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Thread: [Script analyst] Think Hollywood / Entertainment Research Institute

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    [Script analyst] Think Hollywood / Entertainment Research Institute

    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.
    and
    • 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.,"
    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.

    also
    • 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.”
    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.

    Here's the domain registrar information I referred to for thinkhollywood.org:

    Domain ID148567315-LROR
    Domain Name: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 ID:GODA-034829469
    Registrant Name:Entertainment Research Institute
    Registrant Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
    Registrant Street2:
    Registrant Street3:
    Registrant City:Los Angeles
    Registrant State/Province:California
    Registrant Postal Code:90019
    Registrant Country:US
    Registrant Phone:+1.8001234567
    Registrant Phone Ext.:
    Registrant FAX:
    Registrant FAX Ext.:
    Registrant Email:Entertainment@Research.Institute
    Admin ID:GODA-234829469
    Admin Name:Entertainment Research Institute
    Admin Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
    Admin Street2:
    Admin Street3:
    Admin City:Los Angeles
    Admin State/Province:California
    Admin Postal Code:90019
    Admin Country:US
    Admin Phone:+1.8001234567
    Admin Phone Ext.:
    Admin FAX:
    Admin FAX Ext.:
    Admin Email:Entertainment@Research.Institute
    Tech ID:GODA-134829469
    Tech Name:Entertainment Research Institute
    Tech Street1:Entertainment Research Institute
    Tech Street2:
    Tech Street3:
    Tech City:Los Angeles
    Tech State/Province:California
    Tech Postal Code:90019
    Tech Country:US
    Tech Phone:+1.8001234567
    Tech Phone Ext.:
    Tech FAX:
    Tech FAX Ext.:
    Tech Email:Entertainment@Research.Institute
    Name Server:NS57.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
    Name Server:NS58.DOMAINCONTROL.COM


    IP Address: 208.109.138.75 (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
    E-commerce:
    No
    Traffic Ranking:
    Not available
    Data as of:
    30-Nov-2007

  2. #2
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    I'm not a script writer, but I am a web geek, and I'm going to take on a few of these points. (Not saying it is or isn't a scam, but I see some different red flags.)

    The flag I saw that wasn't pointed out above is that the contact form requires payment information. Ya think I'd hand that over if I just want a question answered? I think not.

    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
    A one year registration is not always a red flag. It's not a good idea if you plan on keeping that site, but it isn't uncommon. A lot of people try having a web site and then give up. A lot of businesses don't ever get off the ground and people will register a site for a year just to get the name.

    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.
    False or incomplete contact information can be cause for a domain name registration to be revoked. Most registrars make a registrant agree to keep their contact information current.

    The IP address is the IP address of the web server, which can be anywhere in the world. Before I swapped hosting services, my site was hosted in Washington state. I live in Texas.

    Some of the screenwriting experts here would have a better take on some of the other issues.

  3. #3
    JGoldberg
    Guest
    I would jump at a chance to enroll as a VIP in the program. I've been trying to enroll, but it is hard unless your project has the VIP status. I've heard good things about the program from friends that are writers so I've been trying for sometime.

    The deal is this. They are an actual working institute that was setup to open hollywood to new writers. But they scout the new projects and writers themselves. And unlike some of the other coverage programs or consultant programs, they actually support your project as it's produced. They are a well-respected organization.

    I'd love to have the VIP status. Apparently 'VIP writers' can recommend other writers. So please keep me in mind.
    Last edited by JGoldberg; 01-30-2008 at 01:01 AM.

  4. #4
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGoldberg View Post
    The deal is this. They are an actual working institute that was setup to open hollywood to new writers. But they scout the new projects and writers themselves. And unlike some of the other coverage programs or consultant programs, they actually support your project as it's produced. They are a well-respected organization..

    "Well-respected" by whom? There's no reference to thinkhollywood.org that they haven't written anywhere on the Internet, except someone over at DoneDealPro.com who was offered a "free VIP membership" which fellow board posters advised him to steer clear of.

    And there is no such organization as the "Entertainment Research Institute" in the US. Perhaps some of the people who have told you that it it was "well-respected" are confusing it with the South Korean university think-tank of a similar name?

  5. #5
    JGoldberg
    Guest

    ThinkHollywood.org/Entertainment Research Institute

    Let me preface this by saying, I am usually very weary of recommending paid services to fellow writers. People should be paying you for your work.

    But over the last twenty years with media conglomerates taking over the entertainment industry, it has become very hard for a new writer like me to get our screenplays and tv pilots read by working producers capable of setting up material for production. Studios and networks won't give us the time of day unless we are referred by a major agency or an established screenwriter. I can't tell you how many query letters we have written that have been trashed.

    The website has some details, but it is really a word-of-mouth program:

    www.thinkhollywood.org

    This program works best by a referral because they give your project even more attention. Several of my writing friends have made their way in by a referral and have had great results.

    The program says they "keep their doors open to anyone" and they do, but I want to be recommended as a VIP project for the perks. If you are invited to the program and a VIP writer, please consider referring me - goldberg1978@gmail.com

  6. #6
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGoldberg View Post
    This program works best by a referral because they give your project even more attention.
    And yet, they spam people from message boards like DoneDealPro with offers of free "VIP membership".

    This whole thing smacks of scam, from the fraudulent domain registry information to the "New York--Los Angeles--London" nonsense on their website to the fact that none of the principals in the company are named on the site.

  7. #7
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    I've also been hearing from people who were spammed by this organization. I've also heard from someone who was concerned enough to do some digging. Here are the red flags she found:

    --------------------

    1. They are soliciting you. They likely got 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 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 Service is the following:

    "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."

    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.


    ------------------------

    I agree with all of these concerns. I think there's strong reason for caution with this website.

    - Victoria

  8. #8
    Brian Boru brianm's Avatar
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    Perhaps a mod could merge this thread with this one?

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=90555
    "This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever." Sigmund Freud (about the Irish)

    "Opera singers have resonance where their brains ought to be." Anna Russell

  9. #9
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Done!

    - Victoria

  10. #10
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    See my notes above.

    The registrant status of this domain has been updated. The registrant is located in Dallas and also runs a film school and equipment rental business.

    I don't know anything about the other business or how active the registrant is in this business.

    There is movie and television production going on in Dallas, particularly at the Studios at Las Colinas, though it isn't experiencing the boom days it had twenty years ago. (I used to be involved with an organization that was located there.) There's quite an active indie film community here.

    The above statement is obviously not an endorsement of the web site. If they are located in Dallas, that's a bit of a red flag. Not the fact that they're in Dallas, but that they don't say so. Maybe they are located in NY, LA, and London, but without physical addresses it's difficult to check out.

    FWIW, this appears to be one of the works highlighted on the index page.

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