---Aylmer screenwriter’s script a hit on Netflix streaming services
Seeing a script she wrote in 2016 adapted into a motion picture that made it to Netflix on May 12, local screenwriter Christie Leblanc can’t believe her childhood dream has finally come true. “It’s pretty mind-blowing,” Leblanc said, confirming that the film will be available worldwide in 100-plus languages. “It’s crazy.” Having lived in Aylmer for more than 20 years, Leblanc resided on Victor-Beaudry when she wrote the script, while earning a living as a freelance copy editor before moving to Ottawa shortly before the pandemic.
Titled Oxygen, the movie is a French-language (English-written with an English version forthcoming) science-fiction thriller directed by Alexandre Aja, starring French actors Amélie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, and Malik Zidi. The film is a nightmarishly suspenseful story about a woman who wakes up trapped in a cryogenic unit and fights to regain her memory and stay alive. “It is at its core a survival story,” Leblanc said, loosely dubbing it a horror sci-fi comparison to Buried starring Ryan Reynolds. “How do you survive when there is literally no way out?” The 90-some page script was featured on the Black List – an annual run-down of Hollywood’s best untouched screenplays – in 2016, among 73 screenplays.
The film was initially supposed to be called O2 (the periodic symbol for oxygen) until about a month ago. But Netflix changed it to Oxygen because it was favoured by American audiences. “They did audience testing, and people in the States didn’t know what O2 was,” Leblanc said with a laugh. Seeing years of hard work and dedication come to fruition, Leblanc said getting her script picked up has been absolutely life-changing, allowing her to transform her passion into her life’s work. “It’s absolutely given me a career,” Leblanc said, stating that she had never had a script picked up by anyone before. “It’s launched me.”
A mother of two, Leblanc said her family is thrilled about her accomplishment – despite the pandemic preventing them from seeing it at an extravagant red-carpet premiere. Completing the script in a matter of several weeks – the fastest she had ever written a screenplay – Leblanc said she story came together naturally and fluidly. “This script wrote fairly quickly,” Leblanc said, stating that it typically takes her at least three months to complete the first draft of a screenplay and several more months to complete. “But that’s after like eight months of trying to come up with a concept.”
Going into the project, Leblanc wanted to create a story about someone trapped in a confined space. She couldn’t find a hook for the story that would truly grab audiences’ attention until one day, she became very sick, to the point where she struggled to breathe and temporarily lost her sense of hearing. “It was like living in a fish bowl,” Leblanc said. “You couldn’t really interact with the outside world. It was freaking terrifying. It was the most stress I’ve ever felt in my life. It took about three months before my hearing fully came back.” That’s when it hit her, that the story would revolve around a character who is in essentially the same state she was, but in even more dire circumstances.
Particularly written to be a low-budget movie – around $10,000 - Leblanc said she planned to perhaps direct it herself from her basement, in case it couldn’t generate interest from movie industry people. “That was the goal,” Leblanc said with a laugh, stating that Oxygen is valued at around $15 million.
Glad to be included in the movie production process, as Executive producer, Leblanc said she felt delighted with the final product, adding that the production crew was a joy to work with. “You hear horror stories from writers … about how the script gets totally rewritten and the director changes everything,” Leblanc said. “Aja was totally collaborative from the get go. He loved the script, he believed in the vision, and the notes he brought to it didn’t change the story. They just made it better.”
After watching the final cut, Leblanc couldn’t believe her eyes were seeing an actual Hollywood-level flick written with her own words in real life. “Watching it, there were a couple moments where I had to stop it and cry, because I was so overwhelmed by how perfect it was,” Leblanc said. “Mélanie Laurent, I couldn’t believe the performance she gave,” she added. “I almost feel like I should send her a fruit basket or flowers or something … she did such an amazing job.”
Going forward, Leblanc is going to develop a feature film for French video game company Ubisoft’s new series titled Ubisoft Originals. “They’re going to make a bunch of movies,” Leblanc said. “They’re not gaming movies. But they’re based on the gaming world … it should be going into production very soon.”
Formerly a freelance copy editor, Leblanc was always passionate about movies and writing script, and had long aspired to create her own films. As one of the first seeds to the root of the cinephile she grew to become, Leblanc recalls being around four years old when her brother, who was very enthusiastic about animation, would take her to watch animated films at local movie theatres. “We would see the same movie 10 times in two days,” Leblanc said. “It was a pretty cool intro to the movie world.”
Launching into script writing around eight years before writing O2, Leblanc worked hard to sharpen her skills in the evenings after copy editing during the day. Having written countless crumpled up first drafts, pages of essentially unseen work, and self-described learner scripts, before establishing herself as the Netflix-certified script writer she is today, Leblanc said accomplishing dreams is all about loving what you do and sticking to it. People can follow Leblanc on Twitter at @thatScriptChick.