In the 1980s, Hollywood supposedly looked at MTV for potential new clients -- this was spoofed in Christopher Guest's first Tinseltown parody, The Big Picture. (Would producers really have been interested in that horrible "Pez People" music video? I doubt it). In the late 1990s, the internet became a new place for agents to scan, as sites like iFilm showcased and popularized new short films. Remember the hype over 405? Well, its filmmakers haven't really blown up yet, but another buzzed-about internet filmmaker, Joe Nussbaum (George Lucas in Love), did break into Hollywood and has been somewhat successful (making teeny-bopper comedies, anyway).
Getting on MTV was often expensive, though, and most early shorts on the internet (the quality ones anyway) also cost a good amount. The thing about YouTube, however, seems to be that anybody can produce a cheap video and put it up for everyone, Hollywood included, to see. The Guardian has an article up this weekend about the new online unit of the United Talent Agency. The plan is not only to find the next big thing for TV and feature film work, but also, as UTA's Head of Digital Media, Brent Weinstein, puts it, to find ways to help internet talent, "monetise their interests and pursuits online." Weinstein doesn't exactly say what online outlets exist for such profits, though.
Check out some of the videos that have caught the interest of Hollywood (as mentioned in the Guardian article):
"Paxilback" music video parodying Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack".
The first episode of "Sam Has 7 Friends", which is currently up to part 50-something.
The first episode of the fake news program, Redneck.tv
My favorite episode of "Ask a Ninja"