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Is Blomkamp’s ‘Oats Studios’ the next big change in film?

Posted on July 17th, 2017
Posted on July 17th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

In the new internet age of media, professional filmmakers have been trying new ideas in order to take advantage of the fact that anyone can post a high-quality video online almost instantly.

South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp recently launched ‘Oats Studios: Volume 1’ as an experiment in seeing which of his cinematic ideas would stick if thrown at a wall. His plan was to take some of his favorite story concepts, fund, shoot and release high-quality short film versions of them on YouTube for free. He could then aggregate feedback from viewers to help him decide which shorts to make into features, series, webseries or into whatever format might fit. This idea isn’t new to Blomkamp since one of his first short films, “Alive in Joburg” was eventually developed into his Oscar-nominated feature sci-fi film “District 9”. However, after his last two features, “Elysium” and “Chappie”, didn’t perform as well as planned, Blomkamp engineered this new approach. All of these shorts are cinema-quality, sci-fi/horror hybrids with unflinching violence and gore (very R-rated), and they are currently free to view on YouTube…

“Rakka” (1 episode, 22 mins) – So far, this short shows the most promise and is the most likely to be produced into a feature. An alien invasion has left the human race nearly extinct. The cruel, mind-controlling extraterrestrials torture and experiment on the humans in order to find quicker methods of extermination. The human resistance (led by Sigourney Weaver) realizes they are doomed and resorts to suicide bombings/missions just to score an occasional pyrrhic victory, but a recently-discovered human experiment victim may hold the key to destroying the alien horde. The plot may seem familiar but the innovative alien design/technology, gooey special effects and utterly hopeless tone are a welcome change from films like “Independence Day: Resurgence” and the “Transformers” franchise.

“Cooking with Bill” (3 episodes, approx. 3 mins each) – A goofy and very brief send-up of those cheesy infomercials from late-night TV, Bill attempts to demonstrate the use of questionable new technology products, all with disastrous results. Three of these episodes have aired and none of them are very inspired or original. They seem to be trying to channel dark humor similar to the far superior series of YouTube shorts titled “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared”. Watch those instead.

“Firebase” (1 episode, 27 mins) – Taking place during the Vietnam War, a Vietnamese villager gains omnipotent powers and becomes the ‘River God’, an unstoppable demon who can manipulate reality and raise an army of the walking dead. SGT. Hines, the sole survivor of one of the River God’s massacres, has a psychic link to the demon and is given high-tech weapons by the U.S. military to seek out and destroy the River God before he destroys the world. While the convoluted plot is the least coherent of the larger shorts, it does boast the most impressive special effects overall.

“God: Serengeti” (1 episode, 4 mins) – Another goofy ultra-short starring Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) as God who commands his butler, played by Jason Cope, to commit acts of cruelty upon the prehistoric humans he can view on his magic dinner table. The modern video game-like special effects of the magic dinner table is pretty neat, but I can’t see this becoming anything more than a one-note joke.

“Zygote” (1 episode, 23 mins) – Probably the second most-likely of the shorts to become a feature. Inspired by “The Thing” (1982), an arctic mining base in the future becomes a deathtrap when a hideous experiment gets loose and slaughters all but two survivors, a soldier (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and a ‘synthetic’ android laborer (Dakota Fanning). The monster, made up of the limbs and organs of its victims, tracks them down, but the wounded soldier tells the synthetic a secret that may help her survive. The derivative plot may not impress everyone, but the monster is such a satisfyingly frightening abomination, I’m sure Blomkamp will find a way to use it in a future project.

“Lima” – (not yet released) This short is expected to release sometime within the next few weeks. The only thing known about it is that it involves a modern day soldier in a high-tech battle suit.

It remains to be seen whether Blomkamp’s experiment is working for him, but the added bonus of creating new, high-quality content for his fans to watch is definitely causing the film industry to take notice. If he produced “Rakka” into a feature, I have a feeling it would already have a built-in fanbase. Maybe Blomkamp is really onto something.

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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


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