Internet giant opens virtual screening room

Google Inc.’s YouTube is setting up a virtual screening room to bring the work of independent filmmakers to a global audience.

Struggling filmmakers already use YouTube to kick-start viral marketing campaigns. The new feature, which debuts Wednesday, gives them an easy-to-find home – and makes them partners in drawing new ad revenue.

“Hopefully as they see thousands of people watching their films, it’s going to be a very eye-opening experience,” said Sara Pollack, YouTube’s film and animation manager.

The screening room will highlight four new films a week, picked by a YouTube editorial panel.

Submissions are welcomed. The panel also will scour film festivals and work with partners such as the Sundance Channel to identify prospects.

Among the first eight titles to be showcased are “Love and War,” a stop-motion puppet movie by a Swedish director; the Oscar-nominated short “I Met The Walrus,” about an interview with John Lennon; and “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?” by performance artist Miranda July.

Filmmakers can choose to have a “Buy Now” button attached to their work for sales of DVDs or digital copies. They will also collect a majority share of ad revenue generated from views of their work.

YouTube said people whose clips regularly attract a million viewers can make several thousand dollars a month.

The bigger prize can be exposure.

When YouTube featured the nine-minute short “Spider” by Nash Edgerton in February, it became the fifth-best selling short on iTunes, Pollack said.

The creators of the full-length feature “Four Eyed Monsters,” Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, got their break when more than a million YouTube views helped land them a TV and DVD distribution deal, she said.

“They ended up doing really, really well, ironically by putting their film online for free,” Pollack said.

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