Clip Me, Baby! The iTunes of Movies Is Coming

c reagandsc 0044 Clip Me, Baby! The iTunes of Movies Is ComingA few weeks ago, Nate Westheimer was sitting at a table outside a Chelsea cafe with bleary eyes and his brown hair sticking out in five different directions toward the sunny sky. He looked like he could use a beer. But it was only 10 a.m., so he ordered granola over milk.

“Last week, I got dumped on the Lower East Side,” he told The Observer. Mr. Westheimer, the 26-year-old head organizer of the NY Tech Meetup, had just ended his term as an entrepreneur in residence at Rose Tech Ventures. He fiddled with his iPhone, and said he wanted to create a mobile application designed for wallowing—one that could queue up classic New York–based breakup scenes from movies like Annie Hall and Kramer vs. Kramer. “I was like, I really want to see all the scenes about heartbreak that happen on like the Lower East Side,” he said. “People do that all the time, right? They do see a sad movie when they’re sad. Movies are about life.”

Mr. Westheimer was explaining to The Observer why he had decided to return to the start-up game as vice president of product at AnyClip, an Israeli-based tech company that is planning to battle YouTube and other piracy sites in the free-media market by creating a competitive, legal database of movie clips for application developers. Only this one might cost ’em: AnyClip is hoping they can become a kind of iTunes for film scenes.

Of course, YouTube has some legal movie clips after signing contracts with various studios, who generate revenue through advertising. The more people who view the videos, the more cash the studios get. Hulu has the same approach. But Mr. Westheimer’s company has a different one, with both free and paid subscription options to get quality, developer-friendly content.

“You can’t build an application off of things on YouTube because there’s no standards. It’s Napster 2001—everything’s shit on there,” he said.

 

ANYCLIP WAS FOUNDED two and a half years ago by Erel Margalit and Illi Edry, two of the top venture capitalists and partners at Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners, and Mickey Schulhof, the former chief executive of Sony Corp., who resigned in 1995 and is currently chairman of New York–based investment firm GTI Group. Back then, the project was called MyHollywood; Mr. Margalit and Mr. Schulhof signed contract deals with Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. to build an instant messenger add-on called PopTok, which inserted legal snippets of quotable movies directly into chat windows. Instead of typing in a winking emoticon, users could submit a clip of Mike Myers as Austin Powers, slurring, “Do I make you horny, baby?”

Mr. Westheimer, along with the rest of the AnyClip team, plans to build a bigger database so developers will be able to create more cool applications, like his own hypothetical, location-based, breakup-movie-clip montage. Or Casting Couch, the Facebook application that AnyClip released last week. With Casting Couch, users can find a scene from a movie and label their friends as characters. Tag your geeky single buddy as Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin on his first date or label your prudish friend as Molly Ringwald’s Claire in The Breakfast Club. 

And users sick of YouTube’s inconsistency and quality-of-content issues will be able to browse AnyClip’s high-quality movie scenes and post them on their blogs and Twitter feeds for free, without the risk of the video disappearing because of a take-down notice.

For example, Mr. Westheimer has never seen ’90s stoner classic Wayne’s World. “I know, right?” he said. “But when I do, I certainly plan on blogging about it or Twittering about it. And when I do, I want to be able to see how my view of it might be different now compared to other people when they first saw it.”