show. The website had an extremely rich collection of excellent films -- serious short stories by serious filmmakers -- and the forums, blogs, and industry information could have made this a very valuable website and a central hub for filmmakers and filmmaking.

I hope someone with a great vision, and an equally good production team, puts together a successful show about making films, with a companion website that becomes a central meeting place for filmmakers. And I hope this combination helps spur independent filmmaking and web video, and fosters communication between the world of emerging filmmakers and the professional film industry.

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