SXSW: Web Community Takes on Hollywood

The concept of crowdsourcing has proved powerful on Web sites like Wikipedia, where an army of unpaid experts and enthusiasts have chipped in little by little to create one of the world’s most exhaustive and up-to-date reference libraries. Using tools on the Web, crowds have also created fashion lines, novels, and political movements.

Usually, contributors to such projects volunteer their time, and all they get in return is the satisfaction of helping to create something big and useful. But what if crowds could build something that’s wholly commercial, like a blockbuster movie, and divvy up the returns amongst contributors?

That’s the idea behind Lost Zombies, a site that received two awards – Best Community and People’s Choice – at the South by Southwest Web Awards this year in Austin. Some 7,000 people have shot video clips of scenes for a “mockumentary” about a zombie pandemic sweeping the world, totaling around 14 hours of footage. There’s no script – only a five minute video that lays out the general timeline of events (like “Super Flu pandemic begins in February of 2007,” and “Estimates are that 75% of the population is dead or undead by the 19th of November”) filmmakers must abide by. Here’s that video:

At this point, it’s up to the originators of the project, Ryan Leach, Skot Leach, and Rob Oshima, to edit the mountain of footage and get the final product distributed in some form by the end of this year. They plan to mete out any profits from Lost Zombies to the filmmakers that created it, perhaps using a point system to award people based on how much they contributed.

Here’s an interview I shot with the Lost Zombies guys moments after they won their SXSW trophies.

Lost Zombies from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

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