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From Youtube clip to silver screen

From Youtube clip to silver screen
By Thomas Seymat
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Tinseltown is about to get a lot more digital as players coming from the online entertainment industry invade the big screen. They bring their savoir-faire, honed by the data they gathered from years of producing videos on the Web.

Brian Robbins, founder and CEO of AwesomenessTV which specialises in content for Gen Z, was proud to explain at MIPTV in Cannes the success of their first-ever movie, a highschool comedy titled ‘Expelled’.

Described as a modern day ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, ‘Expelled’ starred various Youtube and Vine stars, including heart-throb and first-time actor Cameron Dallas .

Watch the trailer

The movie will probably not win any acting or directing awards. But, with this new kind of star power – Dallas had reportedly over 6 million followers on Vine and 2.8 million on YouTube at the time of the movie’s launch – and highly connected audience, the movie trended several times on Twitter. Brazilians fans even started a campaign to demand the movie be broadcast in their country.

‘Expelled’ eventually scored over 15 billion impressions on social networks worldwide, making it the most social movie of 2014, ahead of other movies such as ‘The Fault In Our Stars’.

Despite a limited run in theatres, ‘Expelled’ topped digital sales charts on its first day of sale, at 9,99$ a pop, ahead of large blockbuster productions such as ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’.

It is no small feat. As Variety magazine put it: “the No. 1 slot on iTunes is often reached only by films that have earned more than $80 million at the box office.”

“It took us 4 months to achieve what big studios need 4 years to do,” Robbins claims.

Fresh from these successes, AwesomenessTV now has 6 feature-length films in production, including one starring music group/teen sensation the Janoskians. And if you don’t know who The Janoskians are, “you are probably in trouble with Gen Z” warns Robbins.

The online experience

Comparatively, online players come with a very precise skill set that big Hollywood studios don’t have.

“The great thing about Buzzfeed is there is no R&D system in Hollywood. No studio makes a movie to see if they want to make a better version of a movie,” explains Oscar-nominated producer Michael Shamberg, who advises Buzzfeed Motion Pictures.

The digital company is a lot more nimble and never shies away from publishing videos and, by trial-and-error and gathering precious data along the way, hones its content to social engagement perfection. This iterative process can impact all aspects of production from the length to the editing and even the casting in the company’s videos, which reach a billion views per month.

The industry is aware of this edge. Last August, Buzzfeed received a $50-million investment from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, to expand from short video clips into longer film projects.

It’s not all fluff and entertainment though. Grittier content will have a place too. Eddy Moretti, Vice’s Chief Creative Officer, reminded the MIPTV audience that they too are getting into feature films, including several which are in production “right now.”

This venture comes after Vice partnered with the 20th Century Fox studio last December. When they announced the move, Moretti explained in the media:

“Vice Films is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Vice. The success of [previous Vice movies] showed us that we can play a vital role supporting exciting, bold, and visionary film-making.”

The partnership with Fox will not affect Vice’s tone and creative process. “We will build a new global home for cinematic creativity, supporting film-makers from development to distribution, and creating a new business model for the industry along the way,” Moretti said.

“But at the heart of this partnership is our love of cinema. Vice is committed to the enduring artistic and cultural relevance of the two-hour narrative.”


Moretti told the audience at MIPTV that Vice plans to launch at least 2 films a year for the next three years.

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