By Chris Nashawaty
March 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Look, I like a bigass Hollywood blockbuster as much as the next guy, but just try checking out, say, the Star Wars Phantom Menace trailer at Twentieth Century Fox’s website. By the time you’ve become punch-drunk by all the corporate techno-hype, you almost don’t want to see the damn movie. (I said almost.) The experience is so cold and impersonal, it’s a bit like visiting the Death Star itself.

Of course, the very presence of a Death Star requires a ragtag Rebel Alliance scrambling to bring it down. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a handful of indie filmmakers take to the Web to promote their low-budget labors of love with the same do-it-yourself spirit that got their movies made in the first place. One of the first such pioneers in cyberspace was Clerks‘ Kevin Smith. Sure, he’s a big shot now that those sugar daddies at Miramax are marketing his next film, Dogma. But Smith’s View Askew Productions site (http://www.viewaskew.com), with its seemingly bong-hit-induced production diaries and archives of video clips (including one of Smith being raked over the coals by the Cartoon Network’s Space Ghost), gives you the sense that Smith’s still a drooling comics fan from Jersey keepin’ it real.

Still, there’s a certain hand-to-mouth desperation missing from View Askew — you don’t get the feeling the guy really needs the business. For that, you should check out the sites of two struggling filmmakers whose movies debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The first is Doug Block’s D-Word (http://www.d-word.com), which seems like a logical no-brainer because his wiggily entertaining Super-8 documentary, Home Page, is about the Web and stars online celeb Justin Hall, host of cult site Justin’s Links From the Underground. A Net virgin before he started the film, Block got his chops putting this site together, and his insightful diary captures both the toiling-in-obscurity hardships and giddy pleasures of indie filmmaking — including a brush with Roger Ebert (a fan of Home Page) at Sundance.

More groundbreaking is the site for Haxan Films (http://www.haxan.com), online home of The Blair Witch Project, one of the creepiest films since The Exorcist. Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, who cowrote and codirected this mockumentary about three filmmakers who get lost in the woods while searching for an ancient legend, have managed to cobble together a killer site that gets you genuinely itching to see their movie. The low-rez teaser clips are terrifying; the centuries-long time line tracing the history of the Blair Witch is as clever as all get-out; and their Sundance diary crescendos with the euphoric, lottery-winning entry ”WE SOLD THE FILM! WE SOLD THE FILM!”

Which brings us to independent film’s evil doppelganger — commerce. Naturally, any endeavor that turns Net-savvy wannabes into Tinseltown millionaires overnight is bound to attract a few carpetbaggers. And on March 19, Centropolis — headed up by the same Dean Devlin who cranks out big-studio budget busters like Independence Day and Godzilla — and the Independent Film Channel are launching iF Magazine (http://www.ifmagazine.com), a megasite devoted to ”the independent filmmaking revolution.” If you’re thinking ”wolves in sheep’s clothing,” I hear ya. But, hey, if Devlin’s able to use his deep pockets to get one more person to see Home Page or The Blair Witch Project, then I say welcome to the Rebel Alliance, my man.
View Askew Productions: B+
D-Word: B
Haxan: A-

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