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MTV Goes for Thrills With ‘Truth Below’

6/20/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

MTV will continue to make a push
into the cable-movie space with the distribution
of at least four original flicks in 2011.

The network has already aired two movies this
year — last Thursday’s thriller The Truth Below
and comedy film Worst.Prom.Ever in May — and
has two more original films slated for the year,
including a third installment of its successful
horror franchise My Super Psycho Sweet 16. MTV
is using the special-event movie programming to
supplement its original scripted and reality series
lineups, according to Chris Linn, executive vice
president of programming and head of production
for the network.

The Truth Below, a thriller about college
friends who learn more than they bargained for
about each other after getting trapped under an
avalanche returning home from a snowboar ding
vacation, was the sixth MTV original movie
since the network re-launched its movie franchise a year ago.

PAVING WAY FOR SERIES

The movies thus far are averaging about 883,000 total
viewers. More importantly, they have helped indoctrinate
MTV viewers to scripted content, paving the way for
such scripted series as The Hard Times of RJ Berger and
Teen Wolf.

“I think they have been successful, but the movies really
help us get into scripted quickly in advance of our long
form scripted initiative and a great opportunity for us to
try out young new talent,” Linn said.

The network has experimented with several genres including
music (Turn the Beat Around) and comedy (Worst.
Prom.Ever
). The network has also looked to create films
based on existing MTV franchises such as MADE the Movie,
a takeoff on its MADE reality series.

“It’s a learning process in terms of what our audience is
looking for from us — that’s one of the reasons why we’re going
into the movies,” Linn said. “Movies are popular with
our audiences and we know they like scripted and it’s a great
way to enhance the reality-base that we have on our air.”

In terms of the future projects, the network is producing
a social issues-themed film that deals with cyberbullying.
Disconnected will be loosely based on Abraham Biggs, a
young man who streamed his own suicide live on the web.

RESONANT THEMES

Linn said the issue of cyberbullying and social media
resonates with the network’s core teen and young adult
audience.

“We know from our research with the millennial audience
that this issue continues to bubble up — just the
stress and exposure that they feel online,” he said. “The
message of the movie is disconnected, but it’s not about
disconnecting from technology. It’s about how do you keep
yourself from becoming disconnected from people at a
time when we’re more connected than we’ve ever been.”

Other upcoming original film projects include a potential
musical produced and starring R&B singer Trey Songz
in which a man sells his soul to the devil for love and success,
Linn said.

“Also like the Prom movie there are iconic times of the
year in young adults lives that we can take these movies
too,” he said. “We always take a look at what’s coming up
on the pop-culture scene.”

September