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Letter from the Editor
# 003
1-900 Television

Recently someone asked me, "Aren't there already too many movies being made? And won't your Web site aggravate the problem by helping to finance even more movies?"

I got to thinkin' about the bottleneck called distribution and exhibition. And I've come up with a possible solution. Here goes.

Announcing the future formation of the 1-900 TV channel. Initially it will be broadcast free television. But, in the near future, it will be available on cable and via satellite. Here's how it works.

Producers loan their films (for free) to the 1-900 network, which plays them at a scheduled time. Periodically during the transmission, on the bottom right side of the screen, a four digit number is displayed. If the viewer enjoys what they are watching, anytime during the week, they can call the 1-900-INDIE-TV (a fictional number for now) and they will be asked to enter the four digit number for the show they will be voluntarily paying for. The amount billed to their phone bill will be (for example) $1. They can call back as many times as they want.

The producer and the network share in the proceeds of the 1-900 calls. The phone company is a very accurate neutral party. Their phone report will be used to divvy up the proceeds. A 50/50 split seems reasonable.

Benefits. A producer can receive funds for a movie that has no distribution lined up. Distributors can review contribution reports and see which films merit a broader television, theatrical, pay-cable, pay-per-view or video rental release.

The voluntary aspect appeals to indie film watchers who would watch more often without worrying about getting stung for paying for a stinker or for subsidizing an independent film channel that plays the same chic films over and over again.

If L.A. and New York City each had their own UHF free broadcast independent film 1-900 stations, that would be the testing ground. From there, on to satellite and cable.

As things improve in my own financial arena, look for James E. Tessier to launch a 1-900 station by the year 2,000, if no one beats me to it. I hate seeing films "all dressed up and nowhere to go."

If there aren't enough theatres willing to show indie films, if you change the hidden assumption that "indie films need to be shown in theatres" to "indie films need to be shown everywhere", a whole new world of opportunity unfolds.

It's not enough to be frustrated by the film distribution and exhibition system and lament. As Napolean Hill said in "Think and Grow Rich", "in every adversity there is the seed of an equal or greater benefit - if you should choose to find it."

The "seed of an equal or greater benefit" just might be 1-900 TV.

James E. Tessier

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Copyright © 1996 James E. Tessier. All Rights Reserved.