Arthur Cohen and Richard Witkowski did not waste any time when they came up with the idea of founding Iklipz in early 2006. Ninety days after their original conversation, the site was up and running, allowing film-makers to upload their own works free of charge and participate in an online film community through a member profile (www.iklipz.com).
"We had the idea for a MySpace for independent film-makers and we had to get up and be relevant - and fast - or else someone else would pre-empt the window," says Cohen.
He might seem an unlikely champion of home-made independent movies. From 1989-2003, Cohen worked at Paramount Pictures, most recently as president of worldwide marketing. His credits include Titanic and Forrest Gump. But Cohen was looking for new challenges and he had a particular fascination with making something work on the internet.
"I'm personally fascinated by the internet. I don't think it's 10% of what it is going to be in the future," he says. "In regards to Iklipz, it started because of the 7,000 movies which apply to Sundance, only 130 get in. Where do the rest go' We thought that if the film-makers could post them for free on a website, it was better than the film being in your desk drawer whether you were viewed on the site by 1,000 people or 100."
Cohen teamed with Witkowski, who is president and founder of iPoint Advisors, a business consulting firm in New York City, and the two engaged a lawyer and designer in return for stakes in the company. Former Paramount Classics co-chief David Dinerstein came on board as consultant and former Sony buyer Seth Nagel as vice-president of content and acquisitions. An advisory board was assembled including film-makers such as Julian Schnabel, John Cameron Mitchell and Ed Burns and executives such as Mark Urman, Eamonn Bowles and Arianna Bocco.
The site was divided into one section for the public to upload whatever films they like and one for industry to view films selected by Nagel in their entirety. Both sections are free to access. Inspired by his experiences with the likes of Tom Cruise and William Friedkin at Paramount and their attention to the way a film looks on screen, Cohen worked with Intellimar Solutions to develop proprietary compression technology which provides uninterrupted clear video playback with reduced bandwidth requirements.
Initial successes on the site included free access to features such as Super Size Me, Charlotte Sometimes and Tully as well as the short A Clown Short Of Destiny by Chad Calek about rock group Slipknot which had more than 100,000 hits in its first week. The company has also started creating original programming such as a video blog with journalist David Poland and That Indie Film Show, an insider's look at independent film, which are intended to draw traffic to the site. Iklipz now has 6,000 films available to watch.
"If we get it right, we'll be a film festival that never closes," says Cohen.
On the revenues side, Iklipz has attracted advertising and sponsorship from the likes of Sony Electronics and Cohen is now trying to raise further funding. "We want to make money, of course, and it will be profitable once we are past break-even," he says. "At some point in the future, somebody's going to buy it because it's too expensive and time-consuming to be built from the ground up."