Morgan Freeman Aims High

Actor Morgan Freeman enjoyed going to movie theaters as a child to see his beloved cowboy films. He loved Westerns so much that he had his own set of toy guns, much to his mother's dismay.

"First thing in the morning, I'd strap on my guns," said the actor, speaking on a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30. "My mother would get me a paint set and a doctor set, but I would never play with that. I was actually replaying all the Western movies that I saw. All those Western heroes were my heroes. I was really fast, really quick with my guns."

Recreating the Old West with his friends prepared Freeman for his Oscar-winning acting career. "It was all playacting. Throughout my childhood, that's what I did," he said. "I was a good student. But I was really good at my playing."

Movies were an important part of Freeman's childhood. Now he wants to share the film experience with an even wider audience via the Internet.

His production company, Revelations Entertainment, has teamed with Intel to create ClickStar, a broadband entertainment company that will offer first-run movies only weeks after they open.

"I live in a rural area, and there are lots of people in this country that live in rural areas," said Freeman. "They want to see it now. This is a way for that gap to be filled."

Revelations Entertainment CEO Lori McCreary joined Freeman for the panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival. Freeman credits McCreary, who holds a degree in computer science, for developing ClickStar.

"I'm really nothing but an actor. I can pretend almost anything — even brightness," he said. "But technology this is where the brain is over here," he added, pointing to McCreary. "I'm just following along. She's come up with all this stuff. I'm innocent."

According to McCreary, ClickStar will offer original content in addition to theatrical films. ClickStar has already signed a deal with Danny DeVito to create "JerseyDocs," a broadband channel devoted exclusively to documentary films.

McCreary believes that it's important for filmmakers to embrace technology.

"Morgan and I have been talking about technology for many years and how it affects the film industry," she said. "We're going to try to make really great films and try to stay ahead of technology and use technology instead of worrying that it is going to hurt us."

Freeman and McCreary have talked about ClickStar to several filmmakers. Some worry that digital distribution will only make it easier for films to be copied and pirated.

McCreary said that ClickStar will make use of Microsoft's DRM technology to make it more difficult for downloaded films to be copied. Because file sharing of films is already a reality on the Internet, McCreary said ClickStar wants to make it easier to buy films from filmmakers rather than from pirates.

ClickStar interim CEO James J. Ackerman said the service is expected to launch on the Internet by the end of next year. A pricing structure is still being worked out. "That's the big discussion now … what will be the most viable pricing structure," Freeman said. "We have two or three ways to shoot ourselves in the foot — by pricing either too low or too high."

With all that early experience as a gun-slinging make-believe cowboy, chances are Freeman's aim is way too good for that to happen.