EXCLUSIVE: TikTok meets the movies? Prolific Russian director and producer Timur Bekmambetov, whose credits include multiple Hollywood pics such as Searching, Ben Hur and Wanted, is set to go into production on V2. Escape From Hell, the first blockbuster movie made entirely in a vertical format.
Bekmambetov is credited as one of the inventors of the ‘Screenlife’ film and TV format, which sees events unfold from the perspective of a computer, tablet or smartphone. Movies he has worked on in the genre include Unfriended ($63m U.S. box office) and the John Cho-starring Searching ($75m). He also produced 2015 pic Hardcore Henry, an action movie shot entirely in the first-person perspective.
Now, Bekmambetov has set his sights on pioneering the vertical video as a viable format for major feature films, flipping the traditional landscape format. Vertical content has previously been popularised by platforms including TikTok and Snapchat for short form on mobile. The film is being designed primarily with a smartphone audience in mind.
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Second World War pic V2. Escape From Hell will star Russian actor Pavel Priluchny as Mikhail Devyatayev, a captured Soviet pilot who leads an escape from a German concentration camp by hijacking an aircraft. The story is based on real events, the 75th anniversary of which was recently marked in February.
Cameras are set to roll next week in Russia on the $10m movie. The pic is being produced by Bazelevs and Voenfilm in partnership with Russia’s biggest mobile phone operator MTS, which will release locally on its digital platform MTS Media.
Two versions will be produced, one for the Russian market, and an English-language international version, which will contain some different scenes and will open with shots of the Luftwaffe bombing raids against London. Release is earmarked for early 2021.
“Visually, the film is built around a person—this is a story about a man standing up and straightening his shoulders in spite of the circumstances. And about a rescue plane soaring up into the sky,” said the filmmaker.
Bekmambetov previously produced the first entirely vertical series, Dead Of Night, which was shot exclusively for Snapchat. That show follows a teenage girl trying to escape a zombie apocalypse.