Last week we got our first look at Skyline in the form of a teaser trailer which showed humans being vacuumed into the sky by hovering space ships. For a sci-fi movie without a major studio involved in the production the special effects looked pretty impressive, which is probably due to directors Greg and Colin Strause who own visual effects house Hydraulx (2012, Iron Man 2 and Avatar, among other blockbusters).
Hydraulx is also working on Sony’s Battle: Los Angeles, which is another upcoming sci-fi movie which involves aliens invading Los Angeles. Sony probably weren’t happy about a rival project being released 4 months before their movie, but following the release of the Skyline trailer Sony are bringing out the legal team as Greg and Colin Strause worked on both and didn’t tell them.
At issue: Greg and Colin Strause, the owners of visual effects house Hydraulx, were paid millions of dollars to generate visual effects work for Battle: Los Angeles. But Hydraulx never informed SPE the siblings were directing a VFX-driven rival alien invasion feature that will hit theaters four months before SPE’s March 12, 2011 release. SPE higher-ups discovered it was in a real horse race after Universal Pictures released a trailer that showed Los Angeles denizens being vacuumed into the sky by hovering space ships.
SPE lawyers have just started digging into the matter. This can be viewed as a Goliath vs. David story considering that the Strause brothers shot most of their film in an apartment, with the entire film costing a fraction of what SPE has spent for a full-scale alien battle film. But Skyline created strong buzz at Comic-Con that will give it a wide release through Relativity and Universal Pictures. Battle: Los Angeles could certainly have its thunder stolen. At issue: did Hydraulx and its owners owe SPE a heads-up?
I’m told the questions that SPE legal are asking include whether Hydraulx’s work on Battle: Los Angeles served as a springboard for Skyline, or gave the Strause brothers access to equipment that helped bolster the visual effects on their small budget film. SPE’s position is that at minimum, the Hydraulx principals should have disclosed their intention to make the rival project, to avoid any conflict of interest issues. Expect the legal letters to begin flying shortly.
I can understand why Sony are annoyed, but will they have the legal weight to have Skyline pushed back? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Here’s the Skyline trailer which kick-started all this: