Ever the evangelist, Bekmambetov thinks there's no genre that can't be given the Screenlife treatment. He's already produced a romantic comedy, Marja-Lewis Ryan's Liked, and he tells me about a Russian-language farce that he compares to The Hangover called DOB. (The studio also produced Buzzfeed's Future History: 1968 web series, which lets viewers experience historical events through the lens of social media.) Bekmambetov's production company Bazelevs currently has an open call for submissions of potential Screenlife projects and Bekmambetov says, "we have investors to greenlight 14 new movies."
Beyond discovering new talent, the technique could eventually attract more established filmmakers looking to experiment or bounce back from a costly flop with a low-budget hit. Found footage, the cost-effective horror craze of the last decade, captured the interest of talent like M. Night Shyamalan (The Visit) and Barry Levinson (The Bay). Bekmambetov says he would love to see Michael Bay's version of a Screenlife movie. (Imagine Bad Boys III told via iPhones.) Bekmambetov tells me he'd like to make DuskWatch, the long-rumored third movie in his dark fantasy trilogy, using the Screenlife technology, describing it as "a perfect fit."
There are less immersive ways to dramatize life online. Recent indie hits like Eighth Grade, with its social media odysseys scored to Enya, and Sorry to Bother You, with its third-act twist involving a viral video, have integrated elements of web culture into conventionally shot narratives. As our reliance on the internet as a means of communication grows more intense with each passing year, the movies will likely struggle to catch up in portraying the surreal intimacy and emotional intensity of scrolling on your phone. Young filmmakers raised on the aesthetics of Twitch, YouTube, and Snapchat will inevitably be drawn to less traditional formats. Assuming they still want to make movies.
Though many of these projects explore universal anxieties about technology -- horror and thriller stories require tension -- Bekmambetov doesn't consider himself an especially paranoid person. He doesn't put tape over the camera on his computer. He wears an Apple watch. He says he tried Google Glass and almost crashed his car as a result, but he remains fundamentally hopeful about technology. He's curious by nature.
Towards the end of our conversation, he compares his adventures with Screenlife to the excitement of playing with toys as a child. When he was a young boy, his uncle gave him a toy horse as a present and he cut off its head to see what was inside. "My parents were very angry," he laughs. "They said, 'You destroyed the horse.' But what's happened with Screenlife now very much reminds me of this horse. I'm trying to understand the reality -- the new reality."