When Andy Shapiro graduated from USC film school in 2003, he was prepared to put in his time while pursuing a directorial career in Hollywood. But after six years in the trenches, Shapiro decided to go digital.

The former assistant to "Charlie's Angels" and "Terminator: Salvation" director McG is now plying his own directorial skills in the world of online entertainment. Shapiro recently accepted the position of vice president of creative development at Machinima.com, a West Hollywood company that uses premade video game imagery to create original short films ("Machinima" is a combination of the words "machine" and "cinema"). The shorts are then made available for viewing on the firm's Web site.

"It was an unexpected turn," he said of his move into the nascent entertainment medium. "This wasn't really a career move (as little as) four years ago."

Shapiro is confident he made the right choice, as young men in particular are spending more time online and less time in front of the television or in movie theaters. In addition, Machinima's animation style allows the company to quickly create original content based on a popular new video game so as to piggyback on the popularity of the hit title. A traditional film based on a successful video game can take years to get into theaters.

"The explosion of digital distribution is really finding its course," he said. "Traditionally, the filmmaking schedule and game-making schedule do not mesh very well."

Despite jumping whole-heartedly into a new entertainment medium, he said that he and the company still look to traditional Hollywood for role models. Shapiro singles out John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, as an inspiration. He particularly admires how Lasseter has established Pixar as a brand name associated with high-quality productions.

"We always look to him as sort of an example of what we need to happen here," he said.

Shapiro is single and lives in Hollywood. The self-described "geek" likes to play video games in his spare time, with "NBA Live" one of his current favorite titles. He is also a baseball fan who has just joined the Machinima softball team.

Susannah Snider

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