GREAT Look for Mr Julius Onah! This is pretty big!
First, some back-story…
Long-time readers of this blog, going way back to its early days 3 1/2 years ago, will remember Julius Onah's name on the very first list of S&A's Black Filmmakers to watch list in mid-2009.
At the time, the Nigerian-born filmmaker was pursuing an MFA in film at NYU's Tisch School, and had been selected as a Dean’s Fellow; his short film, The Boundary, which starred Alexander Siddig (Syriana, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was designated by Amnesty International as one of its “Movies That Matter,“ and was acquired by HBO; also at the time, he was working on his feature film debut titled, The Girl Is In Trouble, which was executive produced by Spike Lee.
It took a few years, but that film eventually made its debut at the NY International Latino Film Festival earlier this year, and continues to play the film festival circuit.
Also, Onah was selected for the 2011/2012 class of the Focus Features Africa First Program – a program we've covered quite extensively – with a short film, titled Big Man, set in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria; like the rest of his Africa First Class, we should get our first look at Big Man very soon.
Skip ahead to today, to the announcement that Onah has been tapped by Paramount and J.J. Abrams (via his Bad Robot production company), to direct a sci-fi thriller titled God Particle, from a script that was penned by Oren Uziel, with Abrams supervising.
The script, which is said to have been one of Hollywood's most buzzed-about "open directing assignments" (partly because there's been lots of secrecy around it, and J.J. Abrams has been attached to produce), follows an American space station crew that's abandoned after a problem with a Hadron accelerator causes Earth to completely vanish.
This is what you could call an "up-and-comers" project, because, both Onah and screenwriter Oren Uziel, don't really have much on their resumes, and this will mark the first major project for Onah; Uziel has just one project on his IMDB page – he was recently tapped to write the script for the next Mortal Kombat movie which has a 2013/2014 expected date.
The film, which is expected to be budgeted in the $5-10 million range, fits into Paramount InSurge's scheme of producing micro-budgeted genre films like this one, that might have the potential to rake in big profits. So it provides a good Hollywood studio training ground for relative newbies like Onah.
And keep in mind that, as Variety notes, this isn't the first time that Abrams has given a relatively unknown director a chance to demonstrate their ability on the grandest stage of them all; recall that in 2008, he tapped a then relatively unknown Matt Reeves to helm Cloverfield – a $25 million film that went on to gross $170 million worldwide.
And since then, Reeves has done OK for himself, directing the remake of the Swedish hit horror film, Let The Right One In (Let Me In), and he's now attached to direct the sequel to last year's box office hit, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, titled Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Might a similar future lie ahead for Onah? Let him get through God Particle first. But I'll say that being in the company of J.J. Abrams is a great start!
Needless to say, we'll be watching Julius' rise from here.