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Scott Zakarin is an American writer, film producer and new media entertainment pioneer.
In 1995, while directing commercials and early interactive television tests for the Fattal & Collins advertising agency, Zakarin became fascinated by the Internet. He spent time in chat rooms and quickly recognized an untapped entertainment platform. In response, he created The Spot, the first interactive entertainment web series that combined online diary entries, photos, video, and groundbreaking interactive techniques to create a new storytelling format. Zakarin convinced his employer to back his novel idea, and the site premiered early in June 1995, running through the early summer of 1997. Zakarin was the writer, director, and producer for The Spot, which was the first winner of Infoseek's "Cool Site of the Year" – which became known as the Webby; for 1995.
The business model which Zakarin and his team developed for The Spot influenced the Internet dot-com boom that followed. Although it attracted revenue by blue chip sponsors such as K-Swiss and Toyota, the Internet's bandwidth lagged behind Zakarin's innovations, and many of the expectations of those involved in the early days of online entertainment proved to be premature. Zakarin and his creative team left the site about 10 months after its launch due to creative differences. The company which took control of The Spot, American Cybercast, spun off from Fattal & Collins into a separate entity and attracted millions in venture capital, but eventually failed to turn the sizable audience Zakarin and his team built for the series into a reliable advertising revenue stream. American Cybercast went bankrupt at the beginning of 1997, and The Spot site was purchased by others who attempted to operate it on a reduced budget. Eventually, The Spot itself folded, its last original episode going on line at midnight on July 1, 1997.
Zakarin had long since separated himself from any creative involvement with The Spot, although he did attempt to purchase the rights to it at the time of American Cybercast's closure. An attempt at revival of The Spot in 2004–2005 under the owners who did acquire the site's intellectual property seven years earlier also failed. That left the site dormant and offline once again.
Zakarin's later projects under his new company, Lightspeed Media, included a site called GrapeJam.com; the first interactive "sit.com" that featured live improvisational activities and stream radio broadcasts. In 1997 GrapeJam.com was nominated for the Webby for best comedy web site, People Magazine called Zakarin "King of the sit.com", and he was featured in the book Digital Babylon by John Geirland and Eva Sonesh-Kedar. The following year, the Hollywood Reporter included Zakarin on its annual list "35 under 35".
The corporate offices of Lightspeed Media were in a two-story house in Culver City, California, not far from the Sony Pictures movie studio. Many media pioneers such as television programmer Brandon Tartikoff and Spider-Man creator Stan Lee visited the house to become involved in creating original web content. It was Tartikoff who convinced Zakarin to let America Online (AOL) purchase Lightspeed Media. Zakarin built and launched Entertainment Asylum for AOL's Greenhouse Networks – an interactive celebrity site with live broadcasts. After the death of Tartikoff, who had acted as Zakarin's mentor and champion at AOL, the company closed down Entertainment Asylum.
Zakarin then turned back to more traditional media and began producing, directing, and representing movies for a company he co-founded called Creative Light Media, which operated from 1998 until 2006, distributing and producing independent films, some of which Zakarin wrote, produced, and directed. It also produced several critically well received documentaries for theatrical, video and cable release including Mind Meld, featuring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy discussing their Star Trek characters and experiences, and Comic Book: The Movie starring Mark Hamill and featuring cameo appearances by Hugh Hefner, Kevin Smith, Matt Groening, and other pop culture icons and innovators. Comic Book: The Movie won Variety's 2004 DVD Exclusive Award in the Best Live Action category. Creative Light Media also compiled and distributed for video and cable a collection of classic Sid Caesar comedy programs from material originally produced and broadcast for NBC-TV's Your Show of Shows in the 1950s. In 2006, Zakarin created and executive produced for the E! Entertainment Network Kill Reality, a reality TV series featuring reality all-stars as they lived together while filming the horror movie, The Scorned.
In the latter part of 2006, Zakarin returned to his new media roots with a new company he cofounded named Iron Sink Media, creating movies and original shows for the Internet, with projects including Soup of the Day, The VanNuys Guys and Shatnervision, which was awarded Best Original Reality Web Series at the first annual Streamy Awards in 2008.
Creative Light Media received considerable press notice for its online series, Roommates (2007–2008), the first original series produced with MySpace. Additionally, Zakarin is a writer, director and producer for Upstairs Girls/Downstairs Guys (August 2008 – present), an episodic web video comedy series which as of June 2013 has collected over 350 million views on YouTube, as cited by TubeMogul.
Awards and honors
- 2008: Streamy Awards – Best Original Reality Web Series – Shatnervision – winner
- 2004: Variety, DVD Exclusive Award, Best Live Action –Comic Book: The Movie – winner
- 1997: Webby Awards, Best Comedy Website – Grapejam.com – nominated
- 1995: Cool Site of the Year (the Webby) – The Spot" – winner
- Geirland, John and Sonesh-Keder, Eva. Digital Babylon: How the Geeks, the Suits, and the Ponytails Fought to Bring Hollywood to the Internet. Arcade Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-55970-483-7