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An Interview with the Founder and CEO of Slick Films CHRIS OVERTON

Hi Chris, let’s start at the beginning, how, why and when did you start your

career in film?


Looking back, I think film intrigued me from the age of 5. I used to stand in front

of the TV fascinated with how people were on this black box. I was eager to get

inside it so I started acting when I was 8 years old and did my first TV job in a

program called Doctors. There was an exact moment when I actually fell in love

with film though; It was editing a school project we filmed when I was 13 in

Pinnacle 8 software. I remember being completely mesmerised with how that

process worked. The transitions, the way you can adjust frames and make

everything come to life.


What was your career like before you won an Oscar?


I continued acting, landing some nice roles and then (kind of) created my own

film school with Slick Showreels, which is a production company made to help

actors create beautiful showreels. I was always making little films and when I

played ‘Noah Claypole’ in Roman Polanski’s ‘Oliver Twist’, my notepad never left

my side. I didn’t appreciate at the time how he was one of cinemas most

important directors but I learned so much from watching him work. I used to

make little films in and around the sets and locations, at the airports when I

travelled back and forth to Prague where we were shooting. I come from quite a

rough area in the West Midlands and so I would rally the kids from the

neighbourhood and make a film. It was either that or cause trouble. I lied to my

mom and said we had to have a video camera for media studies at school, as I

knew my birthday was coming up. I think that gave my mum some peace and

quiet.


Then in 2018, you won an Oscar for the short film The Silent Child together

with your wife Rachel Shenton who wrote the screenplay.

Can you first let us know what the writing process was like for the script

for The Silent Child? Where the idea came from, how it was then

developed, were there many drafts, and did it change a lot during the

writing process? What were your thoughts when you first read the script?


Rachel told me that she had an idea for a film based on the lady she was living

with in L.A. At the time she was filming a show called Switched At Birth, starring

Marlee Matlin. I told her that she had to write it. About a week later she

presented me with a first draft of The Silent Child. I think that was when I

became a director really. Before that I loved films, cameras and everything that

surrounds it but I’ve never quite had such a strong, burning desire before that

to tell a story. Instantly I could see it and knew that we had to make it. It was

incredibly special. After that it developed to around 9 drafts. It did change as

you’d expect and the ending actually came from a dream I had but that original

spark never left the script which I know can very easily happen. Rachel always

amazes me how quickly she writes and re-drafts.


What was the production process like for The Silent Child? Where did you

get the funding, what was the filming like?


It was gruelling. I think a lot of good things came from lack of experience

actually. As this was our first film we were fearless. Only one or two crew

members had made a film before. Everyone else had this incredible drive

because they had something to prove and also because the message of the film

was so important. I don’t know how we did it but we shot the film for under

£10,000. We did a crowdfunding campaign which I said I’d never do again as it

was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but me and Rachel are working

with a company called Paus who are guiding us through a crowdfunder on the

blockchain with NFTs, for a new project called Sticks & Shelter, which we’ve

been developing since 2020.


After the short film was finished, what was the road to the Oscars? Did you

have a marketing plan? Which festival did you win and how did you find out

you were nominated?


I think marketing is really difficult for a short film but looking back that’s one

area I’m really proud of. We built an audience from nothing with engaging

content. One of the best things we did was have behind the scenes footage,

which usually gets dropped on a short due to budget but I knew people had to

see more than just the film itself. That sparked the interest of local press and

we gained momentum, fast. We had our world premiere (and won) at Rhode

Island film festival, which will always hold a very dear place in my heart.

Winning that festival meant we could apply for The Oscars® along with around

200 other films. So when you get to that point, you can say you’re long-listed

for an Oscar® but you never think anything will come from it. But then it did. We

got shortlisted down to 1 of 10 films. It was from there really that we entered

another part of the journey for the film. The exposure was crazy, my mailbox

was full over night. A few weeks later we got the nomination from the

Academy®. I remember crying for all sorts of reasons but myself and Rachel

were just so overwhelmed with the fact that we could take Maisie Sly, our 5

year old profoundly deaf leading actress... to The Oscars®. It was surreal. I

didn’t care what happened after that really. The other films in our category

were really incredible, with ten times our budget. We were so honoured to be

nominated alongside them.


Did it feel surreal when you actually won the Oscar? How did your career

change after the win? Did you get a lot of calls and offers?


It’s hard to put into words. I was on stage locking eyes with some of my heroes.

I remember glancing at Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Meryl

Streep and then thinking, “oh god I’m going to have to talk in a second”.

I guess life did change. I’ve always been very ambitious from a young age so I

did dream of that moment and it didn’t disappoint. There were a lot of calls and

I got to do some incredible things but I was also very keen to carry on with my

plan and not get too ahead of myself. I had to learn more of my craft before

tackling something bigger and there’s a lot of offers and temptations that come

along that are not necessarily the right things for your future. I had to be careful

and I’m pleased with the decisions I made.


Now you’re running a very successful production company Slick Films that

specializes in short film production. Can you let us know more about the

company, what kind of films are you trying to make and what are some

films on the Slick Films slate you are excited about?


Thank you, Slick Films is my baby. I’ve been grafting at it since I was 19 years

old. It’s evolved so much over the years and I think it really became successful

when I started to follow my heart. We make films with a social conscience that

inspire change but they have to be entertaining too, so we always look for

something with an edge. The company started as Slick Showreels and evolved

into Slick Films, however we still have the Showreel department running today

and I’m pleased to say it’s booming. It’s actually a crucial part of the business.

It’s where we discover new filmmaking and acting talent. Anybody that

impresses us there, we use for our bigger projects.


We’ve got over 20 shorts all at different stages; there’s a lot I’m excited about.

We have a couple of films waiting in the wings for their World Premiere in 2023

and I’m so excited for them to be seen.


We have a stunning film called Suzie directed by Jimmy Dean and stars BAFTA

nominee Helen Behan. The whole film is just 10 shots, it’s really beautiful.

Isla Soledad, a co-production we did with Mexican filmmakers Omar Deneb

Juárez and Camilo Gutiérrez Galván of Sauce Negro Films which stars Leidi

Gutiérrez who is a very famous Mexican actress. It was a life changing

experience and the film is just absolutely stunning.


in too deep is a film I directed, starring Olivier Award Nominee Stephen Wight

and of course (Oscar® Winning writer/actress) Rachel Shenton. It revolves

around the fast developing technology of Deep Fakes, which is scary stuff. I’m

so proud of the film, it had an amazing reception at a private screening

recently. I’m so excited for wherever the world premier will be.


As a founder and CEO of a production company, what’s your daily routine?

What’s an average day like for you and can it be overwhelming at times?


I’m so lucky really. I’m doing what I love everyday and helping others do the

same. I’m on the spectrum so it helps for me to divide my week and my day into

segments. I’m either developing my own projects, which I’m so excited about or

working as an exec-producer. I spend a lot of my time alongside Rachel

Shenton and Head of Film at Slick, Rebecca Harris.


How have your short films evolved over time? What filmmaking lessons

would you teach to your younger self?


I’m from an acting background so working with actors is my forte, so I’ve

evolved most in my visual storytelling. Im attracted to stories with bold

messages, which is probably why I took on in too deep. A script has to move

me from within otherwise I’m just not the right person to take it on. Somehow

everything Rachel writes does exactly that. I’m so lucky we are aligned in our

taste. What would I tell my younger self? I’d tell him that story is everything.

Developing can be slow and painful especially as I just want to go out and shoot

it. But I would tell my younger self to not step on set until that screenplay is

absolutely clear. If there’s any doubts you’re going to have problems later.


What is some of the best screenwriting or filmmaking advice you've

received?


I think the best advice I’ve had (and have given as well), is to ’squeeze the juice’

out of the film. We get so caught up in how hard the shot was to achieve that

we forget to step back. I think taking time away is crucial for me personally and

to really question if a particular shot or scene is just style over substance. Is it

really adding anything? But above all else, I think the best advice I’ve ever

received is to trust your instincts and go with your gut.


As a director/producer how do you choose one short script over the other?

What’s the main thing for you when you say, ok I want to produce this!


Honestly, we live and die by this at Slick Films... If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no.

There are so many great scripts out there but the really special ones are hard to

come by. I always look for nice people to work with too. That’s just as important

as the script.


What in your opinion are the most important elements of a great short

script and a great short film?


A great ending, at least one special character that connects to the majority of

the audience and good dialogue. If all of those things are supported by good

filmmaking and performances. I believe you’ll have a good film.


Do you think writers should consider the practicalities of filming when

they’re writing? In terms of how much the short film will cost to produce?


No I don’t. They should be free to write whatever they feel but they should be

aware that later down the line, it may mean that the script won’t ever get made

or that it might have to change. If writers can be open to that, I think that’s a

good thing.


In our Short Screenplay Competition, we evaluate submitted screenplays

in these 10 categories: Idea, Plot, Characters, Concept, Structure, Pacing,

Dialogue, Originality, Writing Style and Marketability. When you’ll be

reading the screenplays from our contestants, which of those 10

categories will be the most important for you?


Characters, concept, dialogue and marketability.


Many of today’s most famous writer-directors have adapted their short

films into feature films. What are your thoughts on that process? Did you

ever think of adapting your Oscar-winning The Silent Child into a feature

film?


That’s a great question. There’s proof it works and proof it doesn’t. Sometimes

a good short film should be left exactly like that. With The Silent Child we quite

literally had a moment in time where everything fell into the right place. We

could never re-create that. However that being said we are taking on similar

themes into our debut feature film. Which hopefully I can talk more about very

soon.


Do you think short films are just stepping stones to “bigger” projects or

so-called “calling cards”? Or do you think short films can be an art form of

their own?


I really do believe in the power of short films as an individual art form. With

attention spans diminishing and people shuddering at the thought of watching

a film over 2 hours, shorts are just getting started. They are also crucial to the

film industry. I would never have broke into this industry without short film.

Although they are really hard, they are achievable to make when you’re starting

from nothing or very little. The short film Oscar® is the dream that is actually

possible for new filmmakers. If we take that away, I really believe the film

industry would change for the worse.


Outstanding Screenplays in cooperation with your company Slick Films

and Seed & Spark crowdfunding platform will finance and produce the

winning script of our Short Screenplay Competition. Do you have any final

advice for upcoming screenwriters who are looking to get their short

screenplays produced by themselves?


Yes indeed, we are so excited to be making the winning film and I can’t wait to

meet the winning writer. I am in awe of writers. As someone who is

neurodiverse, I’m a visual person and my brain just doesn’t work like that so I

hold so much admiration for anybody brave enough to put pen to paper. My

advice is to write for yourself and if possible, write what you know. Don’t write a

story because you think it will win a competition or win an award - write what

you want and be honest. Be so honest that you’re terrified to share it. If you do

that it’s probably going to move somebody. Oh and if you dream an idea, it’s

probably worth putting in the script.


Where and how can our followers support you? What’s your website and

social media handles?


You can keep up to date with us on our @_slickfilms instagram mostly, although

we are active on Facebook, LinkedIn (Slick Films) and twitter (Slick_Films) too.

For a more in depth look into Slick Films and what we’re up to you can also visit


Thanks Chris!


To receive an EXCLUSIVE one page written feedback report from CHRIS OVERTON click below to Submit your Short Script to our Short Screenplay Competition: https://writers.coverfly.com/competitions/view/outstanding-screenplays-shorts

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