Creative Outsiders, a website dedicated to promoting female creators in the filmmaking industry, interviewed Epagon Pictures’ Director of Development, Mellissa Ann Briley. We are sincerely thankful for this, and we attach the entire piece below:
“I’m originally from the States and moved to Greece. I’m a screenwriter, photographer by hobby, and most recently the Director of Development at Epagon Pictures.”Mellissa Briley, DoD
When did you fall in love with the art of “storytelling” screenwriting (your defining moment)?
The written word has always been a part of me. As a kid, I’d write short stories to cheer up my friends; taking difficult situations and “rewriting” their experiences with positive tones. Later, I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that specialized in performing arts. It was during then, during a trip into NYC, I saw Phantom of Opera for the first time. I was spellbound, I couldn’t breathe. I swore that I would pursue writing.
Much later, I concluded it unrealistic and abandoned it. I needed to survive. However, it was a night in Athens when I first looked up and saw the Parthenon lit up over the Acropolis rock…I was mesmerized. What were the stories behind the hands that created this ancient wonder? I had to write.
What was your first movie making experience?
A studio in Athens was kind enough to offer me space to develop a series of short films. It was a humbling experience; it was an opportunity to surround myself with local film makers and I was exposed to the inner-workings of post-production. However, as a result of the economic crisis, studios shut down. Throughout the city, artists of all walks became scattered and deeply discouraged.
Resources are limited and I am completely self-taught, grabbing mentors at any chance I get. But there is a humbling lesson here: don’t make excuses to stop what you love. Make the best with what you have and keep fighting forward.
Funny enough, looking ahead; my first experience on set will be next month, as associate producer for a high production value web series I co-wrote.
One piece of advice to screenwriters just starting out?
Besides being a disciplined reader, watch as many films as you can. Study shots and transitions. The script is the audiovisual blueprint, so it always helps to know and visualize your final outlook.
When you have finally reached that glorious moment of fade out, and you feel ready – find a producer, I can’t stress this enough, find a producer and then a director who shares the same vision as you. And if you want to direct it, become comfortable with the cameras and shot composition. It’s vital to tell your story.
I’d like to add for screenwriters who write in English as their second language, prioritize your story and don’t worry about mistakes. Find a native speaker to help you clean up any mistakes. You can take that knowledge into future projects you may develop.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Write honestly – dive into your project will all your love and all your pain. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and free. In that process, you find you.
When a writer has an idea for a screenplay, what questions should they be asking themselves before writing?
Personally, when an idea hits me, I let it linger in my mind. If it haunts me and I find myself expanding on it, it’s time to lock myself in the writers’ room. First step: what genre am I writing? It is vital to understand our audience.
I’ve made the mistake of losing time researching. Please don’t lose your time in too much research. First, get that idea out of your head, whether it be a synopsis or a draft. Then finish your research and fill in the blanks. Fiercely protect your writing time.
What are common myths about being a successful screenwriter?
There is a strange misconception that screenwriting is a fun, colorful, childlike task that is a financially rewarding profession.
Reality is, screenwriting is a risky and grueling journey to get from fade in to fade out. There are no guides or fact sheets when inventing worlds. We alone are the authors and take responsibility. But at the end, the satisfaction is in seeing our characters come alive on screen. We offer escape from a volatile world and if our viewers walk away feeling inspired, asking questions, or with any emotion stirred, in my opinion, that is the greatest reward.
What’s next for you?
A blockbuster sci fi thriller film, the first of a trilogy, is soon to be announced. It has been green lit and is fully funded. My role, besides working alongside the creator, is on set production assistant and associate producer for a dramatized mini-web series that introduces the film.
I’m currently developing a feature script, regarding Greece. For years I’ve been obsessed with the idea of how Ancient Greeks and Modern Greeks would interact. This project is very close to my heart, my way of saying thank you to a beautiful country that has inspired and taught me so much.