In his heart, Jeffrey Morris has always been a filmmaker, but his journey to realizing that dream has had almost as many twists and turns as one of his science-based adventure stories.
November 2020 marks ten years since Jeffrey founded Morris FutureWorks — AKA FutureDude Entertainment — with the goal of becoming a premier source for realistic science fiction properties for print, film and television. In that span of time, the company has merely scratched the surface of its large Intellectual Property (IP) catalog of 30+ concepts, successfully producing numerous creative projects including an illustrated screenplay, comic books, informational apps, a mobile device game, and animated and live-action short films.
While the fact that Persephone, his first full-length motion picture, officially went into pre-production almost exactly ten years from the company’s start might seem serendipitous, this milestone was not achieved without many pivots and lessons learned along the way.
When asked how he has continued to persevere in the entertainment business, there’s one thing Jeffrey keeps in mind. “If you give up it will never happen. The odds are in your favor, the longer you stay in the game.” In addition to this tenacity, Jeffrey surrounds himself with positive people who build him up versus tearing him down, and he looks for people to partner with who are creative, open minded, intelligent and honest, a formula that has been a huge part of the company’s success.
What can we expect from FutureDude in the years to come? More film and television projects for sure, as several are already in the works. Jeffrey believes that changes in the entertainment industry as a result of the global pandemic will create new opportunities for delivering original, high-quality mainstream stories through new distribution channels.
And yes, we can also expect more character-driven adventures. Jeffrey shared, “I know the kind of films we’re good at. Making smart, tight, ‘bottle’ movies with small number of characters in an intense circumstance. This is a brand of film and TV that no one is doing, and it’s a huge opportunity out there in the marketplace.”
We can also be certain these projects will reflect Jeffrey’s passion both for creative storytelling and science. “Scientists don’t know how to tell action-packed human drama stories, and the entertainment industry struggles with science-based stories.” For that, we have Jeffrey, and his team at FutureDude Entertainment.
Here are a few highlights of the past decade of inspired storytelling from FutureDude Entertainment…
Jeffrey leveraged his work in science and education related non-profits to co-author and self-publish the book Slingshot: Jupiter Conspiracy along with Fredrick Haugen. The book tells the story of a scientific mission inspired by his time working with the Jupiter division of NASA. Slingshot was sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and was an important first step for Jeffrey to show investors he had both the ideas and follow-through to be successful. As a result, he met some high-quality people and raised funds to launch his company in late 2010.
Jeffrey Morris brings together science, art, filmmaking and entrepreneurship to form Morris FutureWorks.
Looking for an inexpensive way to leverage his artistic talents and get some of his Intellectual Property (IP] into the marketplace, Jeffrey developed a story called Venus into a graphic novel. Venus received great reviews and found a loyal following of teachers through the National Science Teaching Association Conference who purchased it as an entertaining way to teach their students. Venus is still available today on Amazon and Jeffrey plans to rewrite the story into a screenplay in 2021.
The launch of Apple’s iPad and growing popularity of its App Store created a new channel for Jeffrey’s ideas. In 2011 he created an app called Timesphere which gave users a futuristic way to visualize and experience time. In addition to allowing them fly through time in a virtual-reality type experience, the app also included useful tools such as a Calendar to keep track of schedules, LifeJournal to document and experience the past, and Lineage which turned a family tree into a family solar system. The app earned him a technology patent. And while the app was perhaps ahead of its time, the experience allowed Jeffrey to apply his creativity in a new way, and helped him learn that apps didn’t scratch his itch for visual storytelling. He began to explore other avenues.
Jeffrey started a blog in 2012 with the goal of cataloging his own journey as a creative entrepreneur and the scientists, writers, actors and other interesting people he was meeting along the way. He wanted a unique name for the blog that spoke to his passion for telling stories about the future and developing a better future for humans, and “FutureDude” was born. Within the first few months, the blog had more than 30,000 hits, and he decided, along with his investors, to rename his company FutureDude as well.
2013 was a pivotal year for the newly renamed company. Jeffrey decided to create an IP Catalog to pull together all of the ideas and stories he had been developing over the years. He worked with some of his comic book artists to create visuals to help people understand his work and demonstrate the value of his company.
Around that time he met Phil Hinderaker, an experienced and highly-regarded business executive who coached Jeffrey through writing a business plan and financial projections. Phil later became the President and today is Chief Operating Officer of FutureDude Entertainment. With Phil’s mentorship and support, Jeffrey landed a seven-figure investment with Lowell Gordon and the Bursten Group, which allowed him to pay off his initial investors and proceed with even bigger projects. Based on a solid foundation of thoughtful business management, the Bursten Group continues to partner with Jeffrey on FutureDude Entertainment to this day.
With this new momentum, Jeffrey added experienced producer Anne Marie Gillen to his team as President of Production with the goal of turning his concepts and stories into actual productions.
With Anne Marie’s expert guidance, the team chose a few IPs for further development. Oceanus, an underwater drama set in the year 2029, was selected as the first film to be shot as a proof of concept, and it became FutureDude Entertainment’s first official short film. Oceanus successfully demonstrated Jeffrey’s ability to tell an exciting character-based story using his own unique brand of realistic science fiction. Oceanus featured Sharif Atkins (ER) and Oscar Nominee Bruce Davison.
That same year, FutureDude produced six issues of the Brainstorm comic book series, and 7 issues of the Parallel Man comic book series, which also became a game for mobile devices and an animated short featuring the voices of John Cho, Ming-Na Wen and Lance Reddick.
Oceanus debuted at the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival. That same year, Oceanus was turned into a graphic novel illustrated by the amazing Christian Gossett (The Red Star). Also that year, Jeffrey was featured in Minnesota Business Magazine as an example of the future of business in Minnesota.
The Parallel Man comic book series got great reviews at San Diego Comicon, generating buzz for both the series as well as FutureDude Entertainment.
The success of Oceanus as a short film was a turning point for FutureDude Entertainment. While many of Jeffrey’s stories were translatable across various types of media, he knew the IP had to be really well known with tens of millions of funding for a transmedia approach to work. It was at this point that he decided to refocus on movies and TV and started to work hard on turning Oceanus into a full-length feature film.
By 2017, not one, but two deals to produce Oceanus into a feature film had fallen through which prompted another critical pivot. Jeffrey knew from writing, directing and producing the Oceanus short film that he could keep people captivated for 35 minutes using only three actors and one set. He decided to focus on a new story that would be faster to get started and less expensive than an underwater movie to produce, but would still represent the type of movie he knew he could make. He turned to another IP called Perspehone which is set in outer space. Jeffrey did the design work simultaneously with the writing in order to move the project along quickly. He shopped it around in Los Angeles, and Pixomondo became both a visual effects partner on the project as well as an investor.
Casting for Persephone began in 2018, and Mary Louise Parker (Weeds) signed on to play Tanya Baxter, systems engineer.
By 2019 the full cast for Persephone was established. Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) committed to play Darcy Clarke, command pilot, and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) was confirmed to voice OMNI, an artificially-intelligent companion to the astronauts. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) joined the cast as Kyle Niven, astrophysicist. Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club) who has produced more than 100 films signed onto the project as Executive Producer. Cassian’s involvement and rewrite of the script were important milestones toward commencing production. Also in 2019, Highland Group, the international sales team for Persephone, generated a million in pre-sales around the world.
During 2019, FutureDude also established a relationship with National Geographic Kids to turn his IPs his Saturn 5 and Neptune One into television series, but plans are currently on hold due to the global pandemic.
The goal was to begin shooting Persephone in 2020, but the pandemic put those plans on hold as well. For much of the year, any activity that could keep the project moving took place including designing working props and sets. On December 1, 2020, just over ten years from when the company was started, pre-production on Persephone officially started.
2021 promises to be a big year for FutureDude Entertainment. In addition to the scheduled release of Persephone late in the year, a new time travel movie called Parallax is very close to being optioned, with pre-production slated to take place in 2021.
Additionally, FutureDude will be working with Epic Games to turn Parallel Man into a TV series and console video game. Jeffrey is also rewriting Venus, and continues to believe that Oceanus will have its day to become a full-length film.