It’s amazing the amount of talent that can be found in film school. You’ll never know who’ll be the next Abrams or Spielberg so it’s wonderful to hear when one of these hopefuls gets a break from someone who’s already made it big. That’s the case with Tim Shechmeister and his short film called ‘Viral.’
Schechmeister is a recent UCLA film school grad who not only directed ‘Viral’ but also co-wrote it with his brother, Matt, as part of his thesis project. ‘Viral’ is described as a horror film set in the world of cyberbullying and involves a case of mistaken identity with supernatural terrifying consequences. Here’s the synopsis according to the film’s Facebook page:
“Julia and Alexis are supposed to be studying. But Alexis gives in to the temptation to go online and provoke someone… or something… that should have been left alone.”
The film has been making the rounds at film festivals and has been described as reminiscent of the movies ‘The Grudge’ or ‘The Ring’ which is quite apt as Schechmeister happens to be a fan of Japanese horror films. The ironic twist to all this is that it’s due to those movies that ‘Viral’ will be made into a feature film.
At a screenwriting event over the summer, Schechmeister met Stephen Susco, screenwriter of ‘The Grudge’, and gave him his business card with a link to ‘Viral.’ Susco checked it out and loved it so much that he showed it to Roy Lee (producer of ‘The Grudge’ and ‘The Ring’) who, along with Lawrence Grey (‘Johnson Family Vacation’, ‘The Apocalyse’) brought it to Screen Gems. They were impressed enough to buy the film rights and order the short to be lengthened into a feature film. Susco, Lee and Grey will produce the film while John Middleton will executive produce. (If these names sound familiar, Lee, Grey and Middleton are also teaming up for the movie ‘Rise’ with Warner Bros.) Schechmeister will not only direct the full length film, but also write the screenplay with his brother.
“I see a lot of student films and like to see what’s going on,” says Susco. “I rarely see something as polished as this one. (‘Viral’) strikes at the modern social media anxiety that really hits a hot nerve in this country. How young people communicate is changing and technology is altering the tenor of that communication—in many cases for the worse. And this is an opportunity to do something scary and really potent at the same time.”
It may be a while until ‘Viral’ hits the big screen, but until then, you can see a trailer of the short that inspired it below: