Multi-platform digital entertainment company Collective Digital Studio (CDS) announced that it has begun production on an untitled feature film starring social media phenomenon Matthew Espinosa, in his acting debut.
The 18-year-old Espinosa has more than 17 million followers on social media, with more than 1 billion loops/views on Vine.
Written by Lamar Damon (“Bunheads,” “Slap Her, She’s French!”), the film tells the story of fictional Justin Bieber-esque teen pop-star Jordan Jay (Espinosa) desperate to find a more normal life. He abandons his sold-out tour and takes refuge in a small town, where he meets Emily, played by Sarah Jeffery (“Wayward Pines,” Disney’s “Descendents”), a rebellious street artist who wants nothing to do with him.
The film is being directed by Joshua Caldwell, who won an MTV Movie Award in 2006 for his film “The Beautiful Lie,” which he wrote, directed and produced while still a student at Fordham Unversity. He went on to develop online projects for “CSI” creator Anthony E. Zuiker, including “Cybergeddon” (Yahoo) and direct the independent feature “Layover” and the Hulu series “South Beach.”
CDS Films is financing and producing the film, with Espinosa and CDS’ Jeff Levin serving as executive producers. Gary Binkow and Amee McNaughton are producing for CDS Films and Angelique Hanus serves as co-producer.
CDS Films is also responsible “Natural Born Pranksters,” starring popular YouTube pranksters VitalyzdTV, Roman Atwood and Dennis Roady. The film was acquired by Lionsgate for distribution and will be released day-and-date in theatres, electronic sell through and video on-demand in 2016.
CDS’ efforts are part of a larger wave of influencer-driven digital-first features that began with 2014’s “Camp Takota,” starring top YouTubers Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart, which, like “The Outfield,” was released direct-to-digital. In the less than two years since, there have been a slew of others, some of which were released direct-to-digital (“The Outfield,” starring Cameron Dallas and Nash Grier, “Bad Night,” Jenn McAllister, and “The Chosen,” starring Kian Lawley), while others (“Expelled,” starring Dallas, and “Smosh: The Movie”) got limited theatrical releases, designed mostly to generate buzz.
Upcoming influencer-driven features include Awesomeness Films’ “Shovel Buddies,” “Before I Fall” and “Dance Camp” (produced in partnership with YouTube), the Legendary Digital Entertainment thriller “The Thinning,” starring Viner Logan Paul, and Lionsgate’s “Dirty Thirty,” starring the “Camp Takota” trio of Helbig, Hart and Hart.