Short Film Watch - Fede Alvarez

Making fairly big news over here at the moment is a man going by the name of Fede Alvarez who uploaded a video to YouTube on a Thursday and got offered a $30 million dollar Hollywood film to direct the following Monday. The film is called Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) and depicts the Uruguayan capital Montevido being attacked and destroyed by giant robots, rather a la the final battle in Transformers.

As pointed out by Matt Goldberg over at, the real story here isn't the film, it's the fact that Hollywood is so willing to throw money at a hitherto unknown film maker based on a single short on a website anyone can upload to.

The reasons for this are perhaps initially a bit unclear: sure the film's effects are extremely impressive considering the meagre $300 budget reportedly used but it doesn't really have a story, a structure or much human interest. It is really a pretty impressive tech demo of what Alvarez can accomplish on whatever software he uses at home.

Over and above this though I wouldn't be surprised if this is the start of a very clever viral campaign from Sam Raimi's studio, designed to create the next District 9. With the BBC story and others around the globe and 1.7 million YouTube viewers, Alvarez is guarenteed to draw in the punters interested in seeing what the small independent film maker can do with a multi-million dollar budget. In the end, just like everything else in Hollywood, the numbers add up. $30 million by today's standards really isn't that much for a science fiction extravaganza and even without the attention that will be generated at its release, Raimi and co have probably already scored enough publicity to ensure they make it back.

I'd rather see one of the more skilled film makers I've looked at recently get thrown this amount of cash but whichever way you cut it this can't be a bad thing. Hollywood has basically invested some of its easy-earned in new fresh talent and if Alvarez' debut turns out to be the next District 9 then who's to say they won't do it again?

Look Further...

The shortlist for the animated shorts set to be Oscar nominated in 2010 is analysed here and elsewhere on the blog you can find deeper looks at some of the films on the list (more to come as they're released).

If you're not one of the mammouth amount of viewers to watch Alvarez' short yet then you can appraise it below.


  1. I have to admit I wasn't all that impressed with the short video. It just seems to me that he took War of the Worlds, threw in his own visuals, put it to the 28 days later soundtrack and went to work. Sure it's intriguing, but not sure how this will affect other youtube video makers seeking money.

  2. Yes I see your point. As I say, I think technically, on such a small budget the film's effects are impressive but creating nice CGI visuals does not a good film or director make.

    I think what it means for YouTube makers is that Hollywood does see the idea of the plucky independant film maker with an idea as a marketable concept and this shows they are willing to attack that with money and industry stallwarts. District 9 was just that and it worked perfectly for all involved.

  3. Your take on this viral campaign is interesting - I wouldn't be surprised if there is more to the "surprise" discovery of this director than meets the eye. I've been trying to find out more about Alvarez - some say he is "commercial director" so he obviously is an experienced professional in that line of work so the hype about him being an amateur is probably overstated.

  4. I'm sure you're probably right Yang-May. The whole thing seems to have been very carefully orchaestrated to ensure there is publicity surrounding him before he has even written his 'big-budget' debut. If the marketing angle is the one of 'look at this underground talent we've discovered' then it doesn't really matter if he is or he isn't - the campaign functions either way.

    As I say, I'm not sure this is a 'bad thing' - independant film makers can still take some heart from it - but I would have preferred a different beneficiary. Having said that, who am I to judge? Maybe some of the smaller film makers are quite happy with their lot and would shun such an approach?

    Who knows. Very philosophical for a Monday morning!