EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has set Step Up 3D helmer Jon Chu to direct its 3D feature film about teenage singing sensation Justin Bieber. At the same time, the studio has bolstered the producing roster by adding Magical Elves partners Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz. They are the team behind such TV reality shows as Top Chef, Project Runway and Project Greenlight. They join Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, and Island Def Jam chairman L.A. Reid, as producers. There is barely any time for high-fiving here, because work on the film has already begun: Bieber’s concert in Nashville is being filmed for behind the scenes footage. Cameras will follow him, culminating in the August 31 performance in Madison Square Garden, which will be filmed using 3D cameras. Paramount had originally intended for An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim to direct the film. Though Guggenheim has musical credits like It Might Get Loud with The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White, he dropped out to focus on promoting his acclaimed education docu Waiting for Superman, which Paramount is distributing.
Close to 20 directors, feature and documentary, stepped up for the job. Some sparked to the opportunity to helm what could be a hit. Others liked Bieber’s rags to riches story, and how his trajectory was fueled by the web. Chu’s career has also benefited from the web, particularly through his work with the online phenomenon The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Chu came out of USC with a popular short film to show–When the Kids Are Away–and a first look deal with Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks, where he met current Paramount Pictures film chief Adam Goodman. Chu, who’d once been attached to direct Bye Bye Birdie, wanted to direct Fox’s Wimpy Kid, but after he directed Step Up 2: The Streets, Disney enforced an option that put him into another installment of the dance franchise. His 3D camera work helped win Chu the job.
Paramount confirmed the hire, and released this statement from Chu: “When I was approached about doing Justin’s film, I jumped at the opportunity to tell a story with honesty and heart. Most people don’t know that his is a true underdog story, and I hope to tell it in a compelling, genuine way, using all source materials available to convey his tale of becoming an icon for this digital age. This is the story of a new voice continuing the tradition of musicians that defined their generation.” Chu’s repped by WME and Principato/Young.
Magical Elves’ Cutforth and Lipsitz have reality credits that include the VH1 reality show Bands on the Run, which captured the behinds the scenes sagas of touring bands. They have a relationship with Paramount in that they’re developing a feature version of their documentary Air Guitar Nation. They’re also producing Showtime’s The Real L Word and Oxygen’s Dance Your Ass Off.
Bieber’s film still doesn’t have a title, but the studio has dated it for a February 11, 2011 release, which falls on Valentine’s Day weekend.