Animated Opinions

Korey Coleman and company deal out critique on

(L-r) Korey, Carlyle, Leon, Co-Host 3000, and Cyrus
(L-r) Korey, Carlyle, Leon, Co-Host 3000, and Cyrus

Like most weeks over the past six years, Martin Thomas, C. Robert Cargill, Chris Cox, and Korey Coleman gather to record their movie discussions. But now, instead of weekly Austin cable-access show The Reel Deal, they bring their act – equal parts critique, comedy troupe, and sideshow – to the Internet as a series of animated shorts under the moniker Spill (

Originally launched by Coleman and a friend as an excuse to see free movies, The Reel Deal ran for 10 years, an impressive streak given the notoriously ephemeral nature of cable-access TV. When his friend quit, Coleman continued the show with a rotating cast, finally settling after five years on the current group. Using each week's new releases as a focal point, the group, seated in a roundtable setting, offered its views on movies, life, and one another in an irreverent, humorous style. Airing live and unrehearsed in front of a studio audience, the crew often worked original skits in between the reviews and usually spun off into amusing tangents.

"As much fun as it was, I didn't want to spend another 10 years doing an access show," says Coleman on why he canceled The Reel Deal. "I can do something better than this. I always have high aspirations."

Upon ending the original show, Coleman experimented with an animated version of The Reel Deal delivered in short, Internet-digestible chunks. After seeing the new episodes on YouTube, MIVA, a business marketing services company, approached Coleman to finance his idea. Coleman worked out a deal, informing the others only afterward. "It's the way I've always done things. One person has to say, 'Hey, let's move.'"

Since MIVA owns the animated character names and likenesses, the cast decided to adopt pseudonyms for the site – all save Coleman, who decided to use his real name. As he puts it, "I'm kinda screwed, but I work [directly] for them, so what can I do?"

MIVA handles all the marketing, programming, and design (as far as the coding for the site) while basically letting the group work independently. Coleman explains: "I've done this for a long time. I know how to do this." He also adds, "They are good about [not meddling]."

After recording the audio, Coleman spends anywhere from four to 12 hours animating a 31/2 minute segment. "I create a series of these animations that you cut and paste [and then] combine them with other animations. Then you have to go back and do the lip sync. It's done manually in Flash, but I've come up with a system for myself that fits the animation and makes it a little faster."

When asked about the unusual name for the site, Coleman replied: "I challenge you to find anything that has to do with movies that hasn't been used already. That was my whole thing. I didn't want to do anything that has to do with any iconography of movies."

Spill's slogan – "If it's crap ... we'll tell you" – seems to resonate with a wide range of users but especially with 13- to 17-year-olds and a surprisingly large contingent of users from the United Kingdom. The site generated 1 million page views in December (270,000 unique visitors) and cracked the Top 100 websites under Hitwise's Entertainment/Movie category.

Much of the success of Spill derives from Coleman's outlook to every endeavor he tackles. "If you're going to do things the same as everybody else, then for me, don't do it all. That's the way I do things. That's the only way I can do things; I don't want to be like everybody else."  

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Spill, Martin Thomas, C. Robert Cargill, Chris Cox, Korey Coleman,

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