There's a casting couch big enough for 150,000 rear ends out there. That's the size of the Hollywood-happy community at LiveMansion.com, where members are busy sorting through a talent pool of aspiring actors and directors in what is billed as the "first feature film produced by a live community." They're sifting through unknowns in the third round of voting, though a panel of celebrities including Spike Lee, Cara Buono, and John Leguizamo are there to help lend the contest some legitimacy.
The sweepstakes appears to end there, but that's unlikely. It's easy to imagine the next casting call going out for musical artists to submit songs for the movie's soundtrack. Bolder moves would have the community ultimately shaping the plot's direction, voting on shooting locations, and picking out merchandising solutions, but let's let the Live Mansion creators dictate their own tactical moves if they've gotten the project this far.
The point of the experiment is that once you have a large enough community that is vested emotionally, if not financially, behind a project, it is that much easier to succeed commercially.
Free maps to the virtual world's stars
Using the Internet as a launch pad for talent isn't new. The level playing field in cyberspace makes it possible for you to get noticed, even if you have enough rejection letters to feed a bonfire all night long.
Think about it:
- Musicians whom major and indie recording labels have turned away -- and even musicians who have gone bust on the local-gig circuit -- can still upload their music to free MP3 websites or social-networking hubs such as News Corp.'s
- Book deal fell through? You can still blog to your heart's content through sites such as Google's
- Hungry actors and comedians can let the whole world in on what they have to offer with a cheap webcam, thanks to video-sharing sites such as YouTube.
That last one bears elaboration. Two years ago, all three members of the comedy troupe at TheLonelyIsland.com were signed on to write for NBC's Saturday Night Live. YouTube star Lisa Donovan, better known as LisaNova, has worked her way onto the MADtv set recently.
In the old Hollywood, you needed connections to get your foot in the door. You still do, only now those connections are Internet connections. Creativity and a knack for self-marketability may even rival actual talent as the criteria to get noticed these days.
It probably doesn't hurt that seasoned industry vets have had a tough time picking out winning shows and bankable stars. They are gradually learning to trust what Jim Surowiecki calls "the wisdom of crowds" in spotting new talent.
Opportunity knocks once but clicks twice
Record labels have been scouring the most popular bands on MySpace instead of sniffing out demo-tape submissions. Publishers know what they are getting when they sign up bloggers with large followings. The same thing is happening in the video world now that we are knee-deep in this "clip culture" revolution.
The Los Angeles Times ran a story this week on how pilots have resurfaced on the Web, to give dismissed or neglected properties a second shot at stardom. We took a look at the fate of Nobody's Watching last year. The WB left the pilot for dead in 2004, but it found new life when it resurfaced on YouTube two years later. General Electric's
The article (registration required) details other cobwebbed pilots, including Three Strikes and Global Frequency, that have cultivated an online audience. The trio behind TheLonelyIsland.com was also able to breathe new life into its Awesometown pilot.
Lights, camera, factions
Let's say that you're a Tinseltown executive. Nice suit, by the way. Is that Italian? More importantly, does the video revolution excite you as a distribution channel, or does it threaten you as a widening spigot of content?
It should actually do both. Companies like Amazon.com
Unfortunately, you now have to deal with a wide variety of properties competing for the same viewers you covet. A single installment in the Lonelygirl 15 saga can draw as many viewers as a small cable show, yet it does so on a shoestring budget.
The studios don't want to be left behind. They are investing in large- and small-content ventures. It's the only way to cover your bets. All the world's a stage, but Shakespeare was wrong: We aren't merely players. Gauging our worth by the rebirth of dead pilot episodes and the casting calls at Live Mansion, we are dictators, too.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can watch time fly in front of a video-sharing site. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.