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Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's production company is known as American Zoetrope. A fan of the short story format, Mr. Coppola started a magazine called Zoetrope: All-Story, dedicated to publishing short fiction, especially short fiction with cinematic potential or feel to it. Now, as a further effort to encourage creativity and new talent in art-forms relating to the world of film, American Zoetrope has brought us Zoetrope Virtual Studios, at http://www.zoetrope.com.

What this site is, aside from carrying a few bits of news about the company as a whole, is a community for aspiring writers and artists to share their work, receive criticism, and, just maybe, receive an offer from the company.

The website is divided into five "buildings", some of which are further divided into several subsections. These are:

The Writing, Art & Design and Music & Sound buildings all work essentially the same way. You can submit your work in those categories to the site, at which point it stays "live" for 30 days. During that period, other users will read/view/listen to your work and critique it. The brilliant part is that for every piece you submit, you must first review a certain number (the number depends on the category - 5 for short stories, 2 for novellas, 4 for photos, etc.) of pieces in that category. This guarantees that everyone will get at least a few reviews. In the case of the Writing Building, particularly good pieces (especially short stories and screenplays) will get considered for use by American Zoetrope or publication in Zoetrope: All-Story.

The Acting Building is different. There, aspiring actors are invited to submit an ActorPak(tm), consisting of a headshot photo, some personal details, and two short audio file readings, one of a passage from a Shakespearean play, and one from a modern playwright. When casting upcoming projects, American Zoetrope will browse the ActorPaks(tm) submitted here, and offer an audition (or a chance to submit another audio file reading of the script in question) to anyone they think has potential.

The Directors' Building is not fully operational yet. The idea there is that aspiring directors can discuss ideas with one another (this is all that can really be done at the moment) and it is planned to eventually tie in with the other sections of the website, allowing them to browse actors and screenplays. There will also eventually be the option of submitting movies you've directed (in digital format) to be reviewed by others, and maybe be aired (with your permission) at the Arzner theatre, if the Zoetrope staff like them.

I am not a director, actor, musician or visual artist, so I can't vouch for the usefulness of any of those sections. I am, however, a writer of short stories, and have found the site useful, entertaining, and a great way to waste enormous amounts of time at the computer. If you're an artist of any persuasion covered by the site, and are curious to know what total strangers will think of what you've created, this is a wonderful website to join.

URL again (so you don't have to scroll back to the top): http://www.zoetrope.com

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