Friday, December 05, 2008

Parkie alum writes film for XBox delivery (very cool)

(written by Helene Maddux for Ithaca College, 12/4/2008)

A little over a year ago while working at Lightstorm Entertainment, a small production company in Santa Monica, John Clisham '03 got the chance of a lifetime. Microsoft had launched the video store for its Xbox 360 gaming system and was toying with the idea of creating original content for its Xbox Live Marketplace. Microsoft executives working with Lightstorm happened to notice John working on short horror films.

"They saw me working late at night and on weekends making these little horror movies and asked me to pitch to them, which I did," he says.

John is now the first person to direct a short film distributed exclusively via Microsoft's online marketplace.

As he describes it, his 9.5-minute horror thriller, Janitor, is the story of "a pretty young girl stuck in detention, and this janitor goes on a rampage. It's sort of Frankenstein vs. Beautiful Girl." The film stars Jenna Dewan, the lead in the dance film Step Up and a supporting player in The Grudge 2.

Janitor debuted October 27, just in time for Halloween. "So far it's doing well," John says. "My team hasn't received the official numbers yet, but for the first three weeks it was up, Janitor was the no. 1 download on the entire Xbox Live service."

Janitor is the first of eight confirmed Xbox Live original short films. The other seven began going live November 19 to help show off the HD video capabilities of the New Xbox Experience. Of the eight films, John's is the only serious horror film. The rest are horror comedies directed by some big names in horror filmmaking: James Wan and Leigh Whannell (Saw), Andrew Douglas (the Amityville Horror remake), James Gunn (Slither and Dawn of Dead), David Slade (Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night), Adam Green (Hatchet), Lucky McKee (May and The Woods), and Peter Cornwell (The Haunting in Connecticut).

"One of the best things about this experience is that I get to bump shoulders with directors I've been idolizing for a number of years," John says.

The original short films are free to watch and generate revenue via advertising. According to John, Microsoft agreed to make the films as a way to test the waters. If they're downloaded by enough people, Microsoft will turn Xbox Live into a "television network of sorts," he says, expanding original content into outright series.

John says Ithaca College played a big part in his current success. "In 2002, I did the LA program. My internship was at Lightstorm Entertainment -- which many people told me was a bad place to intern, just because of the nature of the business. Lightstorm is James Cameron's production company -- and the rule of thumb is if you want to get experience, to really be a part of something, you stay away from the A-listers. But I couldn't resist; I took the internship. And, yes, for the first month or so, I read scripts and made copies. But then I got lucky -- the tech crew found me, and before long I was helping out with computers, networking, and a few small projects. It was a dream internship after that. I actually went in on days when I wasn't scheduled to be there. It was a cool place to be, and they didn't mind me sticking around."

"After graduation, I worked at IC for a couple of years for ITS [Information Technology Services]," John says, "until Lightstorm hired me and moved me to the West Coast. From that point on the experience really became Lightstorm University. I was doing so many different and unique things that it almost felt like school again. Through my experience at Lightstorm, I got the Xbox gig, and now because of the Xbox gig, I'm getting other deals."

"But it wasn't just the LA program or the Park School that prepared me," he adds. "I like to think it was IC in general that really got me here. I learned to write at IC, I learned about technology through my employment at ITS -- and that made me well rounded and well versed in different areas. IC really taught me to explore my surroundings and pick up as much as I could."


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