Ted Leonsis is the former vice chairman of AOL, and one of the ways he reinvented himself after he left the company in 2006 was as a documentary filmmaker. His Nanking, about the bloody 1937 looting of that city by the Japanese, won the Peabody Award last year.
When Leonsis completed what he calls "Schindler's List with a Chinese twist," he discovered that the distribution system for films was, to put it mildly, screwed up. "I quickly saw it was a terribly broken industry, and because of it many people were making high-quality films that nobody saw."
Being a serial entrepreneur, Leonsis "mashed up my various experiences" and created SnagFilms, which has put 1,000 documentary films online for free viewing. What's more, bloggers are free to post the docs online too, so that's what we're going to do here. This is not a trailer for the film, but the entire 90-minute movie:
The subject of our film, Malcolm Bricklin, is an amazing character. He's best known for importing Yugos to the U.S., but he also brought Subarus here in the 1960s, made the Bricklin SV-1 "safety car" (it had gullwing doors like the DeLorean, and met a similar fate), sold rebadged Fiats as "Bertones," and -- as the film documents -- attempted to become the first volume importer of Chinese cars.
Bricklin's colorful dealings with the Chinese (including an attempt to "get naked" in a business meeting) are probed in The Entrepreneur, a four-year labor-of-love for Bricklin's son, Jonathan. It all ended in tears, with a massive billion-dollar lawsuit, but it makes engrossing viewing. If nothing else, you'll come away fascinated by Bricklin's creative and frequent use of a certain popular Anglo-Saxon phrase.
Now 70, Bricklin is still plugging away, and he's going green, too. His new ventures concern wind power and a plan to equip existing cars with aftermarket equipment to make them more fuel efficient.
Asked to analyze the industry he's kept guessing for more than 30 years, Bricklin told The Daily Green, "When I was making my Bricklin car, I was dependent on the engines that Ford was willing to sell me. Now getting access to electric motors is much easier, and getting into the business is much easier. The big challenge has become designing the body. Unfortunately, a lot of people will get into the EV business forgetting that building a car is step one -- there's establishing a dealer network, figuring out how to handle warranty claims, servicing and parts -- all the complexities of the business. But it's a perfect storm opportunity for the incubation of new car companies right now. Some will go by the wayside, but many will survive."
Morgan Spurlock, director of the very successful documentary Super Size Me, signed up as executive producer of The Entrepreneur after meeting Jonathan Bricklin and being captivated by his father's outsized personality and the film itself. "Malcolm is one of those guys who'll be working up until his dying day," Spurlock told The Daily Green. "It's all about the art of the deal, and when the company is making money and running smoothly, he gets bored. So if anyone can put windmills in cars, it's him."
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