Night of the Living Facebook

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Facebook melts your brains ... BRAINS!

    It would be a Cinderella story, if “Cinderella” had zombies (the vapid evil stepsisters don’t count).

    A British part-time taxi dispatcher used sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to find volunteers – and generate buzz – for a zombie movie he purportedly made for $70. “Colin,” which tackles the genre from the zombies’ point of view, left them hungry for more at Cannes and has garnered interest from distributors in Japan and the U.S., CNN reports.

    “We went on Facebook and MySpace and said, ‘Who wants to be a zombie?’” no-budget filmmaker Marc Price told CNN. He also recruited makeup artists who brought their own supplies from movie sets.

    The fun story-behind-the-movie – Price says the money went for a crowbar, some tapes and tea and coffee to “keep the zombies happy” – is a good PR tale and could become the stuff of Hollywood legend if “Colin” proves successful. Even if he spent a tad more than $70 during the 18 months it took to make the film, Price already has a struck a blow for the continuing democratization of art, via the Internet.

    Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, among others, can be places for talent to be discovered, without traditional filters and barriers.

    Sure, there’s a lot of dross – YouTube announced last week that 20 hours of video are being uploaded every minute. But YouTube and the like could be the place where we find the next Steven Spielberg – or, in this case, George Romero.

    Price smartly recruited talent for his project from among Facebook’s 200 million users, bringing folks together over a common cause, even if it’s one more likely to turn stomachs than change the world. The project’s collaborative nature very much falls into the social networking ethos (though it would be interesting to know what payoff the various volunteers will get if “Colin” becomes the next "Blair Witch Project").

    While there’s a danger that spending too much time on the Internet will isolate users, this unlikely zombie flick represents more evidence of the power of social networking as people-organizing tool.

    Meanwhile, a real-life horror movie is playing out in Iran, where the government fully understands the reach and democratic nature of social networking.

    With the country’s presidential election set for June 12, the government has blocked Facebook, apparently in a bid to help keep Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. The leading reformist candidate, Mir Hoseein Mousavi, is using Facebook to rally the youth vote, and reportedly has fan pages, including one with more than 5,000 members.

    The Facebook ban could leave voters with state-run media – and Ahmadinejad’s infrequently updated blog – as the primary sources of information leading up to the election.

    Now that would be scary. 

    "Colin" Trailer

    Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.