Screenlife, the innovative film-making style, was pioneered by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov in response to the proliferation of modern screen technologies and mobile devices. In a Screenlife film, viewers see the action play out from the POV of the computers, tablets and smartphones used by the characters.
The screenlife format made a massive breakthrough in 2015 when Bekmambetov produced his debut screenlife film Unfriended. Picked up by Universal, it went on to gross $65 million worldwide from a budget of $1 million, and spawned a sequel Unfriended: Dark Web three years later.
Timur Bekmambetov followed that up with the 2018 screenlife thriller Searching, starring John Cho and Debra Messing. It won an Audience Award and The Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance in 2018 and became one of the best-performing sales at the festival after it was picked up by Sony and went on to gross more than $75 million in the worldwide box office. Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films has recently announced that it is setting up a sequel to Searching bringing back the original creative team with Bekmambetov producing.
Based on the French journalist Anna Érelle’s biographical In the Skin of a Jihadist, screenlife political thriller Profile became the first screenlife film that Timur Bekmambetov directed. A story about a journalist who created a fake Facebook profile in order to investigate ISIS recruiting Jihadi brides won Audience Awards at SXSW and Berlin International Film Festival in 2018. The movie is set to release in 2021.
Future History: 1968 (2018)
Teaming up with journalists Mikhail Zygar and Karen Shainyan, Timur Bekmambetov and Majd Nassif produced the first documentary in the Screenlife format for Buzzfeed. The series tells stories of one of the wildest years in history as if they happened on 21st-century social media and other apps. Designed to be seen on smartphone, the 40 episodes — each about 10 minutes long — explore 1968 via 40 key global personalities and events.
Dead of Night (2018)
In 2018, Mr. Bekmambetov and his US-based production banner’s Majd Nassif produced a Screenlife series Dead of Night for Snapchat. The Snap Originals zombie apocalypse show season 1 reached over 15 million unique viewers and helped Snapchat gain traction with the platform’s coveted young audiences. Snap Originals reached more than 70% of the U.S. Gen Z population in Q3 2019, when the show was premiered, Snap Inc. stated in its quarterly report. In November 2020, Snapchat released Dead of Night season 2.
Universal five-picture deal (2020)
In summer 2020, Universal and Bekmambetov’s banner Bazelevs signed a deal to produce five feature screenlife films in various genres.
Timur Bekmabetov’s and Interface Films’ Igor Tsay’s production, the modern screenlife adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet directed by Sundance alumni Carey Williams, premiered at Sundance 2021 and was featured at SXSW 2021 Festival Favorites.