Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Update regarding the Shmuger and Gibney movie

Looks like there is news about the Wikileaks movie being produced by Marc Shmuger and Alex Gibney.

First, it looks like Marc Shmuger's personal site reports that the movie is under production.  Second, IMDB lists the movie in pre-production and has begun to fill in details about the editors and other personnel associated with the project.

It still remains to be determined which movie will come out first, but at least the major studios are advancing in  their quest to produce a Wikileaks movie.  We also still await the politics that each movie will bring, but any coverage of the Wikileaks story will be influenced by all the recent "Lulzsec" incidents which are bringing some of the same guerrilla tactics to online security.

Any updates?  Send us tips using the "contact us" button, or leave a comment.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Producer Marc Shmuger calls Wikileaks movie "a labor of love"

Breaking news from Hollywood suggests that producer Marc Shmuger (previously covered on this blog) has started a new production company to be known as Global Produce.  Sources also report that Shmuger and Global Produce have hired Tim McNulty, a seasoned Hollywood veteran, as production executive. 

This is great news for the Universal Studios Wikileaks movie, as it is more evidence that Universal is taking the project seriously and committing a full budget behind it.  Many observers were surprised when the Univerasl project was first announced at Sundance 2011, especially because itw as being produced by main Universal (rather than by Focus Features).  The creation of a new production wing and the hire of Tim McNulty shows that Universal is serious about this movie and it won't jsut be swept under the rug.

At the same time, Marc Shmuger personally said that the Wikileaks movie is a "labor of love" for him.

All of these signs suggest that the big studioes are taking their Wikileaks projects seriously, even after the capture of Osama Bin Laden gave them plenty of excuses to change focus and concentrate on the newest insta-movie phenomenon.  The result is that this fall (2011) or next year (2012), there will be a series of mainstream big-budget movies about Wikileaks.  And, if Mr. Shmuger is serious that the Wikileaks project is a "labor of love" to him, it looks like they might be positive too.

Previously: Why the Wikileaks movies matter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why the Wikileaks movies matter

Starting in late 2011, the big movie studios will release mainstream movies about Wikileaks.  They matter.

So far, the public's perception of Wikileaks has been shaped almost entirely by the brief snippets of TV news reports.  Because mainstream news outlets are focused on tabloid and scandal, most of these news snippets have mentioned the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange.  In short, sex sells. 

TV news outlets don't mention the results of leaks, because the result is "transparency" -- a concept that is not nearly as attractive to viewers as a story about sex.  The results is that these articles give Wikileaks a tabloid feel, tainted by the allegations against Assange.

Most of the public's perception of Wikileaks ends there -- that a Swede named Assange has been accused of some sex crime or another ("hey, it's just like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!").  Most of the country doesn't read online message boards and discuss just how much Wikileaks matters.  They just don't know the full story.

But a movie format will give the producer and director enough time to explain why Wikileaks matters in a larger context.  A movie can present not just what Wikileaks is, but why it matters.  A movie will be able to show how Bradley Manning's life has been changed by Wikileaks.  It will show why transparency is changing corporations and governments to be more open and honest with the people.

Most importantly, the big studio movies will reach a mainstream audience.  There are already documentaries like WikiRebels on Youtube, but fewer than 100,000 people have watched it all the way through.  In contrast, a big studio release or an HBO movie can reach that many people in just one weekend --- and start a worldwide conversation about Wikileaks.

The movies matter.  They will introduce Wikileaks to the suburban audience that votes, but doesn't read online message boards.  They will bring the message of transparency to a new audience.

Here are the big studio projects that are known to be in production might make an impact by late 2011 or early 2012:

 - HBO (Director Charles Ferguson)
 - Universal Studios (Director Alex Gibney; Producer Marc Shmuger)
 - Dreamworks (unknown)

Are there any we're misisng?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Update: biographies of key players

Just a quick update: the site will now host information pages about many of the key players in the Wikileaks movies.  We're starting with Julian Assange and the various producers of the movies, but we may add other categories in the future.  Keep your yes on the sidebar to your right for more information.

Biographies completed so far:

 - Julian Assange (in editing)
 - Universal Producer Marc Shmuger
 - Universal Director Alex Gibney
 - HBO (in editing)
 - ...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wikileaks no longer relevant in the post-Osama world

After the news that Osama bin Laden is dead (do I really need to link that?), plenty of people are questioning whether WikiLeaks is still relevant.

The argument goes that the plot to kill Osama is the most important classified operation in years, but WikiLeaks was unable to provide any information about it.  Therefore, some people say, WikiLeaks is irrelevant.

I'm not sure.  Just because WikiLeaks was unable to get the jump on one super-top-secret operation doesn't mean that it is useless.  I'm sure WikiLeaks will find plenty of details after the fact, including whether the U.S. tortured the informant who ultimately gave away the coordinates of Osama.  Wikileaks might even be able to release the photo of Osama's body (hint: not the real photo) that the Obama administration does not want to release.

So, no, the naysayers are wrong, Wikileaks is still relevant in 2011 and beyond.

Will the Wikileaks movies change politics?

The biggest question on my mind is how the various WikiLeaks movies will change politics?  A movie that portrays Julian Assange as a hero might be ignored by most people; only the most committed activists believe that Assanage is completely free from sin.  For example, the movie "Wikirebels" (Youtube) is a direct-to-Internet documentary that portrays Assange and Wikileaks very highly, but it has not had much success with mainstream audiences.

But a movie that highlights Assange's complex nature might be well-recieved.  After all, the point of Wikileaks isn't the person himself, but rather the information that he is distributing to the world.  And reasonable people can disagree as to whether the release of all classified information is good or bad -- it creates a lot more openness, but a lot more risk.

I'm curious to see which of the projects (HBO, Dreamworks and Spielberg, Universal and Marc Shmuger / Alex Gibney, etc) will be the most balanced and which will be the most slanted.  And I'm also curious how the movie-going public will respond to them.  Stay tuned to this blog for more analysis.  We'll see what 2011 brings.

Update: here's a poll asking the same question--"Will the Alex Gibney and Marc Shmuger Wikileaks movie change the world?"  Go post your opinions over there too.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dreamworks options two Wikileaks books (but not Spielberg)

After the rush of Wikileaks deals announced around Sundance, Dreamworks threw its hat into the ring and optioned two books about Wikileaks

Initial speculation swirled about whether Spielberg would be involved.  Sources now say that this is not a Spielberg project, but anything could change.  If Spielberg gets involved then this would clearly become the largest Wikileaks movie project out there. 

Otherwise, there is not yet too much information available about this project.  Dreamworks bought rights to the books Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website (Daniel Domscheit-Berg) and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy (David Leigh and Luke Harding).  The latter book is by two journalists who worked with Assange to get early "leaks" into print through the newspaper The Guardian, so they may have a unique inside perspective.

No word yet on director, producer, or style.

Impact Rating: *** or ***** (3/5 stars without Spielberg, 5/5 with)
Politics Rating: Unknown
Timing Rating: Big-budget movies take time

Marc Shmuger and Alex Gibney (Universal) Wikileaks Movie

On January 21, 2011, news broke that Marc Shmuger and Alex Gibney would be making a new movie about Wikileaks under the Universal Studios banner.  The pair announced at Sundance that the studio optioned a book and would be co-producing the movie.

This is an interesting twist for Universal in that "big uni" (rather than the more documentary-oriented Focus Features) is producing the project.  It suggests that the still-unnamed Wikileaks documentary will get teh big-budget treatment, rather than just an indie-style gloss.  It also means that the politics of the piece will be tied up in Universal's politics, for better or worse.

This is Marc Shmuger's first project after ending his term as head of Universal, and many are curious as to whether his rebound will be successful.  On the other hand, Alex Gibney is coming off a series of successes (like Client 9, his story of Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace).

Impact Rating: TBD
Politics Rating: ???

Timing Rating: Later

HBO wikileaks movie project

On January 24, 2011, it was revealed that HBO is making a movie about Julian Assange.  The HBO film will be direct-to-TV and is based on Raffi Khatchadourian's article in the New Yorker.  The movie will focus on Mr. Assange's life, both before and during the Wikileaks era.
If past HBO productions are any guide, HBO will take an aggressive political angle and use powerful documentary techniques to portray Julian Assange as a polarizing figure.  HBO has traditionally pulled no punches, and tends to lean liberal in its political portrayals (although there are plenty of exceptions). 

The project is being produced by Joshua Maurer and Alixandre Witlin (each of City Entertainment) and the legendary David Stern (KippSter Entertainment). 

I'm interesting in seeing this one, not just becaue it might be first to market, but because it could be shocking and raw in its treatment of subjects like Assange's allegations of sexual misconduct and the Bradley Manning issue.  I think some of the other films might skip the Manning bits because they are still too current and political.

Impact Rating: * * * * (4/5 stars)
Politics Rating: Incindiary
Timing Rating: Sooner than later

Welcome to Rebels of the Wiki

This site will serve as a clearinghouse for all the news available about the many Wikileaks movie projects out there.  It is not affiliated with any of the projects, and is instead intended to just provide information to anyone with an interest in Julian Assange or Wikileaks. 

We don't take an opinion on this blog about whether Wikileaks is good or bad; but it certainly is starting a lot of interest on the silver screen.

Find out more about each Wikileaks movie in our upcoming posts.