In the last two years, there has been a growing wave of features toplined by digital influencers, including “Camp Takota,” starring YouTubers Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart, “Smosh: The Movie,” and “The Outfield,” starring Viners Cameron Dallas and Nash Grier.
Until now, this phenomenon has existed outside of the studio system. But that changes with today’s announcement that Studio71 has entered into multi-year agreement with Paramount’s Worldwide Television Licensing & Distribution and Acquisitions division to release features starring its top digital influencers. A little bit, anyway.
The deal will kick off with the Studio71 feature “Be Somebody,” about a fictional Justin Bieber-esque teen pop-star who abandons his sold-out tour and takes refuge in a small town. First announced in December, the film stars social media phenomenon Matthew Espinosa, who has more than 20 million followers on social media and more than 1 billion loops/views on Vine.
“Be Somebody will be released on June 10 in theaters and on demand and digital HD. But, given that Paramount’s Worldwide Television Licensing & Distribution and Acquisitions focuses on worldwide sales for broadcast, cable and SVOD, it doesn’t look like the release strategy will be substantially different from previous digital influencer features such as “Expelled,” starring Dallas, which had a brief theatrical run prior to its online release in December 2014, primarily designed to serve as a promotional tool rather than a revenue-generator.
Written by Lamar Damon (“Bunheads,” “Slap Her, She’s French!”) and produced by Studio71 chief content officer Gary Binkow and Amee McNaughton, “Be Somebody” also stars Sarah Jeffery (“Wayward Pines,” Disney’s “Descendents”), Tava Smiley (“General Hospital”), Caitlin Keats (“Kill Bill: Vol. 2”), LaMonica Garrett (“Sons of Anarchy,” “The Game”) and Allison Paige (“Days of Our Lives,” “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”).
The film was directed by Joshua Caldwell, who won an MTV Movie Award in 2006 for his film “The Beautiful Lie,” which he wrote, directed and produced while still a student at Fordham Unversity. He went on to develop online projects for “CSI” creator Anthony E. Zuiker, including “Cybergeddon” (Yahoo), and direct the independent feature “Layover” and the Hulu series “South Beach.”
Owned by German media giant ProSiebenSat.1 Group, Studio71 was created in July 2015 by the merger of L.A.-based Collective Digital Studio (CDS) and Berlin-based multi-channel network Studio71. Its stable of digital influencers includes Lilly Singh (a.k.a. IISuperwomanII), Epic Meal Time, Flula Borg, Viner Logan Paul, Rhett and Link and Snapchatter Shonduras.