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A number of my blogging entries so far have focused on the way that digital technologies are enabling consumers to interact directly with media producers to get the kind of content they want – whether we are talking about the blogging community paying to send its own reporters to Iraq and New Hampshire or the Dean campaign drawing on small donations from a larger mass of contributors. This idea is extending to film production.

Billy Dead, which tells the story of childhood violence and sexual abuse, and is scheduled to star Ethan Hawke, is trying an interesting approach to film financing. They are offering 900,000 shares at $8.75 apiece to everyday consumers who want to feel like they have played a part in making the film a reality. This plan is interesting in that it could allow films which have solid constituencies – in this case, one assumes readers of the book or perhaps victims of sexual abuse – to gain an early boost without having to go through normal media channels. This process could be important, for example, in supporting films made by women or minority filmmakers who might have difficulty breaking into the mainstream film industry. The web plays a key role here in getting the word out to potential contributors.

In this case, the fact that there is a major star involved increases the credibility of this early effort, but other factors may play a large role in determining what films will get made.

Hollywood shouldn’t close up shop just yet – this idea won’t work in most cases, but I can certainly imagine a range of groups who could get movies made this way.

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