Will Smith and a woolly mammoth

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

Will Smith’s AI, Gore Verbinski’s fun, Double Mara, Triple Dracula, and a Guinness.

Let’s go!


WILL SMITH AND ELECTRIC SHEEP

When the first generation of AI video clips came online, they were creepy.

A bizarre beer ad. An uncanny Google avatar. A nightmarish Will Smith eating pasta.

They were easy to distinguish from reality, and that made it easy for us to compartmentalize them as having an inconsequential effect on human creativity.

Things have changed.

ChatGPT’s parent company Open AI has dropped their first demo of their text-to-video AI, “Sora.”

This platform takes written prompts and converts them to near-photo-realistic video.

Here are two prompts and their results:

“Beautiful, snowy Tokyo city is bustling. The camera moves through the bustling city street, following several people enjoying the beautiful snowy weather and shopping at nearby stalls. Gorgeous Sakura petals are flying through the wind along with snowflakes.”

Results.

It’s nearly indistinguishable from a YouTube travel vlogger with a decent eye.

Here’s another:

“Several giant wooly mammoths approach treading through a snowy meadow, their long wooly fur lightly blows in the wind as they walk, snow-covered trees and dramatic snow-capped mountains in the distance, mid-afternoon light with wispy clouds and a sun high in the distance creates a warm glow, the low camera view is stunning capturing the large furry mammal with beautiful photography, depth of field.”

Results. (Still seen in the cover photo above).

A tad cartoonish, but the light, setting, and movement are grandiose.

It’s hard to know whether this is an extinction-level threat to creativity. In the short term, Hollywood studios could exploit these tools to replace 2nd unit crews, assistant editors, storyboard artists, etc.

At the same time, a new generation of independent filmmakers will be empowered to put together pitch materials to approximate their cinematic visions without immense production costs.

With the speed at which Open AI’s ChatGPT has advanced, it’s frightening to think this is just the first version of Sora.

For More:

AI video 10 months ago. Will Smith eats Spaghetti. So weird.

A magical video from Sora: “Photorealistic Closeup video of two pirate ships battling each other as they sail inside a cup of coffee.” Results.

Don’t tell Helen Mirren AI is here to stay. She just read an AI-generated speech for her lifetime achievement award at the American Cinematheque Awards, only to rip it up on stage.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Bob Marley blows past expectations. Bob Marley: One Love is jamming, while Madame Web misses.

Here’s the worldwide box-office breakdown:

  • $80 M Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount Pictures)
  • $51 M Madame Web (Sony)
    • $25M domestic
    • Budget: $100M
    • Rotten Tomatoes: 13%

This continues the trend of Spider-Man spin-offs that audiences have responded to negatively. If Rotten Tomatoes (RT) is to be used as a metric, here are the results:

Kraven the Hunter and Venom 3 are slated to be released this year and will likely face a similar reception. Venom, played by Tom Hardy, has a slightly better chance as he is a popular character. Kraven could bomb, but with more blood and an R rating, it’s less likely.

All3Media was acquired for $1.4 bn. All3Media is the parent company of 5o production companies, including:

  • Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions
    • 1917
  • Studio Lambert
    • Squid Game: The Challenge
  • Two Brothers Pictures
    • Fleabag series (starring Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

RedBird IMI is the buyer.

They’re 75% Saudi-owned, and the other 25% (RedBird Capital) owns many production companies, including:

  • Skydance
    • Mission: Impossible 47
    • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Artists Equity
    • Founder: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

The $1.4bn amount that RedBird IMI is paying for All3Media is double what the previous owners, Warner Bros. Discovery (50%) and Liberty Globa (50%), paid for All3Media in 2014.

While RedBird IMI will continue to expand All3Media’s scripted and unscripted content, they may face challenges as one of their main buyers, Channel 4, faces significant layoffs.

Gore Verbinski is back after eight years. The director, famous for the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films and infamous for the box-office and critical bombs The Lone Ranger (2013) and A Cure for Wellness (2016), has a new film, Good Luck, Have Fun, Don’t Die!

Here’s the official synopsis:

A man from the future arrives at a diner in Los Angeles where he must recruit the precise combination of disgruntled patrons to join him on a one-night-six-block quest to save the world from the terminal threat of a rogue artificial intelligence.

Sam Rockwell will play the man from the future. And Michael Peña (Crash), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta), and Juno Temple (Ted Lasso) will co-star.

The premise, if executed well, like This Is the End (2013) or The World’s End (2013), could provide a career resurgence for Verbinski.

The project is launching at the European Film Market (EFM).


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Rooney Mara has a delicate electricity. Watch how she jumps into attack mode after the turning point in The Social Network’s (2010) opening scene. She followed that performance up with the penetratingly detached titular role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). Our heart breaks in the final moments of the film as Mara’s newly formed connection with Daniel Craig slips away.

In a press conference at the Berlinale, where Mara’s recent film La Cocina played in competition, she spoke about the value of working with good directors:

“I had some bad experiences as an actor. And then I think it was probably after the first time I worked with David Fincher that I was like, oh, the director, like follow the director. And so I really kind of make my choices based on the filmmaker and who I want to work with because, you know, at the end of the day, it’s all them.”

La Cocina is directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios, and from the outstanding reviews, it seems like Mara made a wise choice.

Dennis Quaid is a serial killer. In the upcoming Paramout+ series Happy Face, Quaid will star as the real-life “Happy Face” killer whose M.O. was to write anonymous notes to the media confessing his crimes, signing each with a smiley face.

Here’s the official synopsis of Happy Face:

The story of Melissa Jesperson-Moore, who at age 15 discovered that her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, was the serial murderer known as the Happy Face Killer.

Quaid’s work in the past few years has been epitomized by family-friendly animal-centered films like the A Dog’s Purpose series (2017, 2019) or feel-good sports studio films Born a Champion (2020) and The Hill (2023).

While Quaid has played various killers in the Western genre, from Wyatt Earp (1994) to Paramount+’s Lawman: Bass Reeves (2023, trailer), Happy Face may be his darkest.


FESTIVALS

A short roundup of the BAFTA winners:

Best Film

  • Oppenheimer
  • Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas

Outstanding British Film

  • The Zone of Interest
  • Jonathan Glazer, James Wilson, Ewa Puszczyńska

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

  • Earth Mama
  • Savanah Leaf (Writer, Director, Producer)
  • Shirley O’Connor (Producer)
  • Medb Riordan (Producer)
  • Trailer

Oppenheimer won 7 awards, including Best Director for Nolan.

The winners were nearly identical to the Golden Globes.

Check out the full list here.

European Film Market sales and updates:

One unconfirmed synopsis has suggested that it will revolve around a magical GPS that leads to a meet-cute that sets Robbie and Farrell on a road trip that takes them straight into a painting at the Chicago Art Museum that is a portal to Paris and their past.

Feels similar to Midnight in Paris (2011, trailer also distributed by Sony) and the iconic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) scene.

While we weren’t big fans of the director’s previous film, we found the writer Seth Reiss’ last and only feature script, The Menu, beautifully tackled artifice and art through the lens of a horrific chef’s table.

  • Materialists
    • Buyer: Sony
    • Reported eight figures
    • Dir: Celine Song (Past Lives)
    • A24 production company
    • Potential cast: Dakota Johnson, Chris Evans & Pedro Pascal
    • Producers: Christine Vachon, Pam Koffler, and David Hinojosa

Here’s the synopsis:

A matchmaker’s lucrative business gets complicated when she falls into a toxic love triangle that threatens her clients.

This would rejoin Song with her (now Oscar-nominated) Past Lives team.

A24 distributes in the US, while Sony will now distribute internationally (minus China, Russia, and Japan).

Synopsis:

An astronaut believes something extraterrestrial has followed her back to Earth.

First, look image here.

Mara always draws the short end of the stick in Space shows, like in the recent Black Mirror episode Beyond the Sea.

One more: In Arcadian, Nicolas Cage plays the father of two twin boys who fight for survival at the end of the world. The film was acquired by RLJE Films (The Tax Collector).

Here’s a fun first-look image of Cage.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT / INTERNATIONAL

The Zone of Interest producer Jim Wilson first met Jonathan Glazer in the mid-90s. Wilson was a junior executive at Fox Searchlight and was scouting for talent and came upon a director, Glazer, who had directed commercials for Guinness (Best commercial of all time?) and music videos for Radiohead (Street Spirit).

Although they couldn’t launch a project at Searchlight, when Wilson moved to Film4 in 1998, they actualized Glazer’s directorial debut, Sexy Beast.

Wilson talked about the struggle:

“My memory of it is that it took a long time to find the film in post. It took a long time to find the rhythm of it — joining those two things together, this Pinter-esque pressure-cooker play in Spain, and then going to London and they do a bank heist. Early cuts of it, people didn’t know where to look. Lots of hand wringing and difficult times and different people being in the cutting room.”

But Wilson stuck with Glazer, and they brought on an editor who had collaborated with Glazer on his commercials, who re-cut the film and saved the day:

“It just turned the film around at the late stages of post-­production, and that was the film that was finished and became a cult success. We were in the trenches together on Sexy Beast, and I think that’s where our relationship was forged.”

That relationship, in backing a young director whom Wilson saw talent, allowed Wilson to be in a highly unique position in the industry, one which elicited a bidding war for his latest film he felt would be highly unpopular: The Zone of Interest.

Read the full story here.

Besson may have found his new Reno. Luc Besson directed Jean Reno in five films, notably La Femme Nikita (the cleaner scene) and, of course, as Léon in Léon: The Professional (trailer).

For a second time, Luc Besson is teaming up with Cannes’ best actor winner, Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out). Their first collaboration is the soon-to-be US-released Dogman, which centers on a boy who has suffered abuse from his cruel master, his father, and commits to exacting revenge through cross-dressing, shotguns, and his love of dogs (trailer).

Their new project is a Dracula origin story. Although there is no shortage of upcoming Dracula films (Eggers’ Nosferatu, Coogler’s vampire film, Demange’s Blade), this is sure to be unique.

Here are a few details:

“Gothic romance between Prince Vladimir and his wife whose loss turns him to forsake God and become a vampire.”

Apparently, from those who have read the script, there seem to be some epic set pieces.

Let’s hope in Dracula, Besson rediscovers the magical alchemy of The Fifth Element (1997): a masterfull blend of gritty realism and big-budget spectacle.


ON THIS DAY

1952. African Queen, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, was released in the US.


See you tomorrow!


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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