Crowdsourcing for the King of Pop

Michael Jackson, though gone for two years now, has left behind a tangible legacy. According to Wikipedia, as many as 1 billion people watched the memorial service following his death and Sony Music spent $250 million to retain distribution rights to the Jackson recordings until 2017. His fans also remain just as passionate and have united to honor him again through the power of crowdsourcing.

The video is Behind the Mask, a movie of Michael Jackson fans dancing, singing, and shouting in honor of the King of Pop. The movie premiered on Facebook last week and already has over a million views. Is it any surprise that the response from fans who contributed to the video was also unprecedented and the video itself only features the best 1600 submissions from 103 countries around the world?

I went to the site where it’s still possible to upload more footage and the interface was incredibly easy and flexible – just want to dance? Only want to belt out the high notes? The Behind the Mask site had easy upload guidelines and options for anyone which may have helped mobilize the already enthused public.

But crowdsourcing is being used by a variety of filmmakers in different ways now. Amr Salama is currently working on a film about the Egyptian Revolution and seeking first-hand footage from those who were there. Through an appeal made on Twitter, Salama has now amassed 300 GB worth of footage.

Jack Selby, former Paypal executive who recently got involved in the movie business, is now working to use crowdsourcing as part of the post-production of one of the company’s films called The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (which stars Scott Speedman and Jason Priestley). Facebook fans were asked to provide feedback on raw footage which was then used to shape the final edits. Selby also reached out to fans asking them to submit their own original music as part of a contest where the winner’s music will be featured in the trailer. Site visitors can now vote on the finalists until the contest closes at the end of August.

Obviously there are a number of ways in which filmmakers can work with dedicated or potential fans to influence their artistic work. What are the possible benefits of inviting fans to contribute to the creative process? Are there drawbacks? How might filmmakers otherwise involve their audiences?

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