by Mike Tanner
12:05pm 21.Apr.97.PDT When first-time director Lee Michaels wanted to get his work-in-progress,
Sex and Killing, noticed by the film world, he took a page from John Pierson's book on filmmaker
self-promotion. Unable to convince Pierson - independent producers' rep, author of Spike, Mike,
Slackers and Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of Independent Cinema - to read his script,
Michaels and his assistant director, Greg Chamberlain, hatched a plot to register Internet domains
under Pierson's name and that of his production company, and then hold those domains hostage until
Pierson proved he'd read the script.
As luck would have it, within weeks of their March registration, Pierson's wife, Janet, attempted to
register grainypictures.com with InterNIC, only to find the name taken. When the Piersons contacted
Michaels, he received in response a letter stating that the names had been taken as "cyber hostages."
Though Michaels demanded on 4 March Pierson return answers to a "script test" via FedEx, the drama
has stretched out like an innocuous version of the Peruvian impasse. Pierson says he plans no legal
action to protect his trademark, and besides, he says, "this is the best material I've had in years."
The man's got books to write and sell, after all.
His counter demands are merely that the filmmakers drop their FedEx provisions (which he believes
violate the cheapskate spirit of the indies), that a more attractive pair of glasses are placed on
the caricature of a bound Pierson that now graces the pages in question, and that "I get a more
comedic set of questions" on the script test.
Chamberlain counters that the portrait is the best they could get made on Venice Beach from grainy
author's photos for $20. He says that he and Michaels are preparing the new quiz, and that they'll
settle for postal delivery. After all, he says, "the guru asked." Chamberlain stresses that the
whole stunt was done in the spirit of "clean fun" and never meant actually to be threatening. He
says that they don't even want back the US$600 in registration fees. "That," he says distastefully,
"would be a sort of extortion."