'Unfriended' producer Timur Bekmambetov to shoot blockbuster in smartphone-style vertical format

Tom Beasley
Film director and producer Timur Bekmambetov accepts an award for supporting and developing web industry at the Russian Web Industry Awards. (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)

The producer behind films set on computer screens, including Unfriended and Searching, is set to shoot the world’s first ever vertical format blockbuster.

Timur Bekmambetov, who has devoted years to “screen life” movies since the release of Unfriended in 2014, will now shoot V2. Escape From Hell in a vertical format optimised for smartphones.

It won’t be the first time the 58-year-old has worked in this unique style, having shot zombie apocalypse webseries Dead Of Night in the format for Snapchat.

Read more: Ryan Reynolds doesn’t mind if you watch his movies on your phone

Perhaps bizarrely, according to Deadline, the new film is a Second World War story based on true events, in which Pavel Priluchny plays a Soviet pilot leading a daring escape from a concentration camp.

Poster for Timur Bekmambetov's 'V2. Escape From Hell'.

“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,” said Bekmambetov

Two versions of the movie will be produced, with one geared towards audiences in Bekmambetov’s native Russia and another designed for the English-language market.

Read more: How to fix the cinema experience

Bekmambetov is credited with pioneering the idea of “screen life” movies, which are set predominantly on computer screens, and he has described the technique as a “game changer for the film industry”.

Unfriended and its sequel Unfriended: Dark Web unfolded within a haunted Skype window, while Searching featured John Cho as a desperate parent looking for online clues in the hope of finding his missing daughter.

John Cho in 'screen life' thriller 'Searching'. (Credit: Sony)

Bekmambetov himself directed a film called Profile, which depicted an investigative journalist’s online interactions with a Muslim terrorist.

Read more: Martin Scorsese not happy with people watching The Irishman on their phones

Alongside his “screen life” work, he has produced movies including historical biopic The Current War and first-person actioner Hardcore Henry.

Cameras are set to roll on V2. Escape From Hell this month, with a 2021 release date in the offing.