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'Trenches,' discarded Disney digital project, lands at Sony

January 20, 2010 |  9:32 am

Trenches3

The highest-profile project from Stage 9, the short-lived Disney-ABC TV Group Internet production studio, has found a new home.

Sony Pictures' Crackle, one of Hollywood's few remaining Web video ventures, has bought the rights to distribute the 10-part science fiction series "Trenches." It will debut Feb. 16.

"Trenches" cost $250,000 to produce, making it one of the most expensive Web-only series made during the traditional entertainment industry's brief obsession with original Web video. Most were comedy clips made for significantly less.

Disney's Stage 9 closed its doors last March, just 13 months after its public debut. Though it had more than 20 projects in development, "Trenches" is one of a small number that it actually completed.

Another, "Decisions, Decisions" from comedy troupe Handsome Donkey, is running on Crackle.

Set on a war-torn alien planet, "Trenches" is about a young soldier and his squad forced to team up with their enemies to fight vicious beasts. It features more than 400 effects shots, a huge number for an Internet show.

After Stage 9 shut down, it was unclear whether the project would ever see the light of day."It took me over a year to make, mostly in post-production, and then it sat for a year at the studio," said "Trenches" director Shane Felux, who became an Internet celebrity in 2005 with his fan film, "Star Wars: Revelations."

Felux finished shooting "Trenches" in early 2008 and delivered a finished edited version to Disney in January 2009.

Trenches1Business affairs executives at Sony Pictures Television, which runs Crackle, became aware that Disney was looking to sell distribution rights to "Trenches," and the company decided it could find a slot for it on Crackle, which mixes original series with television shows and movies from Sony's library.

After debuting on Crackle.com, "Trenches" will later be shown on the sites of Sony distribution partners, including YouTube and MySpace.

Under the deal, Sony gets distribution rights but Disney retains ownership of the property.

Given its length -- about 50 minutes in total -- "Trenches" is also a candidate to be turned into a full-length movie that the studios could distribute on television or sell on DVD. Sony followed a similar strategy last year with the action series "Angel of Death," which played on Spike TV after debuting on Crackle.

"It's a model we're excited about," said Eric Berger, senior vice president of digital networks for Sony Pictures Television. "This genre of content, the production values and Shane's following are all great fits for us."

Felux, meanwhile, is just glad that his opus will soon be seen.

"I can finally drink that bottle of champagne Disney gave me," he said.

-- Ben Fritz

Upper photo: Lev Gorn and Hong Chau in "Trenches." Credit: Laurence L. Levin / Crackle.com

Lower photo: Shane Felux on the set of "Trenches." Credit: Stephen Lesnik / Crackle.com

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