Three weeks ago, Federico Alvarez was an obscure movie hobbyist who made the occasional film for a lark.
Today, the 31-year old is the US film industry's latest directing sensation, thanks to a five-minute Internet film he tossed off for the Hollywood equivalent of pocket change.
Alvarez came to the attention of major US film studios after the unexpected success of his short film "Panic Attack" which cost just 300 dollars to make, and which gained sudden and unexpected world-wide viewership via the Internet.
Now, in a most improbable Cinderella story, the Uruguayan filmmaker has been chosen to direct a 30-million dollar Hollywood movie - a feature-length, bells-and-whistles version of his viral Internet hit.
Alvarez has been courted by some of Hollywood's biggest studios and reportedly signed a million-dollar contract to do his first full-length film, for Ghost House pictures, the company owned by director Sam Raimi, director of two of the "Spider-Man" films, among other movies.
"They presented me with such an obscene contract, there was no way to turn it down," he told AFP.
"It was wonderful, out of this world," Alvarez said, apparently still pinching himself at his good fortune.
Alvarez added that he has been granted "total creative freedom to film the story that I want," he said, and stressed that Raimi shares his vision of hoping to "create a film that is not typical of what emerges from the Hollywood studio sausage factory."
"Panic Attack," less than five minutes in length, is an entertaining and imaginative rendering of the destruction of Alvarez's native Montevideo by angry, giant robots.
Three weeks ago he posted the short film - rich with inventive special effects and offbeat cinematography - on YouTube. Within 24 hours, it had been seen by more than half a million people.
The minute he posted his film, he said, the reaction was "look at what the skinny guy was able to do with 300 dollars," Alvarez said.
"I posted it online on a Thursday and by Friday I began receiving emails from Hollywood managers," he said, among them the industry's top studios like Dreamworks, Warner, Fox and Sony.
An all-expense-paid trip to Hollywood was followed by a dream contract for the young director.
"They sent me emails that said "now that we've seen what can be done with 300 dollars, let's see what you can do with 30 million," he said, laughing.
But the real punch line, Alvarez said, is that he made the film "100 percent for fun," and never with the temptation of Hollywood lucre in mind.
Alvarez, who has been making films since he was eight years old, said his creative vision in his short film was to represent "an alien invasion totally different from what has been seen so far."
He was due this week to be in Hollywood to begin work on writing, along with an associate, Rodolfo Sayagues, with whom he has collaborated in the past.
"We'll start filming in a year," he said. The film will be finished in two years.
He won't divulge much detail about the movie, although he promises "it's going to be different," and said he plans to film this time in Uruguay and in neighboring Argentina.
Even as he continues to shake his head over his good fortune, he recognizes that the sirens of the silver screen are fickle: today's directing wunderkind could be tomorrow's washed up has-been, he said.
"Whether I'll have today's success tomorrow, who knows?"
But he said he is very certain of his ability, and that what it can create is better than much of what appears on the big screen.
"A lot of Hollywood films that we see are really bad, mediocre, and nothing much really happens in them," he said. "The bar is set pretty low."
He added: I know that I'm going to create my film and that people are going to sit up and take notice."Reuse content