Timur Bekmambetov Developing 14 Computer Screen Movies, Is This Format The Future Of Cinema Or Is He Nuts?

Computer screen movies – stuff like Unfriended and Searching – are becoming more and more popular, and we have one person to thank for that: Timur Bekmambetov. The filmmaker and producer is at the forefront of "Screenlife", a technology that tells stories through computer screens. And Bekmambetov doesn't plan on stopping – he's currently developing 14 computer screen movies, across a variety of genres. The question is: does the general public want to see them?

Unfriended Dark Web

Computer Screen Movies

The LA Times has a profile of Timur Bekmambetov in which the Russian Kazakh filmmaker discusses his predilection for computer screen-based movies. In case you're not sure what the heck that is, think of the horror film Unfriended, which Bekmambetov produced – a film where all the action takes place within computer screens.. There was a time when Unfriended might be considered "found footage", but the on-screen style of storytelling is quickly evolving into its own sub-genre. Bekmambetov also produced the sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, and the upcoming Searching, both of which feature computer screen storytelling.

"I don't know if it's bad or good, but I feel that half of my life — the most important events of my life — are happening on screen today," Bekmambetov says in the piece. "I'm finding friends, losing friends, falling in love, losing people I love, making projects, collaborating and fighting and arguing."

The filmmaker turned this realization towards filmmaking, and he wants to keep this concept going. Bekmambetov uses a technology called Screenlife to capture an on-screen narrative. "Overall what Screenlife gives you is it puts you inside the character," the producer says. "You are inside your hero — not only visually but emotionally because you're making mistakes, you're deleting and changing your mind."

Up until now, the bulk of these computer screen movies – at least from Bekmambetov – have been horror or thriller-based. But the producer wants to branch out into other genres as well. "Any genre could be reinterpreted in a Screenlife language," he says, and the Times piece notes that the producer has "a full slate of 14 new movies in the works over the next 18 months including comedies and romantic comedies."

Searching Aneesh Chaganty interview

The Future?

Is this the future of film, or just an curiosity? In the Times piece, Bekambetov makes clear that he find the idea of going back to "traditional" narratives boring, and he's perfectly content to stick with computer screen-based stories. I get where he's coming from – society has become so accustomed to staring at screens that on-screen storytelling seems like a natural progression. Hell, most people watch their entertainment on computer and phone screens now as opposed to TVs.

But can the concept work for other genres? The on-screen approach makes a sort of sense within the horror world, primarily because it sprung forth from the "found footage" sub-genre, which is traditionally horror-based. It's hard to picture what a computer screen rom-com might look like. Perhaps a modern-day remake of You Got Mail?

The Screenlife films can be produced quickly and inexpensively, which is a big driving factor as well. "It gives filmmakers freedom to make their own mistakes without being tortured by big studios, scared people," Bekambetov says. "Because if you risk $100 million, probably there are 10 people in charge making decisions and 10 people never make the right choice; it will be mediocre because 10 people can't invent something."

In short, computer screen movies aren't going away any time soon. Time will tell if the concept can transcend genre.

Searching opens on August 24, 2018.