MySpace announced a partnership with the Producer's Guild of America to hold a contest this fall, "The Storyteller Challenge," that will allow web content producers to compete for a possible development deal with Fox (and $25,000). I've been reading coverage of this all day, and I think Variety probably nailed it: This is an attempt by Fox to salvage their new summer reality show "On The Lot," which has so far had lackluster performance. (For the record, the reason I stopped watching "On The Lot" was that I found it hard to take Antoine Fuqua, the director of the box office abomination "King Arthur," seriously as an expert).Today
Users will be able to submit 5-7 minute pilots for television shows starting on September 4, 2007. The winners will be selected in January by a combination of user votes, and an "expert panel" consisting of Fox executives, film school faculty, and Producers Guild members.
"The Storyteller Challenge gives aspiring producers the potential opportunity to cut through Hollywood's red-tape and get an audience with top brass in the television business, all while cutting their teeth with the MySpace community." -- Chris DeWolfe, CEO MySpace
My initial reaction to this announcement was the same as Variety's, but this is also another indication Hollywood is taking user generated content more seriously. TechCrunch had a similar thought saying that MySpace was looking for the next "Prom Queen" (the successful web-only short form drama from Michael Eisner). It might be important to note that the prize of a possible development deal with Fox doesn't specify the type of medium the winner would be developing for. It is wholly possible that Fox is planning to develop winning shows from this competition for distribution on MySpace itself.
Of course, the competition itself also means a lot of unique user generated content for MySpace, which still trails Google in online video streaming by quite a bit.
MySpace isn't the only social network tapping into user generated video as a form of promotion, recently. The oft-overlooked Gaia Online, a teen-centric social network with over 8.5 million registered users and forum boasting over a billion posts, recently held a film festival, inviting users to submit short films about their experiences on the network.
The film fest, which used YouTube to host its videos, attracted 1,300 entries over a 10 day period. The festival will culminate at the end of this month with the screening -- in Gaia -- of a trailer for MMVII, an animated film based on the Gaia universe. Details are sparse, and I'm not sure if this is a feature length film or a short, but regardless, it could be the first cinematic adaptation of a social network.