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.