The Dotcom Roller Coaster

ByDavid Ewing Duncan

S A N    F R A N C I S C O, May 9, 2001 -- When a director embarks on a documentary following real people doing realthings, he or she always expects the unexpected. But never in my wildestdreams did I imagine when I started "Goldrush-dot-com" last August that I wouldbe documenting the crash of the dotcom boom. At the time the stock marketwas down, but no one suspected the carnage to come.

Originally I set out to chronicle the intimate story of a start-up companyduring the latter-day dotcom gold rush, an extraordinary moment when a groupof smart people with a great idea could get millions of dollars to launch anew company.

I wanted to get a behind-the-scenes potrait of dotcommers atwork and at home. What I got instead was a much more interesting — ifunnerving — story: the drama of four people struggling against a Tsunami thatquickly crushed their expectations and threatened to wreck their fledglingcompany.

From the beginning, Bizmetric co-founder Vik Chaudhary and his partners agreed to let me film them withvirtually no limitations, and with a promise to let my cameras roll even ifthey failed. They also worked with me to convince investors and others tolet us film meetings that would normally be private.

Most of the filming took place in a single 15 x 15 room where the challenge was to make five people sitting atdesks visually interesting. To give the film a look of immediacy we shotalmost everything handheld, with far more close-ups, zooms and sharp anglesthan is normally used in news reporting.

We shot the film using digital cameras, which tends to give a look that isgrittier than traditional cameras. This — combined with a room that was nearlyempty of furniture at first, and was often flooded with sunlight — givesGoldrush the look of something that seems unformed and raw — a visualmetaphor for the start-up story.

What you will see is Vik and his fellow founders struggling mightily againstincredible odds — a storyline that you will see in their faces as they growexhausted and stressed out.

You will see it in the gradual chaos of theirlittle room as boxes, computers, take-out cartons and other junk piles up.And you will see it as they try to cope with the unrelenting hours thatthreaten to upend their personal lives, even as those they love try tounderstand and to be supportive.

Will they make it? Watch and see — the ending, which none of us knew until ithappened, may surprise you.

David Duncan is a freelance producer based in San Francisco.

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