Click here to read Paul Fileri’s interview with Efe Cakarel

In late November, the Criterion Collection unveiled a major overhaul of its website, placing online digital distribution at its center. The driving force behind the change was Criterion’s new business partner, The Auteurs, an emerging media company that launched its own site back in February 2008 to coincide with the Berlin Film Festival. The Auteurs site combines a film library with a social networking platform (already serving some 25,000 members) and an online journal called The Notebook. Founder and CEO Efe Cakarel exudes confidence. “It was a no-brainer for me: big market opportunity, nobody was doing it right, everybody thinks it will fail. I founded the company at a coffee shop in Palo Alto [in April 2007].” In May 2007, with no track record and no industry connections, Cakarel got accredited as a “film buyer” and took his first trip to Cannes.

The 32-year-old Turkish-born entrepreneur drew on his experience in business and technology (Stanford MBA, Goldman Sachs) and soon assembled a small Silicon Valley development team. At a crucial stage, during the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, his pitch won over Hengameh Panahi, head of the influential film-sales company Celluloid Dreams. Beyond the matter of “content acquisition,” Cakarel agrees that the value of the growing online catalogue will inevitably rest on the diversity and quality of its holdings and the thoughtfulness of the programming. With roughly 60 movies currently on offer within various territories, and a plan to make 500 films available by the end of 2009, The Auteurs is off to an auspicious start. Perhaps extensive true online distribution is finally just around the corner. It’s a worthy reminder that commerce and culture can be deeply intertwined when film devotees try to figure out how to get their hands on the movies they love.

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