Let’s get short

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Age: 35.
Title: Founder and CEO of AtomShockwave.
Location: San Francisco.
Employees: 200.
Financial backers: AtomFilms investors include Chase Capital Entertainment Partners and Chase Capital Partners, Arts Alliance, Frank J. Biondi Jr. (general partner at WaterView Partners and former chairman and CEO of Universal Studios), Intel Corp., and Trans Cosmos USA. Shockwave’s investors include venture firm Sequoia Capital and Jim Clark (founder of myCFO, Healtheon, Netscape and Silicon Graphics).
When he launched AtomFilms in September 1998, Mika Salmi opened up new opportunities for independent filmmakers and animators. In the process, his company helped reintroduced “shorts,” or short films, which are being seen in theaters for the first time in years.
“We focused on a genre that was considered elite and niche and revived it by attracting mainstream audiences,” Mr. Salmi said. “The short-form genre is appropriate to our current lifestyles, which are fast-paced and dynamic. People are used to receiving information in concise bytes, which naturally affects our perception of entertainment.”
This past January, AtomFilms merged with Shockwave.com to create AtomShockwave. Both companies saw a huge future in offering new forms of entertainment to multiple platforms, ranging from handheld devices to theaters. “The two companies had natural synergies and together create a new kind of entertainment powerhouse,” said Mr. Salmi, who now serves as CEO of AtomShockwave.
The Atom business model was based on syndication to as many platforms as possible. With one of the largest catalogs of animation and live-action entertainment, the company markets and distributes short-form entertainment to more than 100 partners and to audiences worldwide. Its licensed films can be viewed through major Internet sites, broadband services, television, airlines and home entertainment companies. It was also the first company to provide short-form content for hand-held devices.
Since its inception, AtomFilms’ Web site, at www.atomfilms.com, has received accolades for bringing together the work of independent filmmakers and animators to a mainstream audience of more than 150 million people.
“I have always been confident in the company’s success, so the acceptance from the entertainment community was not very surprising,” said Mr. Salmi. “We have proven that short-form entertainment is a viable, sought-after genre. We opened a huge arsenal of opportunities for the entire industry-celebrities are starring [in] and directing short films, while young filmmakers have the opportunity to showcase their talent.”
That’s definitely been the case for filmmaker Amy Talkington. “They’ve really created an interesting life for short films,” she said. “The best one used to hope for was some festival screenings and maybe, if you’re lucky, sales to a couple of channels. They’re creating more of a market for those films, which is really exciting for those of us who have made a few of them and want people to see them.”
AtomFilms commissioned Ms. Talkington’s film, “The New Arrival,” to try out new technology that would add interactivity. She has been stunned by the response it has received.
“When you have something on the Internet on such a high-visibility site as Atom, the interest, not only from the industry-but real people and real filmmakers all over the world-is amazing,” she said. “I’ve gotten letters from all over the world, and it’s been really rewarding to get feedback from filmmakers and people who have been inspired by it.”
According to Ms. Talkington, one of the functions of the Atom site is to give exposure to new filmmakers and act as a steppingstone to further careers. “They definitely have succeeded in doing that,” she said.