As the coronavirus shuts down film and TV productions and cinemas (among many, many other businesses) around the world, director/producer Timur Bekmambetov is finding a way around social distancing restrictions to keep hope alive for his World War II film V2. Escape From Hell. A new report says the Russian filmmaker will continue production on his war epic remotely, directing his lead actor in a dogfight scene using the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform. And you’ll be able to watch the filming remotely, if you’re interested.

Bekmambetov, who directed Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and produced movies like Searching and the Unfriended films, is hard at work making the world’s first vertical blockbuster. We wrote about this when it was first announced, but while we were horrified at the thought of a vertically-shot movie being screened in a movie theater, a new Deadline article clarifies that the movie is actually aiming for a two-format release in 2021: a vertical one for mobile phones, and a horizontal one for cinemas. Crisis (partially) averted.

Meanwhile, that same report says that the director is not being stymied by concerns involving the coronavirus. He plans to shoot a full air battle sequence on Friday, March 20 at a studio in St. Petersberg, but in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “they will place lead actor Pavel Priluchny in a cockpit, with LED screens around him simulating the conflict. The screens will be displaying footage from the video game War Thunder, with Priluchny piloting a virtual plane in the game, dogfighting against real gamers. After shooting, the footage will be brought up to scratch using VFX.” The production will share a live broadcast of the shoot on social networks, so anyone in the world can theoretically tune in to see what this looks like as it’s happening.

The director gave the following statement to Deadline:

V2. Escape From Hell will be the first movie about Word War II designed for GenZ. We would like to narrate this story using modern and high-tech visual means. The shooting inside a computer game will add entertainment to the project and fully immerse the viewer in what is happening on the screen…We are making a war film here, and what is broadcast in the news resembles a ‘military communiqué’ related to coronavirus – there is a curfew, food supply interruptions, panicking population, etc. If they were going on making their films during World War II, least of all can we give in to despair now. We are looking for new ways to continue making our films, and we are helped by new technologies and a creative approach. This enables an ongoing shooting without exposing the film crew to health risks.”

Good on him for keeping his movie alive in a (seemingly) safe and responsible way. I wonder if this method is feasible for other projects, and if any of the tens of thousands of suffering below-the-line workers in the entertainment industry might be able to get back to work using these techniques. If not, I guess there’s always iPhones?

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