This site was recently brought to my attention from someone who was solicited by them. I am quite certain it is a scam and wanted to share what I've learned.
The way it works is, you get an email saying they have read your script and would like to invite you to participate in an "Initial Consultation" for a fee of $260. The site's description is, "Enrollment Fee (Initial Consultation) Pricing: One-Time $260 - ERI's initial enrollment is a one time fee of $260. After that, a unique course is recommended and tailored for each project."
According to a former client, you then pitch your script to a "Hollywood producer" on the phone. If you ask said producer for his name and/or credits he will refuse to tell you. After your conversation of approximately 30-60 minutes he will tell you he is recommending you for their "elite coverage" which will cost you another $500. It seems their entire "unique course" consists of one brief phone conversation with an anonymous, self-described expert.
In my search I found the following red flags regarding thinkhollywood.org and their services:
1. They are soliciting you. They likely obtain your name from a list that originally came from a screenwriting or film site you either registered at or otherwise provided your email address to (ie - to enter a contest or competition). They may also have simply trolled the web for names and email addresses associated with screenwriting websites.
2. There are no names or contact information of any kind for the people who created the site or any of the "coaches" to whom they refer. I also found no information on thinkhollywood or ERI using google.
3. The site was created in July of 2007 and is registered for 1 year (the minimum). Most online scammers create a site and take it down again within a year.
4. It would be virtually impossible for this company to have all the partners they listed (ABC, CBS, Disney, CAA, ICM, NBC, Universal, Sony, Mandalay Entertainment) without having any information about the people involved and/or the company itself.
5. Upon looking up their domain registration information (listed below and highlighted in red) I found that they have chosen to hide all contact information. The phone number they list is a fake (1-800-123-4567) and while they are registered in Los Angeles, their IP address is based in New York. Also, the email address they list, "Entertainment@Research.Institute"is not an actual email address.
6. Their "Our Programs" page says, "Because of the time and resources involved for ERI, this service is not made available to the general public." This is clearly a lie as they are soliciting customers and have a paypal link on their page which anyone can use to pay for their services.
7. Nowhere on the site does it tell you what, exactly, the "Enrollment Fee (Initial Consultation)" is and what you get for your $260.00.
8. Included in their Terms of Services are the following:
- 5. I request that you read and evaluate said material with a view to deciding whether you will undertake to acquire it.
I'm not a lawyer, but to me this says you've paid them to read (and consider acquiring) your script. That's it. And that's something no professional would ever charge money for.
- 12. I hereby acknowledge and agree that there are no prior or contemporaneous oral agreements in effect between you and me pertaining to said material, or pertaining to any material (including but not limited to, agreements pertaining to the submission by me of any ideas, formats, plots, characters, or the like). I further agree that no other obligations exist or shall exist or shall be deemed to exist unless and until a formal written agreement has been prepared and entered into by both you and me, and then your and my rights and obligations shall be only such as are expressed in said formal written agreement.,"
This is the craziest thing I've ever read in a legal agreement. First of all, there's no such thing as "laws of plagiarism". There are laws protecting against copyright infringement, which plagiarism often (but not always) falls under. Plagiarism itself is not illegal.
- 8. You may use without any obligation or payment to me any of said material which is not protected as literary property under the laws of plagiarism, or which a third person would be free to use if the material had not been submitted to him or had not been the subject of any agreement with him, or which is in the public domain. Any of said material, which, in accordance with the preceding sentence, you are entitled to use, without obligation to me is hereinafter referred to as “unprotected material.” If all or any part of said material does not fall in the category of unprotected material it is hereinafter referred to as “protected material.”
Here's the domain registrar information I referred to for thinkhollywood.org:
Created On:12-Jul-2007 17:56:36 UTC
Last Updated On:11-Sep-2007 03:54:23 UTC
Expiration Date:12-Jul-2008 17:56:36 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:GoDaddy.com, Inc. (R91-LROR)
Status:CLIENT DELETE PROHIBITED
Status:CLIENT RENEW PROHIBITED
Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Status:CLIENT UPDATE PROHIBITED
Registrant Name:Entertainment Research Institute
Registrant Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
Registrant City:Los Angeles
Registrant Postal Code:90019
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Admin Name:Entertainment Research Institute
Admin Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
Admin City:Los Angeles
Admin Postal Code:90019
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Tech Name:Entertainment Research Institute
Tech Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
Tech City:Los Angeles
Tech Postal Code:90019
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX Ext.:
IP Address: 22.214.171.124 (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-NEW YORK-NEW YORK
Record Type: Domain Name
Server Type: Apache
Web Site Status: Active
DMOZ no listings
Y! Directory:see listings
Web Site Title: Think Hollywood - ENTERTAINMENT RESEARCH INSTITUTE Secure: No
Traffic Ranking: Not available
Data as of: 30-Nov-2007