Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Hollywood Underground Film Festival Wants Your Money!

A re-run from the archives...

January 2003
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The Hollywood Underground Film Festival Wants Your Money!
FEST FOUNDER NOW INTERNET CASINO OWNER: LENDS NAME TO HUFF 2003 TELEMARKETERS

by Rex Lameray
Recently I filled out an online application for the Hollywood Underground Film Festival. An email reply from Adam Zoblotsky advised me to "call our Hollywood offices to arrange shipment of your VHS viewing tape." A few days later I got a call from a HUFF agent, Brian, who seemed unnaturally excited about my film, especially seeing as he didn't know anything about it other than the title. Brian could "see the Warner's sign" from his office window, and spun about "how exciting it would be for you to come to Hollywood."

I played along until we got to the punchline: the entry fee was a whopping $300 and he wanted to get my credit card number right away. I said I'd "think about it."

A few days later he called me back, having "checked out" my website. He gave me the hard sell again, using tired 90's-era dotcom yuppie lawyer catchphrases like "I'm not blowing smoke up your ass here," and "this is your opportunity to network with the players in the film industry. It's copacetic!" Brian stressed that: "We're not in this for the money, it's for the love of independent and underground film."

He told me repeatedly that this was their "eighth year." Take me for a rube, will you, my new intelligence-insulting friend? And what kind of "underground" event uses the word "Hollywood" in its name anyway? Some quick research revealed that HUFF founder Adam Zoblotsky appears to have run numerous film festivals and other arts events as moneymaking ventures over the years, among them the Beverly Hills Film Festival 2000 and Angelciti International Film & Music Market 2001. His companies – listed variously as Angelciti Multimedia Inc., Angel City Film And Music Market, et al – made money mainly from their high entry fees. They also sold booths, websites and other services of borderline value to filmmakers.
An anonymous post on badbusinessbureau.com's Ripoff Report claimed that Zoblotsky "lied, did almost NO marketing, and everything they promised about the event has failed to materialize." A similar pattern of unsubstantiated complaints can be found sprinkled throughout the Internet. That and a couple bucks will get you a fancy cup of coffee, but a story on indieWIRE entitled "What's the Deal with the New York International Independent Film and Video Fest?" verifies some of these accusations.
NYIFV fest participant Will Lyman told indieWIRE's Anthony Kaufman that the Zoblotsky-run New York Independent Film and Video Festival 2000 forged a check in his name for $1,200, among other things.

Seattle filmmaker Peter Wick told the Galaxaco Newsletter that his overall experience with Zoblotsky at NYIFV and Angelciti was positive. He admitted that the whole operation seemed
to fall apart after Zoblotsky moved to L.A., where it didn't take long for some in the film community to consider Zoblotsky and his various new fests "a joke." Wick is no longer in contact with Zoblotsky, but doesn't mind having won an award at NYIFV.

Adam Zoblotsky (and Larry S. Hartman) filed for an IPO for ANGELCITI MULTIMEDIA INC during the last days of the dotcom greeding frenzy (01-26-01). Their SEC filing note that "No assurance is given that we will be able to successfully compete with renowned film festivals" such as Cannes and Sundance. The disclaimer "We have a long history of losses and we anticipate that losses will continue … we will need to obtain additional capital" was a must for any late-90's startup shooting for an IPO. According to the filing, Zoblotsky "served as creative director in the New York City office of Buffalo Jeans, a Canadian clothing manufacturer, and received a B.A. degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology."
These days Zoblotsky and Hartman are operating online casinos under
their AngelCiti Entertainment company name, and trying again for an IPO. As of May 2002 their Nevada holding company "no longer produces live film and music events and [has] changed the focus of [its] operations to online gaming operations and management."

"We're very proud to provide the online gambling community with
the personal attention and treatment they deserve," remarked AngelCiti CEO Larry Hartman. "We operate with the same level of professionalism and pride as any highly regarded land-based casino, and we look forward to demonstrating our industry-leading commitment to customer service." Angelciti's various online casinos suffered losses of $1,568,880 on total bets of $6,906,028 for the nine months ending September 30, 2002.

The Angelciti casino group's latest SEC filing lists some deeply disturbing names among its investors, including but not limited to Tom Arnold, Morgan Fairchild, Jim Nabors, Johnnie Walker, Blair Witch and Adam Zoblotsky. My limited access to the EDGAR database and short attention span prevented me from digging deeper.

Brian from HUFF called me back a third time, still pretending to be excited about my film. So I began peppering him with questions about Zoblotsky. For example, it turns out he just lent out his name for the fest. His good name!!! Common practice in the fest world, says Brian. (This year's festival director is Christian Skovly, who did not return calls for this article in
a timely manner. The domain hufilmfest.com is still listed under Zoblotsky's name).

After more chitchat with Brian, I managed to get him to reduce my entry fee to $60, which would "guarantee me a slot in the festival." It still felt like the old fashioned butter-up and hard sell combo ... and what kind of festival
guarantees entry upon receipt of an ever-changing fee anyway? A few more minutes worth of bullplop was exchanged before he started demanding my credit card number again. I hung up on him, the first time I have hung up on someone other than a telemarketer in years. Oh, wait: I had in fact hung up on yet another telemarketer. So don't try to come up here
to Seattle and rip us off, Hollywood fuckheads!

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