Smartphone cameras have become so good that they’ve turned us all into amateur directors. But because social networks like Snapchat and Instagram encourage vertical videos, we don’t shoot the horizontal footage that makes sense for, say, a movie. That’s fine when an Instagram Story video is only 15 seconds long. But do you really want to watch an entire movie shot vertically? We’re about to find out.
Russian director and producer Timur Bekmambetov, best known for films like Searching, Night Watch, and Hardcore Henry, is producing the first “vertical blockbuster movie,” called V2. Escape From Hell, according to Deadline.
The World War II action flick is based on real events involving a Soviet pilot who hijacks a plane to flee a German concentration camp. With a $10 million budget, it doesn’t quite sound like a blockbuster in the making, but Bekmambetov has churned out some hits. Searching, starring John Cho, raked in $75 million and has a respectable 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Bekmambetov loves to play with format. Hardcore Henry was filmed entirely from a first-person perspective. Unfriended and its sequel were shot as MacBook screencasts. Those films weren’t necessarily good, but they were interesting experiments in a sea of rebooted franchises and Marvel movies.
“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,” Bekmambetov told Deadline.
I don’t even know what that means, but I’m intrigued and can’t wait to hear Martin Scorsese’s thoughts on it.
The vertical format might be a tough sell for, say, movie theater chains, which are pretty committed to horizontal pictures. That will limit the film’s distribution opportunities, though it could head straight to Netflix, or maybe build buzz at a few vertically-oriented film festival stunt screenings.
But do people actually want to watch full-length shows or movies like this? Even Quibi, the soon-to-launch streaming service that will offer some vertically-oriented original content, is keeping videos short (like 10 minutes) and giving viewers the option to transition from vertical to horizontal and back whenever they feel like it.
Vertical video may be what we prefer to watch on social networks, but when it comes to feature films, I’m not quite buying it. V2. Escape From Hell is due out next year.