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SXSW: Web Community Takes on Hollywood

Posted by: Douglas Macmillan on March 17, 2009


The concept of crowdsourcing has proved powerful on Web sites like Wikipedia, where an army of unpaid experts and enthusiasts have chipped in little by little to create one of the world’s most exhaustive and up-to-date reference libraries. Using tools on the Web, crowds have also created fashion lines, novels, and political movements.

Usually, contributors to such projects volunteer their time, and all they get in return is the satisfaction of helping to create something big and useful. But what if crowds could build something that’s wholly commercial, like a blockbuster movie, and divvy up the returns amongst contributors?

That’s the idea behind Lost Zombies, a site that received two awards – Best Community and People’s Choice – at the South by Southwest Web Awards this year in Austin. Some 7,000 people have shot video clips of scenes for a “mockumentary” about a zombie pandemic sweeping the world, totaling around 14 hours of footage. There’s no script – only a five minute video that lays out the general timeline of events (like “Super Flu pandemic begins in February of 2007,” and “Estimates are that 75% of the population is dead or undead by the 19th of November”) filmmakers must abide by. Here’s that video:

At this point, it’s up to the originators of the project, Ryan Leach, Skot Leach, and Rob Oshima, to edit the mountain of footage and get the final product distributed in some form by the end of this year. They plan to mete out any profits from Lost Zombies to the filmmakers that created it, perhaps using a point system to award people based on how much they contributed.

Here’s an interview I shot with the Lost Zombies guys moments after they won their SXSW trophies.

Lost Zombies from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

Reader Comments


March 18, 2009 10:06 AM

Very cool! Huge congrats to Lost Zombies, great job!

Crowdsourcing is now happening all over the place. Also check out Star Wreck at, another full feature length and crowdsourced movie. And then there's another 100+ being worked on at, like Iron Sky and Norwegian Ninja. And Storm Warning about Nazi Zombies taking over Kentucky;-) Not your typical Hollywood treat for sure!


March 18, 2009 1:49 PM

Very Awesome guys. Congratulations on your wins, can't wait to see the trophies.

Merry Adkins

March 18, 2009 9:06 PM

Ryan,Skot,Rob and Zombie lovers:

Congratulations on your success. All of your hard work and entrepreneurial ideas are being recognized by everyone all over the nation. I am very excited for all of you.

Great Work!!

William Bruin

March 19, 2009 4:27 PM

Way to go guys! LZ is a great place to be and a great resource for zombie lovers everywhere!

Komrad Venessa Wicked

April 6, 2009 12:24 PM


"They plan to mete out any profits from Lost Zombies to the filmmakers that created it, perhaps using a point system to award people based on how much they contributed."

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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