EXCLUSIVE: Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has never been one to shy away from a technical challenge.
The innovative Unfriended ($63m U.S. box office) and Searching ($75m) filmmaker is now working on his latest feature in his home country, war pic V2. Escape from Hell. As we reported when we first revealed the project in February, the film is already notable as the first blockbuster movie to be shot entirely in a vertical format.
Now, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts film and TV productions around the globe, Bekmambetov and his team are planning to utilize technology to allow them to continue shooting.
This Friday at Lenfilm studio in St. Petersburg, the production plans to film a full air battle scene. To achieve this with minimal social contact, they will place lead actor Pavel Priluchny in a cockpit, with LED screens around him simulating the conflict. The screens will be displaying footage from the video game War Thunder, with Priluchny piloting a virtual plane in the game, dogfighting against real gamers. After shooting, the footage will be brought up to scratch using VFX.
Bekmambetov will direct the sequence remotely using the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform. There will also be a live cast of the shoot which will be broadcast online on social networks by the production.
“V2. Escape From Hell will be the first movie about Word War II designed for GenZ. We would like to narrate this story using modern and high-tech visual means,” Bekmambetov told us. “The shooting inside a computer game will add entertainment to the project and fully immerse the viewer in what is happening on the screen – an experience that today’s gamers get from Russian-made computer games with their high realism and attention to detail.”
“We are making a war film here, and what is broadcast in the news resembles a ‘military communiqué’ related to coronavirus – there is a curfew, food supply interruptions, panicking population, etc,” the filmmaker continued. “If they were going on making their films during World War II, least of all can we give in to despair now. We are looking for new ways to continue making our films, and we are helped by new technologies and a creative approach. This enables an ongoing shooting without exposing the film crew to health risks.”
V2. Escape From Hell is planning to release in 2021 in two formats – a horizontal version for cinemas and a vertical one for mobile phones. It stars 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 marked in February.
The movie is co-produced by Bazelevs studio, Voenfilm and MTS mobile operator. The film will be the first project of the new MTS Media platform to show content in a vertical format.