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Annabel Seymour, a participant in the women’s fellowship program with Ubisoft Film and Television last year, has secured a script deal with the media company.
Ubisoft’s film and TV division is a subsidiary of the French video game publisher, established to create IP adaptations from its library of games as well as original stories set in the world, culture and community of gaming.
The working title for Seymour’s script is Replay, and the story follows an unlucky-in-love video game reviewer who is given the power to play her dating life like a video game. Ubisoft, with the ability to independently finance, can later on decide on a path forward for such projects, whether that be through producing or taking the script to market to pitch to studios and streaming services.
“Because of the design of the fellowship, there were a lot of other ideas that we talked about for a long time,” Seymour explains to The Hollywood Reporter. “This one definitely was the most personal and emotional, even though it’s about a game reviewer — and that is not my job — but emotionally, it was the one that I felt like, ‘I totally understand this character and [what] she’s going through.'”
She adds that video games are used in the script as a metaphor for the character’s ideal life, and in that sense Seymour was able to — because of her experiences with games — use that foundation to talk about life and romance in a way that surprised her.
Seymour’s background includes writing credits on Netflix’s animated comedy Hoops, as well as performing comedy with organizations such as UCB in Los Angeles. But games have a distinct and specific role in her life. “Games are very emotional for me,” says Seymour, who has played a lot of point-and-click adventures in the past. “I have a bunch of games I played as a kid, that I have an endless nostalgia for,” she continues. “I feel like games have always just been another piece of media that I have emotional connections to, and [I] don’t feel the need to be super cool and know all the cool games.”
Speaking further about Replay, Seymour says that the project presented a “great puzzle and a great challenge.” She says, “I couldn’t be happier with the combination of something [that] emotionally I wanted to talk about and this sort of new world of gaming and game reviewing that I get to learn about and use to my advantage as a writer.” Because the script is so gaming-centered, Seymour says she had to do a little bit of a “screenwriter’s version of game design,” tackling that through applying her own emotional experiences to the different levels of a game.
“The fun thing about this idea of a video game reviewer who is unlucky in love and given the power to play her dating life like a game, [is] it was a really fun marriage of being able to talk about romantic comedy tropes or struggles that Annabel or I or anybody has had in a relationship and then layer in things that we know so well at Ubisoft, like video game tropes and cliches and challenges and levels and prizes,” says Margaret Boykin, director of film development.
Looking ahead, Seymour is focused on the screenplay structures that this specific story requires. “Because it is this high concept idea that has a game in it, the rules are going to be super strict,” she says, adding that the challenge is a fun one. “It gets me in the mind of the character to have to follow a bunch of rules the way that you would if you’re playing a game.” The goal of the film is for it to resonate with non-gamers as well as the seasoned players. Seymour emphasizes that she herself does not fall into either category, she’s not an extreme of either one.
Ubisoft also revealed that submissions for the 2021 Women’s Film and Television Fellowship are now open and will be accepted through May 14. The program, established in 2017 and now in its fourth year, is designed to elevate female or nonbinary voices. When selected, the two participants will undertake a nonexclusive, six-month paid fellowship, during which they will explore Ubisoft’s extensive library of IP and pitch projects. They will be mentored by Boykin, film and television head Jason Altman, and director of TV development, Danielle Kreinik.
In order to make the program more accessible, U.S. residents 18 years and older may apply this year. Film applicants must have no projects in development at major studios or produced credits, and television fellows may have one staff writer credit or below. “Previously, the fellowship was really designed to boost the careers of writers who maybe already had their foot in the door a little bit,” says Boykin, “and this year we really are trying to target writers who are early in their career journey and work to break down more barriers to entry.” She notes that the fellowship is also now open to those who don’t have representation, such as agent or a manager.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the fellowship will take place remotely. Pulling back the curtain, Boykin says that the past fellowship involved check-ins two or three times a month, meetings and workshops over Zoom. That remote set-up, she explains, has its advantages. “What it means going forward is that we can offer the fellowship to more aspiring writers all over the country.”
And this year, a more 360-degree approach will be taken for the program. “We’re going to provide mentorship from our physical production executives who can talk about budgets and scheduling, we’re going to loop in our marketing executives who can [ask] who the audience is for this [project], and our business affairs executives as well,” says Boykin. Set visits and writers room visits for projects already in production, will also be offered when possible.
“We really see it as an opportunity for people to learn and grow, things that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do without this kind of experience,” adds Kreinik. She says that there will be an emphasis on all the different jobs and roles within film and television that someone outside of Los Angeles may not be fully aware of.
Elsewhere, the program’s former participant Mishna Wolff is having her horror-comedy Werewolves Within distributed by IFC Films in theaters June 25.
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