Steven Spielberg’s future, Jack Black’s past

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, Jenna Ortega’s Nobel, Jack Black’s past and a lost phone number.

Let’s go!


STEVEN SPIELBERG’S FUTURE

Steven Spielberg is the greatest living architect of cinema worlds.

And with the upcoming actualization of his film Ready Player One (2018), remarkably prophetic.

Spielberg invented the summer blockbuster with Jaws (1975), which became the first film in history to hit the $100M mark at the US box office. And proved definitively that audiences wanted to see movies year-round.

His ethos has always been that immense production value allows viewers into his world, whether that be Martha’s Vineyard disrupted by a lethal shark, an island in Costa Rica where dinosaurs have come to life, or the bloody shores of Normandy during WW2.

When Spielberg directed Ready Player One, about a virtual reality that provides an escape from a dystopian future, it seemed like the only logical step in his world-building.

Now Ernest Cline, the scriptwriter and author of Ready Player One, is teaming up with Futureverse, an AI and Metaverse content company, looking to bring that film into reality.

The team is partnering with Warner Bros. to license Ready Player One and other IP to build their own Metaverse.

The founder of the company, Aaron McDonald, explained:

“We are definitely going to give people the opportunity to explore the environments and the characters and the objects that come from books and movies.”

Although the promise of walking into the Overlook Hotel in The Shining or a dance-off in a zero-gravity club sounds fantastic, the key challenge of the Metaverse remains user adoption.

With the clunky ramp into VR brought on by the physically cumbersome process of strapping expensive tech onto your head (the Apple Vision Pro is $3500, while the Oculus’ Meta Quest 3 is $500), accessibility still remains a significant barrier to entry.

The red pill will potentially be a mass adoption of Apple’s new Vision Pro, their first foray into the AR space. Although the products ubiquity seems unlikely given the high price point, it’s worth noting the tech companies’ history of seismic cultural change: iMac (1998), iPod (2001), and iPhone (2007).

Although Spielberg has no current involvement in Futureverse, his cinema initiated our need for year-round escapism, which accelerated our insatiable hunger for new worlds.

For More:

Ready Player One trailer. Behind the synthetically dazzling visuals, there’s a heartfelt message that resonates with all creators: imagination allows us to redefine who we are.

Futureverse’s shared future trailer. It’s a combo of fluffy Alice in Wonderland-inspired visuals with a cheerful web 3.0 pitch.

Apple seems to have cracked the social dynamics of users having one foot in reality and one foot in the virtual world with their Apple Vision Pro. Watch their slightly sci-fi product trailer.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Amazon hires Disney’s EVP of advertising, Jeremy Helfand, to support their transition to an ad tier model for Prime. Starting January 29th, all Prime subscribers will start seeing “limited advertisements” appear while watching movies or TV shows. An ad-free option for subscribers will be available for $2.99/month.

This development marks a major turning point in an ever-evolving streaming landscape, where Amazon, Disney, and other streamers have adopted ad-supported tiers to secure profitability.

Disney+ is looking to expand its own streaming revenue by offering Spectrum’s 15M cable customers access to their ad-supported tier of Disney+. Disney’s new deal with Spectrum allows for targeted promotion of their premium tier to Spectrum subscribers.

Do streaming ads actually work? Long gone are the days when brands could pour the lion’s share of their ad dollars into high-end TV commercials. Now that the majority of the US’s viewing hours have shifted to streaming platforms, GroupM, a leading ad platform, is trying to standardize the ad streaming model.

Mike Fisher, the executive director of investment innovation at GroupM, explained:

“We have an incredible opportunity to engage with attentive consumers, but the rapidly evolving media landscape makes it difficult for advertisers to efficiently and resourcefully launch interactive advertising campaigns.”

They’re teaming with NBCU, Disney, Roku and YouTube to create benchmarks and standardizations to make streaming ads more effective.

Mel Gibson directs Mark Wahlberg in a Blacklist script. Flight Risk is Gibson’s first feature since Hacksaw Ridge (2016).

Here’s the official synopsis:

An Air Marshal transporting a fugitive across the Alaskan wilderness via a small plane finds herself trapped when she suspects their pilot (Wahlberg) is not who he says he is.

Gibson’s work is singular for his protagonists’s heroism in the face of impossible risk, like in Hacksaw Ridge (2016), which follows a soldier in WW2 who refuses to fire a gun. Or Braveheart (1995), where a man takes on a king’s army.

It would be nice to see Gibson refresh the on-flight action-drama film that we have become so accustomed to.

Lionsgate is distributing.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Jack Black has always played our favorite cartoon-like characters. His lovable zaniness in School of Rock (2003) is one of the greatest comedic performances of all time (watch him rock out to Immigrant Song while driving). Although his follow-up performances in Nacho Libre (2006) and Tropic Thunder (2008) weren’t as strong, he successfully transitioned to playing a number of animated characters:

Now, he takes on Minecraft (2024) playing a live-action version of the main animated character in the video game, Steve.

Here’s the official synopsis:

The malevolent Ender Dragon sets out on a path of destruction, prompting a young girl and her group of unlikely adventurers to set out to save the Overworld.

While nothing could ever live up to the nostalgia of School of Rock, Black’s unending energy on screen should make this a delight.

Minecraft will be distributed by Warner Bros. and Legendary and is slated to release on April 4, 2025.

Jenna Ortega’s measured cruelty as Wednesday Addams catapulted her to stardom. The character in her latest project, adapted from a novel by Nobel-prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), feels like the mathematical inverse.

Here’s the official synopsis for Klara and the Sun:

A robot girl designed to prevent loneliness tries to save a heartbroken family of humans.

The film is being directed by Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do in the Shadows). For all her dark characters, it’ll be interesting to see Ortega actualize a role that revolves around her ability to make others feel happiness.


FESTIVALS

The Black List and Tubi’s To Be Commissioned Initiative is a collaborative effort to discover and develop five feature film scripts. Targeting youthful audiences from diverse communities, they seek scripts in genres like science fiction, faith-based, romance, and comedy, particularly from LGBTQ+, Black, Latine, and AAPI writers. This initiative includes a process of script selection, interviews, and eventual greenlighting for production. Selected scripts will be purchased by Tubi and developed with the Black List as an executive producer.

Apply here. Submissions close on March 15th.

Join The Gotham’s Microbudget Producing class for insights into cost-effective filmmaking under $50,000. Led by independent filmmaker Paul Harrill, who is repped by CAA and directed a wonderfully touching ghost story that was a Sundance official selection in 2018 starring Jim Gaffigan. Harrill’s two-part class covers lean budgeting, funding strategies, and production management. It includes script development, fundraising, pre-production planning, and on-set efficiency. The course also explores film festivals, digital distribution, and setting success metrics.

The virtual class takes place on Monday, January 29, and Wednesday, Jan 31st, 5-8 pm EST.

Sign up here.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

The Safdie Brothers split. The filmmaking duo had gained immense popularity over the last few years with two A24 films:

  • Good Time (2017)
    • If you haven’t seen this, drop what you’re doing and watch. It’s a rare combination of heart-pounding and heart-felt.
  • Uncut Gems (2019)

Although this seems sudden, they’d co-directed three features before then: Heaven Knows What (2014), Lenny Cooke (2013), and Daddy LongLegs (2009).

Although we were hoping for a career-long Coen brothers dynamic, it seems like the two have already gravitated toward their own projects. Benny Safdie most recently teamed with Nathan Fielder on The Curse—no word yet on Josh Safdie’s latest project.

Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams, makes her directorial debut with Diablo Cody’s script, Lisa Frankenstein. The latest trailer showcases the titular character reviving a corpse using a tanning machine. Williams balances these horror and comedy elements with striking precision to deliver a heartfelt message about the risks we take in pursuit of genuine connection. The movie is set to be released on Valentine’s Day by Focus Features.

Trey Edward Shults’ pressure-cooker feature debut, Krisha (A24, 2015), is a claustrophobic familial masterpiece (trailer). Interestingly, this film, which he directed, wrote, edited, produced, and starred in is a remake of his 2014 attempt to direct the feature. His follow-up film It Comes at Night (2017) is equally suffocating but less powerful.

While plot details are nearly non-existent, his latest project, starring Jenna Ortega and Barry Keoghan (Saltburn), seems to follow the same structure as Stephen King’s Misery (1990), where a writer (James Caan) is captured by a fan, played by the horrifyingly perfect Kathy Bates.

The Weekend, who serves as a co-writer on the script, is supposedly being stalked by Ortega.

If all the elements coalesce and the center of the action is once again a house, a setting where Shults’ adept mining of the psychological aspects of space surpasses that of any indie director, it may produce another formidable film.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

A drifting sense of dissatisfaction consumes the characters in Fire on Wateran official selection for Rotterdam.

The official synopsis reads:

Karthi, a disgruntled assistant on commercial productions, is working on an honest, personal film script, but his project is without industry backers. In the dispiriting pursuit of his dream, he loses his love and sinks into alcoholism until he meets a kindred spirit adrift in the world.

The trailer is laced with a sense of poetic stagnation. While the director, Sun-J Permaul’s first feature, Jagat (2015), simmered with violence, this sophomore feature, Fire on Water, feels like he’s taken all the aggression and made the subtext.

The film can be seen at the upcming Rotterdam Film Festival Jan 25 – Feb 4. Tickets can be purchased starting Jan 12th here.

Finnish romance is hard. Fallen Leaves, Finland’s official submission for the Academy Awards, is all about how modern life stifles romance. The film has resonated internationally as an official selection at:

  • Cannes
    • Winner, Jury Prize (3rd place)
  • Telluride
  • TIFF
  • NYFF

From lost phone numbers to forgotten names, the trailer is layered with absurd obstacles for the stiflingly barren lovers. The lead actress, Alma Pöysti, described the equally stark script:

“It was the shortest script I’ve ever read. But it was all there. And I realized there was nothing I needed to bring or add or improve.”

And the stark shooting process on set:

“But we showed up on set, we didn’t rehearse, and then we did all the shots in one take. If you missed your lines, we did a second take. It was terrifying, but you realize somehow you only have the one moment and how precious that moment is and how honest you have to be.”

The film is out in theaters in the US and the UK.

Quentin Dupieux directs absurdist French Cinema in the tradition of Beckett. His most well-known film was about a personified killer rubber tire. The trailer is all kinds of wild. His latest A Notre Beau Métier stars Lea Séydoux and Vincent Lindon (Titane).

Here’s Séydoux’s translated synopsis:

“It’s a mise en abyme around actors who play in a lousy film. Actors facing their character and their lines. Each role is dual. Vincent Lindon plays an actor who plays my father…The film is crazy. Very, very funny.”

Filming was just completed. Reminds us a little of Synecdoche, New York.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Christopher White is the arranger and saxophonist for Van Morrison’s band. He’s also an accomplished film composer.

His latest score is for The Sparrow (2022), co-starring David O’Hara (Braveheart, The Departed), a coming-of-age tale about guilt and grief set in a remote fishing village in West Cork.

The score features the viola d’amore a 500-year-old instrument and navigates from sweet and innocent to esoteric, dark, and foreboding with a tinge of Irish folk.

White’s score is available on all streaming platforms. Listen here.

If you’d like to be featured in our “readers spotlight,” click here for more information.


ON THIS DAY

1931. Robert Duvall (The Godfather; Apocalypse Now) was born in San Diego, California.


That’s all for today. See you Monday!


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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