Second Life ‘Diaries’ a first for HBO

Documentary to air in the spring

HBO is looking to make the virtual real.

Pay net has acquired a doc that was shot and produced entirely in popular virtual universe Second Life and plans to air it on the net in the spring.

Animated pic “My Second Life: The Video Diaries of Molotov Alva” follows Alva, the avatar of director Douglas Gayeton, as he searches for the creator of Second Life and encounters a series of colorful Second Life personas in the process.

Movie has a “Blair Witch Project”-like conceit, in which Alva is described as a man “who disappeared from his California home” only to pop up in Second Life. Pic never steps out of the world to explain what Gayeton is trying to do, as a traditional doc might.

“There is nothing outside Second Life I could have done; the only way to find a creator of Second Life is from the inside,” he said.

Sheila Nevins’ HBO Docs division has bought North American television, theatrical and Web rights and will also seek to bring the pic, which runs about 35 minutes, to film festivals. HBO has yet to decide whether it will air it as a standalone on the net or as a series of shorter dispatches.

Cabler also plans an Internet airing as part of what has become a larger strategy to ramp up online content.

Movie will also get a qualifying run at Laemmle Theaters in September as filmmaker and HBO are seeking an Oscar nom in the animated shorts category.

Gayeton said that making a movie in Second Life presented a unique set of challenges. “I had to deal with everything directors deal with in the real world, like weather and unruly crowds,” he said. “And then I had problems you don’t have in the real world, like I’d show up one day and the location would be gone.”

While HBO is touting the pic as a doc, its setting in a parallel online environment where identities are more fluid will likely raise questions about whether it truly constitutes a documentary.

Acquisition marks the first time that a net has taken entertainment from virtual world Second Life and tried to break it out in the real one.

Most previous efforts have concerned studios trying to use Second Life as a marketing tool for real-life properties. Earlier this summer, Warners marketed the latest “Harry Potter” movie in Second Life, while Fox flogged “Live Free or Die Hard.”

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