Alex Winter, who directed the documentary “Zappa” and recently reprised his role in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, has set his next project: a doc about the history of YouTube and the video platform’s impact on society.
“Mass Effect: The Story of YouTube” is Winter’s return to films about the tech space after he got his start in documentaries with 2013’s “Downloaded,” about the rise and fall of Napster, and 2015’s “Deep Web,” a look into the hidden dark web. His new documentary explores the humble beginnings of YouTube in the attic of a pizzeria to its explosion on the world stage; the platform brought in $5 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2020 alone, with more than 30 million music and premium paid subscribers.
The film will also examine YouTube’s role in shaping the cultural and political discourse, examining present issues such as radicalization, surveillance, algorithmic capitalism, the proliferation of misinformation and of course, cat videos. Winter also interviews some of the most brilliant minds in tech, business, media and politics, as well as some of the key players from the early days of YouTube.
“Mass Effect” is an acquisition title, and CAA Media Finance will be handling sales. Winter will also produce along with Gale Anne Hurd and Glen Zipper. Phillip Kobylanski will serve as the production executive for Valhalla Entertainment. The film is in production now and is a production of Valhalla and Trouper Productions.
Olive Hill Media, which is behind Hulu’s documentary “WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” is financing along with XRM Media and TIME Studios. Michael Cho and Tim Lee will executive produce for Olive Hill Media.
“I’m very excited to be partnering with Gale Anne Hurd and my long-time producing partner Glen Zipper on this film,” Winter said in a statement. “I’ve been eager to make another tech-related documentary, and the rise of YouTube is one of the most significant cultural and business stories of our time.”
“‘Mass Effect’ is both an inspirational and cautionary tale as it examines how YouTube has made our lives easier and more enriched, while also presenting dangers that make the world a more perilous place,” Hurd said. “At this extraordinary moment in history between fake news and an unprecedented pandemic, YouTube has been at the center of it all, for better and for worse.”
“We are thrilled to be working with this talented team of filmmakers along with our strong producing partners to bring this timely film to audiences around the world,” Olive Hill Media’s Michael Cho said in a statement. “We continue our mission to work with visionary creators like the team assembled for Mass Effect, and we look forward to further exploring the disruptive trends that shape today’s pop culture.”
“TIME Studios is thrilled to join with the incredible creative team and partners for this important project, which furthers our mission of creating content that examines macro issues impacting our global society,” Ian Orefice, president of TIME Studios, said.
In 2020, Winter directed both “Zappa,” about the experimental art rock icon Frank Zappa, and “Showbiz Kids,” about the highs and lows experienced by child stars in Hollywood. Some of his other films include “Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain” and “The Panama Papers.”