Profile of 2018 AFM attendees: Melissa Papel

Melissa-Papel (1)

The 2018 American Film Market is so last month, but that doesn’t mean the popular film market’s dealings are over.

In fact, far from it. The deals and talks continue into December and probably into 2019. This year, REEL360 wanted to profile some of the market’s attendees and their projects.

This time around, we get to showcase a talented and gorgeous actress, TV show host, voice over artist and filmmaker.

Meet Melissa Papel. Born and raised in Paris, France, Melissa came to Los Angeles in 2013. Before arriving, Papel appeared in several successful films and TV series in Turkey, and hosted a weekly show on Turkish National TV for 2 years.

Since moving to LA, she has been in a multitude of commercials, about 3-4 feature films, some French TV shows, and directed three short films which were selected in some festivals (her short em>BlinDate won a Award for Best Romance Short in Palos Verdes).

She also acted in the short film which won the Grand Prize at Sundance 2016 (Thunder Road) and which was just made into a feature film that was released in theaters worldwide this year.

What brought you to AFM this year? “I’ve been going to the AFM for the past 3-4 years. Whether it was as an actress, or as a ‘pitcher’ for a specific production company last year, or as a producer/filmmaker.”

I read over your pitch and bible for your project Activation Day. It seems really powerful “Thank you! Activation Day is a sci-fi drama that takes place in 2091, when the world population has reached 11 billion. The story is of a man-made virus which attacks every single human being on earth, and works in pairs. Every one of us is randomly paired up with another human being and in order for one of them to survive, the other one has to die… while these pairs can be made of complete strangers, they can also be between a mother and her daughter, relatives, lovers etc… which makes it quite dramatic!”

Can you tell me what’s at the heart of it? “It’s a show about ethics, challenges, economy, ecology, politics, dilemmas, and everything in between!”

What was the inspiration for you to create something like this? “I actually woke up on Christmas Day last year with this idea, that I had in a dream, where I was supposed to choose between killing myself to save someone that I was ‘paired up with’, or killing that person to save myself… and that person was really close to me!”

So, it was a comedy. “Right?! It was quite an intense dream and then I thought about all this, and life changing decisions, and heart break, and dilemmas, and all those things that make us human. I felt like this idea/premise, was my Christmas present when I woke up that day, and that I had to explore it more in depth and develop it.”

There has been a lot of shows and movies about viruses or apocalyptic situations or zombies and all sorts of dystopian worlds. What sets yours apart? “I feel like mine is different in the sense that every single human being is confronted with a tragic choice. To commit suicide to in order to save the person they are paired up with, or to murder them in order to save themselves. All these situations are very personal and explore how each and every one of us reacts as an individual. I feel like it will be very interesting to explore these relationships and the human behaviors when they’re faced with such dilemmas. Also, this show is a little different because even though the genre is sci-fi, all these situations will be plausible and very relatable. It may give us a peak into a near future that we are inevitably going towards. Overpopulation, food and water rationing, a unique world government, limited amount of children per family and per country, a world ruled by and dependent on technology. All these things are what I believe await us.”

Tell me a little bit about your lead characters “Each episode introduces a new pair and shows how they deal with their pairing and what they decide to do. However, there is also a set of lead characters that we will be following throughout the seasons.

There is the creator if this virus, Dr. Palmer, whose goal is to eliminate half the world’s population. He is the anti-hero but will be considered as a hero by lots of people who actually understand his motives and see the positive effects of the world population decreasing like that. While most people want him dead, they also realize that he is the only one who can potentially stop this virus.

The real hero is Dr. Michelle Keller, an oncologist whose goal is to find a way to stop this virus. Her struggle will be touching as she loses everyone and everything around her while trying to stay focused and find a cure, until she understands that she is paired up with the creator of the virus, which raises the stakes tremendously.”

How was your AFM experience? “This year, I was hoping to meet people from the television industry, even though I know that the AFM focuses mainly on films. I met some people who want to be part of the project somehow, and who introduced me to others as well. I’m still discussing the details with them, and I think I might be ready to attach some names (mostly directors and actors). But most of these people come from the film industry, which is quite different from television.”

The REEL30 team wishes you luck with your project, Melissa.

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.