MySpace users turn movie moguls for new film

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LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) A British film project has turned MySpace users into movie moguls, giving them a say in choosing the director, cast, soundtrack and marketing model.

While online interaction between fans and film makers is not new, the backers of ''Faintheart'' say they take the phenomenon further, and believe the Internet will become increasingly important to Hollywood and the movie world in general.

Film4's Peter Carlton, one of the producers of ''Faintheart'', said audiences tended to be cut off from movie making, and that the film industry had lessons to learn from rock groups who have harnessed the Internet to develop a fan base and sell music.

''We learned a lot from British music, which has reinvigorated itself partly through the Internet and also simply by playing gigs at local colleges,'' Carlton told Reuters.

''This is our equivalent of the college circuit -- to find out if we get booed off at the first test run.'' Carlton described ''Faintheart'' as ''a fairly standard rom-com with a lovely Viking twist''. Set in the world of battle re-enactments, Richard the ''weekend warrior'' sets out to win back his wife after she leaves him, branding him childish.

More than 800 directors submitted short films over the Internet, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 12. A panel including actress Sienna Miller chose three finalists, and Myspace users voted for the winner, Vito Rocco.

''Anyone who loves movies and interactivity will be fascinated to get involved in this pioneering film,'' said Rocco, who began shooting the picture last week.

The sponsors, including social networking site MySpace, provided one million pounds to fund it, and it will be released in early 2008.

CASTING CALL Once Rocco was selected, budding actors were invited to audition online for roles in the film. About 1,200 people applied, and 10 actors were chosen for parts ranging from walk-ons to smaller speaking roles.

Visitors to MySpace's MyMovie MashUp link will soon be able to choose bands to appear in the movie and on the soundtrack, and will have a say in how ''Faintheart'' is marketed and distributed, whether online or in cinemas or both.

Although billed as the world's first user-generated feature film, Carlton stressed that it combined innovation with traditional movie making techniques.

The main characters will be played by established actors and the script is unlikely to change radically.

Studios have already benefited from Internet interest. In the case of last year's ''Snakes on a Plane'', MySpace and YouTube users whipped up a frenzy of anticipation ahead of its release.

Carlton believes Hollywood has little choice but to tap the wired world more often in future.

''We will not see a swing towards one single model, but the Internet gives us new and fresh ways of getting in touch with our audience and finding out what it thinks,'' he said.

''And new directors will come out of that community.'' REUTERS ARB PM1916

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