With groundbreaking websites for Full Frontal and Dreamcatcher, two directors are pushing the online envelope.

By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 02, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

”You know exactly what’s going to be there, you take a look at it, and you never come back again.” That was just the kind of scenario producer Scott Kramer wanted to avoid with the official website for Full Frontal, director Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming experiment in ultralow-budget digital filmmaking. Anyone who’s ever visited a typical movie site knows what he’s talking about — seemingly interchangeable pages crammed with tired features (cast bios, trailers, etc.). But some in Hollywood see unique opportunities on the Net and are exploring ways to promote their films online. In fact, Kramer had two goals for FullFrontal.com: first, to have the site keep with the film’s indie sensibility, and second, to make sure it didn’t look like just another online billboard. ”I wanted the prospective audience to feel…the fun we were having in making this kind of movie,” he says.

So, with Miramax’s blessing and financial help, Kramer and Soderbergh turned to cast and crew to help document last fall’s five-week shoot. Eighteen hours of video footage — capturing moments mundane (a sound technician checking levels) and sublime (a bizarre sequence cut from the film involving Hitler and break dancing) — and countless digital photos were winnowed down and put online in regularly updated installments starting in late January. For his part, an admittedly cyber-unsavvy Soderbergh hopes that visitors will ”go to the website and feel like creative people were in charge of it, that…it’s not just something thrown together by the publicity department.”

Another well-respected ensemble director voices a similar concern. ”I’ve always felt frustrated by the behind-the-scenes stuff you see…[during a movie’s] release,” grumbles Lawrence Kasdan, deep in postproduction on another kind of big chill, his adaptation of Stephen King’s aliens-in-a-blizzard thriller, Dreamcatcher, due in early 2003. To that end, Kasdan brought a documentarian to Dreamcatcher’s British Columbia set and had his brother, Mark, keep a production journal. Both posted their first dispatches on the official site (dreamcatcher movie.com) even while the film was still shooting; along with journal updates, nearly two dozen video vignettes have since gone online, with more to follow.

While behind-the-scenes websites aren’t unprecedented, the amount of info on the two sites is. ”As far as…an exploration of the making of the film…we haven’t done anything as ambitious as [the Full Frontal site],” says Andy Robbins, Miramax’s VP of marketing and new media. Yet with all the time, energy, and money devoted to what’s essentially free content, there is still no way to measure the impact the sites will have on the box office. ”If you could figure that out,” says Robbins, ”you’d solve one of the great mysteries of modern movie marketing.”

Kasdan takes a more practical view. ”These websites are for the people who are exploring the Net all the time,” he says, ”[and they] are big moviegoers.” Soderbergh thinks this is only the beginning. He originally wanted Full Frontal’s site connected to the set in real time, providing a ”chat room for the [cast and crew]” in which visitors could sit in and eavesdrop. He’d still like to try it in the future: ”It might turn into an incredibly boring experience, but I think it would be neat.”