At least seven groups of striking WGA members are shopping internet-based ventures along the lines of Will Ferrell’s FunnyOrDie.com, reports LAT. The business models, however, have yet to be worked out. Some see these ventures as a breeding ground for content that could then be licensed to TV, a la Quarterlife. Others see them as self-sustaining online-only plays, possibly tying into social networking sites for distribution.
So far, things appear to be in the exploratory stage, but announcements could be imminent. Accel’s Jim Breyer told the LAT: “It is likely we will make investments in Los Angeles screenwriter/content-oriented companies in 2008.” Other interested investors mentioned in the article include Spark Capital and various hedge funds. We’ve also reported on funds raised at talent agency CAA and niche studios like DECA, which is looking to finance original web content. The writers behind these ventures are mostly laying low, perhaps because they’re not fully committed to taking their careers in this direction, though WGA board member and Air Bud creator Aaron Mendelsohn is mentioned as being involved.
This has been evolving for some time, as dwindling production costs and new distribution outlets already made it easier for creators to bypass the traditional gatekeepers. It’s the disillusionment with the studios and the time off afforded by the strike that’s spurring writers to take the plunge. Once the strike is resolved, some writers undoubtedly will opt for the relative security of the studio system, but as the article makes clear, a growing number are now committed to going into business for themselves.