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Forget about the Facebook flick – comedy troupe’s funny online plea for producers and YouTube’s DIY, day-in-the-life documentary may be boldest examples yet of melding social media and movie making

By Jere Hester
|  Monday, Jul 19, 2010  |  Updated 7:46 AM EDT
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The latest trailer for the “The Social Network,” Hollywood’s take on the rise of Facebook, hit – where else? – the Internet last week. Meanwhile, Mashable is reporting that Facebook is on track to log its 500 millionth user this week (making true, after the fact, the trailer’s tagline, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”).

The movie, written by Aaron Sorkin, looks like it will be worth catching when reaches theaters in October, judging from the slick preview, which followed previous, somewhat disappointing sneak peeks.

As the new trailer is circulating, two videos touting very different – and far more daring and interesting – examples of the melding of social media and the movies also are making the online rounds.

“Blade Runner” filmmaker Ridley Scott, “The Last King of Scotland” director Kevin Macdonald and YouTube are combining to pull together a day-in-the-life experimental documentary using footage ordinary folks shoot on July 24. Anyone whose video is used will be credited as a co-director of “Life in a Day,” and have a shot at attending the film’s January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival

The ambitious undertaking builds on The New York Times’ recent “Moment in Time” project, which asked people around the world to a submit a picture snapped at a certain time on May 2, and YouTube’s own efforts to pull together a virtual orchestra culled from video audition submissions.

“Show us what you fear. Show us what you love,” the video promoting “Life in a Day” exhorts viewers.

At the same time, a Canadian sketch troupe is taking a far more humorous approach to getting the hoi polloi directly involved in moviemaking.

Picnicface issued an online plea for donations to help shore up the budget for its planned comedy feature, “Roller Town,” a spoof of the short-lived, late 1970s roller disco craze, which was done in, in part, but unintentionally campy flicks like “Roller Boogie” and “Xanadu.”

The Picnicface troupe members, who weren’t born when those movies hit theaters, are putting a modern, digital-spin on the let’s-put-on-show-spirit, offering offbeat incentives to would-be producers.

For $5, “We will take a picture of us holding a sign saying whatever you want and post it to our Flickr account.” For $20, you’ll make the credits with a made up title (“For example you can’t be ‘Key Grip’ but you can be ‘Key Shark Puncher,’” the sketch team notes).

Big spenders get more lavish payoffs: For $100,000 you can die onscreen in “Roller Town,” and for $250,000 troupe member Mark Little will change his middle name to your full name.

The money-raising scheme is gimmick, to be sure, but a fun one. While the final product, if “Roller Town” gets finished, likely will in no way resemble “Life in a Day,” both projects cleverly use the Web to give traditionally passive audience members opportunities to become active participants in the filmmaking process.

Whether or not you're one of the Facebook 500 million, that might be something to think about in October, when watching “The Social Network” in your local theater. Or while sitting next to Ridley Scott in January at Sundance for the premier of “Life in a Day.” Or while filming your big death scene for “Roller Town."

Check out the pitches for “Life in a Day” and “Roller Town” (warning, mildly NSFW), and decide if you’re ready to take the filmmaking plunge:
 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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