HBO Buys Rights to Second Life YouTube Video
Brian A Kennedy | September 4, 2007 at 04:51 amby
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On March 2nd, a mysterious Second Life machinima appeared on YouTube, purporting to be a "documentary" by a heretofore unknown Resident named Molotov Alva (viewable here, for now) describing his disappearance from the material world into SL. At the time, I called it "evocative, vivid, and beautifully produced", but knew little else about its origins. Later I learned that Alva was the SL avatar of Douglas Gayeton, an accomplished multimedia director. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one impressed, because Gayeton just let me in on a truly gigantic announcement:
"HBO purchased the North American television rights," Gayeton e-mails me. "They have decided to first submit it for an Oscar in the Animated Short Subject category." It'll soon be screened in a Los Angeles theater to meet the Academy's qualifications for nomination. "They are then hoping to premiere it at Sundance. It will probably screen next spring on HBO." (Originally called "My Second Life", it'll probably air under a new name, likely something reminiscent of a 19th century novel title.)
Molotov_alva_video This is the rare Second Life news that is worthy of full superlatives: it's the highest profile example of an SL-to-RL rights deal so far, leveraging Linden Lab's policy in which Residents retain the underlying intellectual property rights to content they create in-world. (It far eclipses Tringo's SL-to-Nintendo Gameboy deal of a couple years ago.) It's the first SL machinima to sell to a major TV broadcaster. (Longtime SL auteur Pierce Portocarrero recently landed a well-deserved development deal with NBC on the strength of his Second Life machinima like this one, but to my knowledge, the network didn't purchase the broadcast rights to Pierce's existing works.) It's also the first time SL-based content has landed someone a Hollywood agent, for in the acquisition process, Gayeton secured representation with UTA, among the industry's "big five" firms, which also counts Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, and the Coen Brothers as clients. I suspect some non-Second Life superlatives are in order too, though I'm less sure here: it's probably the biggest Hollywood purchase of a video which first aired on YouTube, and the most prominent distribution deal for a machinima project made in any 3D platform.
Because of all this and Gayeton's relations in the film industry (more on those later), the HBO deal might very well be a disruptive one, transforming SL machinima into an accepted tool for established filmmakers. And in the process, one hopes, make stars out of artists like Lainy Voom, Robbie Dingo, and China Tracy, Residents who have already mastered the form.
How did this all come about? As it turns out, mostly by accident. Gayeton explains after the break.
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