The screenwriter (Christian O’Reilly) & the sales agent (Charlotte Mickie). One dreams it up, the other tries to sell it – but they never usually meet; here’s what happens when they do. Screenwriter and script consultant Mary Kate O Flanagan reports.
Sales agents and writers are at opposite ends of the filmmaking process and as a result writers are somewhat in the dark as to what sales agents are thinking.
There exists a suspicion, all the more insidious for its being largely unacknowledged, that commerciality is the enemy of artistic expression. But everybody wants a film to connect with as many members of its potential audience as possible. Is there a gulf between what writers want to create and what sales agents want to sell? And can it be bridged?
Charlotte Mickie, of E1 Entertainment, took time out from the Galway Film Fair to talk – as the person who is trying to bring the finished film to the marketplace – with screenwriter Christian O’Reilly – the person who is originating the project on his own in a room.
CHARLOTTE MICKIE: I generally don’t look at stuff that writers send me. I don’t look at scripts because I am not a producer. And I don’t feel confident about saying ‘yes’ as a sales agent, unless there is a producer on board. The problem is that when I do get just scripts with nobody attached, they often come from screenwriters who don’t really know what they are doing, who are trying to be screenwriters. I think if a screenwriter who had some provenance, like you, came to me I would actually be pretty intrigued. I would wonder why you didn’t have a producer. I might try to help you find a producer, and I might read the material.
CHRISTIAN O’REILLY: I was intrigued, in fact, when I was googling you, to see that you got involved at such an early stage, script-wise.
CM: I think in America, with independent films, the distributors and sales agents never jump in too early. But I think in countries where there is government money, in Europe and in Canada also, often the distribution sales agents are forced to get involved at an early stage.
CO’R: And what do you look for in a script or in a project?
CM: Well, I am a little on the arty side. So I am usually looking for stuff that is unusual and that I think is either a bit high-concept or maybe cutting-edge, formally. But there are different agendas in our company and some of us are looking for stuff that is quite overtly commercial. Of course, for something to be overtly commercial it either has to have strong genre elements, like action, or it has to have some cast, which often doesn’t happen until later. So again, you could pick it up at the script stage, but you want some packaging with it. But if something arrives on my desk and it really seems to have some vision or to stand out in some way, I find that quite convincing. Recently we got involved in a film called Cold Souls, partly because of the potential. There was a little bit of casting on it that was quite good. The director/writer had been a Sundance Lab graduate, which I thought made her very credible. Additionally, she had really good producers, among them Paul Mezey, who did Maria Full of Grace. And with all those factors, it was promising. But what really got me going was the script itself.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 130.
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