EXCLUSIVE: Shovel Buddies, a 2013 Black List script by Jason Mark Hellerman, will be produced by AwesomenessTV and Film 360 for day-and-date theatrical and VOD release. The film will be directed by English duo Si & Ad with a likely cast of social-media stars plucked substantially from the stables of AwesomenessTV and its Big Frame talent-management unit.
Casting is underway, and filming is expected to begin by May. The project is the latest full-length being created by DreamWorks Animation-owned Awesomeness and was packaged by Big Frame. It is being developed and distributed on a fast track similar to last year’s Expelled feature, said Big Frame co-president Larry Shapiro.
Expelled was a high school comedy featuring several performers with a big presence on either YouTube or Vine. It was released December 12 on VOD and a handful of theaters, then four days later was on digital home-entertainment platforms, where it quickly rose to No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes Store. The compressed release pattern took advantage of the social-media marketing push, allowing fans to find the film on whatever distribution platform they most wanted. Shapiro said the film made money, though he declined to detail how much.
“We’re evolving this model,” Shapiro said of the approach to the new movie. “When you look at the past couple of success stories, what we’re doing is elevating the story.”
Thus the deal for Hellerman’s script, which ended up eighth on the 2013 Black List of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays. The name is a play on the idea of the “bucket list.” Here, a group of four teens whose friend has just died of leukemia strive to do all the items on the friend’s “shovel list” in a single night.
‘It’s a little Stand By Me, a little Breaking Away,” Shapiro said. “They are stories about coming of age that you can relate to at any age.”
Film 360, which represents Hellerman, brought the script to Shapiro, who got signoff from Awesomeness’ top executives Brian Robbins and Shauna Phelan, who produced both Smosh: The Movie and Expelled. Big Frame then packaged the deal.
“It’s an exciting time as stories are being created and told in so many different ways,” said 360 co-founding partner Guymon Casady.
Film 360 has both a management and production side, and as producers, the company’s Dean Schnider and former 360 executive Ali Itri came up with the idea of putting a traditional script with non-traditional talent. 360 approached Big Frame, which then approached AwesomenessTV to find the best partners in the digital space.
Shapiro said casting likely will include a number of Awesomeness and Big Frame social-media stars who can both act and bring along their big online audiences.
“We’re in the middle of a generational shift of how kids are receiving their experience of films,” Shapiro said. ‘This is kind of a statement about how movies get made in a digital framework.”
He declined to specify the film’s budget but said Awesomeness would be “spending more than most have on these kinds of things.”
The directors are Simon Atkinson and Adam Townley, known in England collectively as Si & Ad and for their work producing commercials with a gritty, indie feel. The pair are repped by WME and Grandview.
Producers will be Shapiro, Robbins, Phelan, Itri, Schnider and Film 360’s Ben Forkner. Hellerman is repped by Management 360, Verve and Carlos Goodman of Bloom, Hergott, Diemer, Rosenthal, LaViolette & Feldman, LLP. Hellerman also found his representation through the Blacklist, talking about it on a blog post on that site.