Sega interacts with Hollywood

Taking a meeting with Sonic the Hedgehog may be one of Hollywood’s most coveted sitdowns now that Sega of America Inc. has set up an office to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and showbiz’s creative community. Execs from Sega — the first videogame manufacturer to open shop in Beverly Hills — came to the Sundance Film Festival and pitched independent filmmakers about getting interactive.

Sega plans to hire producers, directors and screenwriters to help it take pre-sold characters from its videogames and adapt them for TV and feature films. While the lion’s share of its business dealings have been the licensing of titles from the major studios, Sega hopes that free-thinking independents will start pitching them alternative material.

“Sega has taken a leadership role in the much-discussed merging of two very similar industries, both focused on mass market entertainment — Hollywood and the Silicon Valley,” said Michealene Cristini Risley, Sega group director of licensing. “Already, we receive daily calls from all facets of the entertainment industry wanting to capitalize on the great opportunities that exist in Silicon Valley.”

Sega is currently distributing videogames based on major studio releases like “Jurassic Park” and “Aladdin,” but now wants the creative community to start pitching high-concept stories that will lend themselves to interactive applications. Sega will determine together with the talent whether a concept should be a videogame, a feature film which they co-produce, or both. Together with talent, it will also decide which comes first, the game or the film.

Sega’s BevHills office will facilitate script evaluation, development meetings, casting calls and all production deals for interactive, film-based entertainment as well as continuing to license out Sega characters and acquire concepts for videogames.

Screenwriters and directors are slowly waking up to the potential revenue streams that interactive products can generate. Tom Clancy recently extracted the interactive rights from the sale of his “Sum of All Fears” to Savoy. Many of the major action flicks in production already have companion videogames ready for release later in the year. Some writers even relish the potential for multiple storylines and multiple endings that interactive applications allow.

In other Sundance news, several films in the feature competition continue to gain momentum. Boaz Yakin’s “Fresh” has been stunning audiences thanks to the film’s powerful storyline about a Brooklyn boy who takes on local drug posses with the same aplomb he demonstrates on the chess board.

Many festivalgoers who have tired of films with relentless violence have been flocking to a pair of comedies that are fast becoming word-of-mouth favorites. “Clerks”– Kevin Smith’s very funny roman a clef tale of his days working at a New Jersey Quick Stop — still lacks a distributor, unlike “Go Fish,”another hot comedy from Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner which the Samuel Goldwyn Co. just picked up for distribution (Daily Variety, Jan. 24).

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