McG and Bryan Singer pull a Joss Whedon and go Web
EXCLUSIVE: This one's not strictly a piece of movie news. But given how we've been hearing for a while that film directors will be be turning to the Web both as a source of income and an outlet for creativity, it caught our attention.
Two up-and-coming-directors are joining two established filmmakers for a pair of Web series that will be financed and distributed by Warner Bros., sources familiar with the projects say.
First, "Sorority Row" director Stewart Hendler is coming on to direct "H+," a futuristic story about a virus that wipes out a significant portion of the human population. The story takes place a decade in the future, when many people have had their minds wired to the Internet 24/7, leading to the disastrous viral incident and a new social order.
Bryan Singer, director of "Superman Returns" and "The Usual Suspects," along with "House" production company Bad Hat Harry, were earlier announced as producers, and they remain involved in that capacity. (The project had initially been pitched to Bad Hat as a TV series by executive producers and writers John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso before it was reconceived for the Web.)Meanwhile, Thor Freudenthal, director of breakout hit "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," is also taking on a new Warner Bros. Web series. Titled "Aim High," the Heath Corson-Richie Keen project is described as an international-espionage series set in a high school, with the main character a teen operative simultaneously conducting hits and falling in love with a girl in his class.
Adding to the filmic credibility: McG's Wonderland Sound + Vision is producing the series.
Warner Premiere, the production arm of Warner Home Video, is financing both pieces of programming through its digital unit -- the division previously had concentrated on animated content but has been looking to move into live-action -- along with Dolphin Entertainment, the tween-programming specialists behind "Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide."
Other heavy-hitting names are involved too: Peter Murrieta, the former showrunner of tween-fantasy hit "Wizard of Waverly Place," is producing "Aim High."
Both series are expected to be a paid piece of programming available on a host of online platforms, with each totaling roughly an hour. Shooting is likely to begin this fall on each, and expect releases as early as 2011 via Warner Premiere sister unit Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.
Ever since Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along" became an online sensation two years ago, fans and Hollywood have been waiting for top television and film names to start making the jump to the Web. Among other advantages, the development of online series can move a lot faster than the glacial pace of film.
The talent influx hasn't quite happened yet -- among other concerns, there's the matter of paying movie directors and actors Internet prices -- but the addition of these names should give the category a boost. The Web may gain ground on conventional entertainment yet.--Steven Zeitchik