SnagFilms acquires IndieWire

Eugene Hernandez to oversee content on both sites

NEW YORK -- On its 12th anniversary, the premier independent film news Web site IndieWire has been acquired from GMD Studios by AOL executive Ted Leonsis' new documentary film site SnagFilms in an under-$1 million deal.

IndieWire editor-in-chief and co-founder Eugene Hernandez, who has been named editorial vp at SnagFilms, will oversee journalistic content on both sites. He also will launch Thursday the docu film blog, which provides links to online nonfiction film news, videos and filmmaker resources.

IndieWire will remain autonomous, and Hernandez's partners Brian Brooks and James Israel will remain in their roles and also work on SnagFilms editorial coverage. Longtime IndieWire publisher and GMD CEO Brian Clark plans to continue his company's often experimental multimedia work, including a series of short docus for Ford and alternate reality games.

A new publisher has not yet been named. Specifics of the financial arrangements with SnagFilms were not disclosed, but Hernandez said the purchase will expand IndieWire's editorial and 10,000-member social-networking arms, including its new MySpace-style IndieLoop.

"Independent film is under assault," said Hernandez, echoing many in the industry experiencing financial hardships. "We've been writing about this crisis since [January's] Sundance [Film Festival], but we've kept meeting ingenous filmmakers who've inspired us to think how we can keep IndieWire autonomous and independent."

IndieWire itself has tightened its belts, closing its New York office two years ago and publishing from each staffer's home after the company it shared space with, AIVF, went out of business. The Web site has had many suitors over the last six years, from film companies investing in low-seven-figure films to L.A.-based entertainment outfits, but none felt right to Hernandez and his colleagues until he met Leonsis and Snag CEO Rick Allen in New York earlier this year.

The deal was put into motion after a Sundance fest meeting with Hernandez, Brooks, Israel and the Snag duo. "Ted is passionate and cares about documentaries," Hernandez explained. "I'm a big documentary fan, and a fan of his "Film-anthropy" concept." The two first crossed paths when Hernandez' first employer, ABCOnline, forged a deal with AOL in the mid-'90s. AOL was the original home of iLine, co-founded by Hernandez and new consultant Mark Rabinowitz. iLine evolved into IndieWire.

The deal news comes as SnagFilms is being launched Thursday by Leonsis, fellow AOL veteran Steve Case and venture capitalist Miles Gilburn as a venue for free short and feature-length docus. Filmmakers and the site will share ad revenue, provide links to related nonprofits and DVD sales sites for its docus, which now include more than 225 titles from PBS, National Geographic, IndiePix, Koch Lorber and other companies.

CAA repped IndieWire and GMD, and Paul Brennan at Sloss Law repped Hernandez in the deal.