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The computer screen test


There was a time when young aspirants would queue up patiently for hours outside the gates of movie studios and production houses, unmindful of a scorching sun or a sultry day, for a chance to act, sing or compose music. But not many have to linger outside gates aimlessly for days any longer, as the cinema world gets savvy about using social networking sites to scout for young talent.

In Bollywood, director Onir, known for taking on subjects centred on homosexuality, raised funds for his movie I am through social networking sites. Then he went a step further to scout for composers for his future project using the same sites. "I was able to raise one crore rupees for my movie. Besides, I also recruited assistant directors and technicians with the help of social networking sites. All this happened in a couple of days after I posted about the project on Facebook, " says Onir.

Eminent Bollywood directors Vipul Shah and Vidhu Vinod Chopra too pick scriptwriters through the Internet. Writers are invited to submit their story ideas on websites such as "Talenthouse. com" for directors to choose from. The participants also upload their scripts on social networking sites and invite votes. The scripts are then shortlisted and the winner's work is used to make a movie with the writer getting a chance to intern with the production house as well.

Among the first to use the Internet to find fresh talent was music director Vijay Antony. The desire for a new lyricist for his movie Naan prompted him to post the tune on social networking sites with an email address linked to his website. He was flooded with responses.

"I have been getting 10 applications every day. There is a need for new talent in the industry but newcomers don't know whom to approach and how. Social media has become a bridge, " said Antony.

The opening bars of Antony's composition can be heard on his website and social networking sites as well. They have been set to lyrics. "Those who are interested can write the 'charanam (latter stanzas)' and send it. The chosen lyrics will be used in the album, with due credits, " said Antony.

Antony has used the net even in the past - to find singers. He has, in fact, introduced 42 youngsters including Vinaya, Sangeetha Rajeshwaran and Jayadev who have sung for several popular Tamil movies after getting their initial breaks with Antony. "People apply from foreign countries too. Dinesh Kanagarathinam who sang Aathi Chuvadi was from Sri Lanka. Mostly I prefer people from Chennai as they can easily come for the test, " he says.

Television serial production houses are following suit. To cast a character in the Tamil soap Thangam, the crew has been holding a contest called 'Savaal'. "Now we are going to colleges to hold talent competitions and select students to act. Soon, we will be using Twitter and Facebook to find actors, " said Vittal Narayanan, creative director for the contest.

He said the move was aimed at finding fresh faces. "Many youngsters are glued to social networking sites. We can select talented people who are struggling for an entry into television soaps. Many college students are now considering television serials as a profession, " said Narayanan.

Antony says the usage of social networking sites to hunt for talent is just picking up. "There are good technicians waiting for a chance to enter the movie industry, but they do not know whom to approach. The film fraternity can find script writers, actors, musicians, cameraman and other skilled people by inviting applications through social networking sites, " said Antony.

Actor Priya Anand, who starred in Tamil movie 180, credits her break in Telugu to Facebook. "I was shooting for the Tamil movie Vamanan. Out of the blue, I got a call from a director telling me he had seen my photos on the social networking site. He asked me whether I would be interested in acting in the movie Leader, " she says.

Initially, she thought it was a prank. "But then it was true. Aspiring actors and models may not find it easy to meet directors. But now technology can help them achieve their dream easily, " she says.

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