March 15, 2009


CANADA/ENTERTAINMENT - Canadian directors the Purchase Brothers have created a video called "Escape from City-17" that has gone viral on YouTube. Using Toronto's industrial parks as landscapes for the video, they created a plot based on the extremely popular computer games Half-Life and Counter-Strike.

David and Ian Purchase of Markham, Ontario have been toiling towards their dream of becoming movie directors and their video has caught the attention of Hollywood producers.

Three reasons: #1. Its an extremely popular (over 2 million views in the last month). #2. Its a very well made video, complete with spectacular graphics. #3. Its also extremely low-budget, only $500 for the first 2 episodes.

"The $500 budget went to the costumes and the airsoft guns," explains David.

"But in terms of time, that first one took about three or four months of working on it. And we've been working on the other (instalments) too. We shot them all simultaneously, and then filled in the gaps," says Ian.

"Escape from City-17" is a five-and-a-half-minute film, the first part of a series of videos planned to be released on YouTube. Lauded by viewers worldwide for its engaging story, special effects and accurate depiction of the tense first-person-shooter's universe, the video has many fans and online commenters clamouring for more, and people in the film industry hoping and believing that this is possibly just the start for the suddenly up-and-coming siblings.

A month ago they signed on with "Sons and Daughters", a local commercial production company who would represent them in Canada.

Many of the scenes in the first installment were filmed in a local train yard, where they were often chased off by security guards. Much of the acting was provided by friends like Derek Chan, who stars in Part One with Ian, who plays a fellow soldier with a vaguely European accent.

They're not happy with the flaws of the film, the sound dubbing and they have to limit themselves because they know they have limited resources.

There have been very few video game-based films that actually pleased gamers. The brothers sent a rough cut to Valve Software, the maker of Half Life and Counter-Strike, and garnered such a positive reaction that they were flown down to its Bellevue, Wash., headquarters to discuss the possibilities of making a film. This was high praise, as Valve has little interest in making a Half Life film; many of the previous pitches to them were considered ridiculous.

"After seeing some of the dreadful ways Hollywood has attempted to turn video games into film, it was great to see how well the Purchase Brothers have brought our game to life. Hollywood could learn a lot from these guys," says Gabe Newell, owner of Valve.

"I know that some directors like to change things, like the floating airships in the background, and some would say, `Oh, let's make them black, to make them stand out more.' Well, no, they're supposed to be white, that's the type of stuff that matters," says David.

Valve's disinterest is a slight problem, because as the video started racking up hits, Hollywood producers started asking "How do we turn this into a movie?" Since then 'Sons and Daughters' flew the brothers to Hollywood to discuss possible deals.

Within a week in L.A., the Purchase Brothers had met with most of the top agencies in Los Angeles and are now represented by Anonymous Content for commercials in the United States, and signed with CAA for feature film representation, sharing an agent with Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight). The pair are already working on their own feature film idea.

"It's going to be set in World War Two, it's going to be feature length, it's got a very cool story that we can't really talk about," says David.

The good news is that their budget has increased significantly and the brothers are now scouting out locations to shoot more scenes for "Escape from City-17".

See Also:
Censoring Canadian Films
Online Strategy and Roleplaying Games
Zombie Movies from Hell
Online Poker Games

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