Enterprising Natalie Portman Forgoes the Goop in the Making of MakingOf.com

Four years ago, Christine Aylward, founder of Augustine Films, met the actress Natalie Portman on the set of Goya’s Ghosts in Madrid.

Ms. Aylward’s then 3-year-old daughter had a little crush on Ms. Portman and would hang out in her makeup trailer between takes. Eventually, Ms. Aylward was also allowed in and the two became friends.

Sometime after the film was completed, the women met for cocktails at the St. Regis in San Francisco and decided to start an online venture together, something that had come up a few times before. Ms. Portman said she wanted a version of an online film school; Ms. Aylward thought that, from a marketing perspective, a behind-the-scenes Web site for the entertainment industry was necessary.

“So we decided on something that offers both of those components,” Ms. Aylward told the Daily Transom, speaking by phone from the company’s San Francisco offices. “Really engaging content for the movie lover, as well as more in-depth, ‘this is how things are done’ content for people who are actually students of film and would like to be filmmakers. Or, like, the YouTube generation.”

The project, MakingOf.com, launched last week, featuring 5-to-10-minute videos of actors, directors and producers discussing their craft in a DVD extras–meets–Inside the Actors Studio sort of way. There is Michel Gondry explaining why actors are like children; Jason Bateman on why he became an actor; and Billy Bob Thornton revealing that he isn’t really passionate about making movies, with bottles of Stella Artois stacked behind him.

“If you’re a kid and you’re interested in stunts and how they blow up that car or how they do this or that, you can go to MakingOf,” Ms. Aylward explained, “and then see and hear from the stuntman, how he does it, how he became a stuntman and what advice he has for someone wanting to become a stuntman.”

According to Ms. Aylward, the company will eventually launch blogs, but for now the entire site is video-based. “The future of internet is more video-based,” she explained. “We felt pretty strongly that everything is moving in the direction of video. Also, there is a face–you might see something in writing, but you don’t necessarily see the face and hear the voice. It’s a very personal, intimate medium.”

Aided by a staff of six, including video editors and content and production people, Ms. Portman need only give her input from afar. She does not have her own office at company headquarters.

“She’s very involved with strategic direction, on the creative side of the business, and she reaches out to filmmakers for participations,” said Ms. Aylward. “Natalie, I think, is a kind of entrepreneur in spirit. She understands the Internet, she can make quick decisions, and an entrepreneur recognizes a business opportunity and is willing to take a risk to pursue it.”

Ms. Portman, who was in India and unavailable for comment, spoke about the project during a Tribeca Film Festival event at the Apple Store in Soho two weeks ago. She said that she didn’t want to make money the way most actresses make money—by signing up for cosmetics campaigns. Rather, she wanted to do something “positive” and “entrepreneurial.” In other words, useful. (Take that, Drew Barrymore!)

She also apparently wanted to stay away from Gwyneth Paltrow’s self-indulgent Goop model.

“This is not the Natalie Portman show in any way,” Ms Aylward told the Transom. “It’s about entertainment creation and obviously she has a role in that, but there’s no plan to make this Natalie’s brand. We didn’t consider the Goop model at all. I think Natalie loves Goop. We both love it, but it’s very different from what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Enterprising Natalie Portman Forgoes the Goop in the Making of MakingOf.com