A certain instructor at film school once confided in me that no filmmaker ever made real money off a short film. At the time, I respected his honest opinion, and while he may (or may not) have been right about making “real” money, that doesn’t mean short films are worthless. For evidence, I present to you one Mr. Neill Blomkamp, the amateur filmmaker who (with the help of Peter Jackson) converted one little short film into a critical and box office success. Of course, I’m talking about District 9.
In recent days, another filmmaker, Federico Alvarez, has managed to rise out of the not so shallow depths of obscurity with the help of a short film he posted on YouTube. Panic Attack!, otherwise known as Ataque de Pánico, debuted online about three weeks ago and created a sensation that attracted the attention of Hollywood executives. Already comparisons to the Blomkamp phenomena are circulating full force on entertainment blogs.
Now Film Junk brings us news that Sam Raimi will play the role of Peter Jackson in Alvarez’s personal Cinderella story. Raimi and his production company, Ghost House Pictures, signed with Alvarez last week to help him realize his feature film ambitions. Shooting locations apparently include Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo in Alverez’s native Uruguay. Other details about the forthcoming film are still hazy, but it has been suggested that killer robots will indeed be part of the formula.
The YouTube video is void of dialogue but packed full of impressive special effects, worthy of the hype it caused among Hollywood moguls. It’s little more than demo reel material with no story to speak of, but it did well what a demo should do. It piqued the interest of important parties and afforded Alvarez the opportunity to demonstrate to an even larger audience what he can do with more time and resources. He’s made the extraordinary leap of a meager $300 budget on Panic Attack! to a reported $30 or $40 million for his feature debut.
It’s an exciting time in Hollywood for the independent filmmaker. Hopefully, this infusion of new blood also means an influx of fresh ideas. I also find it encouraging and not altogether surprising that these opportunities have sprung from the science fiction camp of filmmaking. What better place to look for the entertainers of tomorrow?