Web bidders to vie for ‘Star’ treatment

Contest auctions cast, crew roles online

Hollywood is reaching out to the masses with one of its latest co-ventures, asking “Who Wants to Be a Movie Star?”

A new contest, announced Tuesday, pairs up the William Morris Agency, Blockbuster Inc., MP3.com, Web design shop DNA Studio and Yahoo, among others, to produce a feature-length pic using the Web.

Involved players are giving aspiring actors and filmmakers the chance to bid for 27 parts in front of and behind the camera through Yahoo Auctions.

Site began taking bids for five parts — one lead role, one supporting part and one bit player’s role — on Tuesday, with bids starting at 99 cents.

A total of five leading roles, four supporting roles, eight roles for bit players, two executive producer titles and several assistants’ jobs are up for grabs. Bidding will end by July 17. Two more roles are being offered in a Blockbuster-sponsored contest (ending July 31) at the vidtailer’s stores nationwide.

SAG minimums

Actors who win the bidding war will be paid as if they belonged to the Screen Actors Guild, whose minimum rates for speaking roles in a film with a budget over $2 million is $596 per day.

Additionally, MP3.com is providing a platform for unknown bands to post songs for a chance to be one of the six bands whose music will be featured in the pic. One band will appear performing in the movie. Karyn Rachtman (“Pulp Fiction,” “Boogie Nights”) is supervising the pic’s tunes.

A script for the unnamed project will be penned in a period of a month by Adam Rifkin (“Mouse Hunt,” “Small Soldiers”) after actors are cast by casting directors Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson (“The Perfect Storm”), who also plan to beef up the pic with more established actors.

“We have no idea what the movie is going to be about,” Rifkin said. “Obviously, we are keeping a very open mind on what this is going to be about.”

Winning thesps will be coached by acting teachers Brian Reise, who has taught George Clooney, and “Friends” and “ER” cast coach Leigh K. Smith.

Tony Markes (“Welcome to Hollywood”) will helm, while Dan Hassid (“Gas, Food, Lodging”) is producing.

Sundance spotlight

The plan is to screen the finished pic at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival in January. Blockbuster will handle all video distribution, making the pic part of its Blockbuster Exclusives program.

Cassian Elwes, veep of William Morris’ indie film arm, said he will work to arrange domestic and international theatrical distribution.

Production is skedded to begin in mid-September, with completion targeted for the end of October.

Funding of the project is being handled by a financing agency and completion bond company. Principals would not disclose how much funding they have in place. Results of the auction will help enhance the final shooting budget.

“We may make a $10 million movie if the auction goes the way we want,” Markes said.

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