I've never entered the virtual online universe known as Second Life myself, but it's been gaining popularity and entering mainstream awareness more and more. (Weblogs, Inc. even has a blog devoted to it, called Second Life Insider.) Late last year, the Sundance Channel set up Sundance Island in the virtual environment to promote and show films; one of the first films screened within Second Life was the indie feature Four Eyed Monsters. Now HBO has announced a deal to buy the distribution rights for a documentary shot in the world of Second Life.

Hollywood Reporter says that the 35-minute film is called Molotov's Dispatches in Search of the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey, and it's a tour through Second Life, hosted by an online avatar known as Molotov Alva. Wired's article on the sale reports a different title for the film: My Second Life: The Video Diaries of Molotov Alva, and notes that HBO is actually planning seven episodes total in a My Second Life series. The title Wired references is the one used on the Molotov Alva website. Whatever the short doc is called, its fate will be something to watch -- HBO says it plans to submit the film for Academy Award consideration in the animated short category.

Will Academy members take it seriously? Will HBO viewers show a significant interest in the film? The impact of Second Life on Hollywood -- and vice versa -- could be fascinating. In the meantime, you can watch the short film in question on the Molotov Alva website. HBO plans to air the series in 2008.