Screen Talk: From ads to riches

You make a short film or a commercial, Hollywood people like it and bang, you're handed $150 million plus to go and play with the big toys. And no, it's not a movie script of rags to riches but rather what has been happening in the past few months across the pond.

Following a Heineken commercial and a short film, Carl Rinsch just took charge of $170 million budgeted 47 Ronin, a 3D samurai revenge story starring Keanu Reeves for Universal. Disney stumped up close to $200 million for commercials helmer Joseph Kosinski to make Tron: Legacy. Universal also recently hired first-timer Rupert Sanders to helm the $100 million-plus Snow White and the Huntsman. It's down to technology, insiders say. Using FinalCut Pro, digital-video cameras and other state-of-the-art tools from a young age has meant wannabe blockbuster-makers are enticing the studios into taking a punt after showcasing what they can do with an ad or short budget. Put it on YouTube having made it for $250, make it look like $300 million and then sit back and wait for the telephone to ring.

Gaga for the movies

Expect the telephones to be ringing to agents out west now it's emerged the ultra-feted bacon-wearing pop songstress Lady Gaga wants to get into the movies. Oh, and if there was a film about her life, she has at least two ideas for who should play her. She likes Rosario Dawson and Marisa Tomei. The pop star, who arrived at this year's Grammys in an egg, likes a good New York accent. It comes out when she's angry, apparently.

The tenacity of Leterrier

A critically panned movie, a bad 3D conversion or a film with a grand budget which fails to conjure box office gold Stateside are three things that count against filmmakers building a career. So for Louis Leterrier, the director of Clash of the Titans, things looked tricky after his movie suffered all three of the above. But Clash went on to score just shy of a tasty $500 million worldwide in cinemas. So now Leterrier is to direct Now You See Me, another big budget movie with special effects. Now You See Me details the story of a crack FBI squad in a game of cat and mouse against a super-team of the world's greatest illusionists. The illusionists pull off bank heists during their performances, showering the profits on their audiences while staying one step ahead of the law.

Turning literary Vice into film virtue

Dense and complex novels usually find it hard to make it to the big screen in any sensible way. So the work of U.S. novelist Thomas Pynchon, who has written experimental literature, Menippean satire, sci-fi and other genres and is perhaps best known for penning V, is not constantly being dipped into as source material. But writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is aiming to take Pynchon's Inherent Vice before the cameras later this year. And he is enlisting Robert Downey Jr's help to play the lead. Anderson has been working on a screenplay adaptation of the Pynchon novel billed as comparatively accessible. It tells the story of a stoner detective who gets wrapped up in a number of mysteries in 1969 Los Angeles while the Manson Family trial growls in the background.

Good neighbours

The Hollywood studios are spreading the wealth to the north. US production in and around Canadian west coast city Vancouver chalked up $485 million in 2010, up sharply from $248 million the previous year. Over to Canada's east, Ontario's film and TV sector racked up $964.3 million in overall production activity last year from its southern neighbours, again up from $946.4 in 2009. And that is all in spite of a strong Canadian dollar against the US greenback.