Sean O'Keefe '95 (Screenwriter & Producer)
By Dominique Kalil '00
As an African, Alaska and video gaming are two of the most foreign concepts to me; ice and technology are generally as far from my reality as the pebbles on Mars. When I interviewed Sean O’Keefe (Class of 1995), I was forced to face a sad reality; as Sean put it, that I am joining the ranks of the “obsolete.”
Sean has recently become a successful screenwriter and producer.
He currently runs a company called Union Entertainment (www.unionent.com) which focuses on the convergence of video games and films. He grew up in Alaska and then made his way to Harvard via boarding school in the UK. He and I chatted while he searched for wireless access while roaming the streets of Seattle, and I tried to figure out how the hell I got left behind in the dark ages. The interest of merging popular culture and electronic innovation (I do sound old and obsolete) seem to have been common themes in Sean's past. When asked about his Harvard days, he described bringing some of the rave culture then popular in the UK to our very own campus. After a couple of Ad Board visits (something to do with an unauthorized party on the squash courts?…) he graduated with a degree in history. I imagine that in college Sean was the kind of kid with whom everyone wanted to party. I imagine too that his parties at Harvard were absolutely fabulous. After college he headed to NYC, then changed course and decided to head to LA to pursue a more focused film production career. It was during this time he wrote his first screenplay and became more interested in production.
After a stint with Mike Ovitz’s former company, Artists Production Group, Sean became more involved in video gaming and its role in the film industry. As our conversation waded deeper into the world of gaming, I became more confused but remained nonetheless fascinated by Sean’s passion for this common obsession. I have never played a video game in my life, and frankly it annoys me when my guy friends prefer the games to my company (I mean, c’mon..) But for Sean, it seems that his job is his hobby, which I think for most people is right on the cusp of Zen. He and I talked about gaming and its role in the film industry in great depth (and the market potential of those consumers still in the dark…) and his enthusiasm really impressed me. I had no idea that people aged 28-36 yrs were the biggest gamers. Go figure!
Sean’s career experience deals with integrating video games and movies. Traditionally, video games have been constructed from movies, using the characters and story lines from the movies to create the next big thing in the gaming world. However, Sean’s company works with producers and directors to create the video game and movie simultaneously, so that both evolve together, eventually creating a product where both are in complete synchrony. I was telling Sean that the reason I had never played a video game was probably because, for the most part, I find them incredibly violent. He agreed, but he noted that developers are aware of this and that gaming will soon be heading in a direction more constructive and productive, and with a broader market appeal. He also said that video games would soon allow the gamer greater control in choosing the evolving narrative, and generally greater influence in choosing the direction of the game. So now, I admit, I find myself rather intrigued by video games. I still have yet to try one, but should the opportunity arise, I’ll definitely attempt this odd enticement…