Friday, April 18, 1997 7:57:37 AM


NEW YORK In an ambitious stunt that underscores the passion and creativity among emerging filmmakers, a self-proclaimed "cyberterrorist" is holding the Internet name to famed indie producers-rep John Pierson's company, Grainy Pictures, hostage. The incident, which sounds more like a segment from Pierson's television show SPLIT SCREEN, reveals the lengths to which some are willing to go to get the attention of people like Pierson, who can help jump start their film projects as well as their careers.

Out of apparent frustration with John and Janet Pierson's refusal to read the screenplay for his recently shot film, filmmaker Lee Michaels registered the Internet domain names (, ( and ( and his holding them for ransom. In a letter, dated April 4th, Michaels notified the Piersons that he will not release the Internet names to them until they read his screenplay and return, by overnight express, a ten question survey proving their having read it.

On March 26th, following a request by Janet Pierson to register the ( Internet domain name, the administrator for the Pierson's web service provider notified her that the names had been taken by Michaels a few weeks earlier. Intent on setting up her company's first website at the ( domain name, she sent a letter, dated March 31 st, to Lee Michaels Productions. In it she explained, "As you can see from the letterhead, we're incorporated as Grainy Pictures and were hoping to set up a website under that name. Of course, you got there first. Since it's a fairly new registration, we just thought we'd write to see how committed you are or whether you'd consider giving up the name to us."

Responding to the Pierson request in his April 4th correspondence, Michaels wrote: "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Guru... I have taken John Pierson, Grainy Pictures, and Edgy Films cyber hostage. If you check the net under of these names, you will find a web page. I guess that makes me a cyber terrorist." A sketch of Pierson tied to a chair is currently posted at the ( domain name, as well as at the other site names Michaels registered.

In his April 4th letter, Michaels describes his movie, SEX AND KILLING, as " a morality lesson disguised as a wacked out example of Venice Beach. Almost every scene is thought provoking and designed to push buttons. This film is also very funny." He closes the letter by writing,

"I hope you take my actions as a gesture of creativity and friendship.," and adds the post-script, "The worst is you hate the script and you have another wacked out story to tell. The best is you love it, you rep the film, we go to festivals and prosper."

Clearly, John Pierson seems to have chosen the former option. During a marketing seminar at the Avignon/New York Film Festival earlier this week, he read from the letter and related the story to a laughing audience. Indeed, Pierson tells indieWIRE, he has read the screenplay and that he finds Michaels' stunt "amusing." Yet, as much as John and Janet Pierson are impressed with the letters' creativity, they stop well short of encouraging other filmmakers to go to such lengths to get their attention. In fact, the Piersons' policy remains consistent-- while they do not generally read scripts until further along in the process, they openly accept videotape of filmmakers' work. John Pierson cautions, however, that the turnaround time on submitted work these days is a bit longer, now that Grainy Pictures is producing the SPLIT SCREEN television show.

Finally, reacting to Michaels' specific demands, John Pierson reveals that he and Janet have yet to return the ten question survey. On the one hand they are mildly disturbed at the fact that it must be returned by overnight express -- Grainy Pictures relies on the far more economical U.S. Postal Service (as they recommend all low-budget filmmakers should). "We are demanding a more amusing 10 question quiz," Pierson adds, "we refuse to answer this quiz -- its too dull."

In a telephone conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Lee Michaels' filmmaking partner, Greg Chamberlain, who concocted the attention getting scheme with Michaels, confirmed that they are willing to consider amending the demand that the survey be returned by overnight express. In an effort to break the stalemate, they will likely accept its return by post or even electronic mail. Chamberlain added that he and Michaels, who is out of town and unavailable for comment, created the stunt "totally just for fun and not to offend [the Piersons] whatsoever."

The Press


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