Queens teen’s book may make it to the big screen


| lguerre@queenscourier.com |

Photos by Liam La Guerre
Photos by Liam La Guerre

St. Albans resident Amir Oliver may have his book, Shooter, turned into a movie thanks to a pitch contest.

An aspiring teenage author from St. Albans is knocking on Hollywood’s door.

Amir Oliver, 14, received positive feedback from movie executives at the Marriot Marquis on October 20, where he was one of a handful of teen authors among more than 200 invited writers.

Six of the 11 executives gave Oliver’s novel, Shooter, high marks on anonymous review sheets and three asked for a copy of the book for further review as a possible movie. One of the executives wrote that Oliver is “really well spoken and impressive.”

Shooter is about a teenage basketball player with super human ability who is about to turn pro, but has to deal with peer pressure and violence. As Oliver put it, “think Luke Skywalker with a basketball.”

It started as a series of journal entries when he was 11 and blossomed into a full book a year later. Now Oliver plans to turn it into a series of books.

The novel was printed over the summer through Xlibris, an arm of Author Solutions, which specializes in self-publishing. Author Solutions was organizing its second annual Book-to-Screen New York PitchFest and called Oliver.

“My dad was like ‘Eh this guy from Xlibris just called and he’s talking about this movie deal thing,’” Oliver recalled. “It was very exciting, the fact that I heard movie and Shooter in the same sentence without the words coming out of my mouth.”

Like speed dating for authors, Oliver had two minutes with each of the executives to explain the ins-and-out of his book and how he imagined it as a movie.

Oliver, a freshman at LaGuardia High School, aspires to be an actor, director and screenwriter. The event gave him a head start on his dream.

“It was interesting to just stand there and see all these adults looking at me like I’m crazy,” Oliver said. “Being a high school kid and doing something like this it feels like it gives me the upper hand.”

The executives will bring the ideas back to their companies and analyze the books before contacting authors, a process that could take up to nine months, according to a representative from Author Solutions.

Nearly 400 authors have been contacted after the four previous PitchFests around the nation, according to Author Solutions. Recently, comedian George Lopez’s company, Travieso Productions, agreed to pick up author Humberto Garcia’s book, Mustang Miracle.

This PitchFest had 102 requests for more information on 62 different books. A bonus of this year’s PitchFest was that Katie Kinder and Dr. Earle Williams, the two authors who executives talked about the most, will have a chance to pitch their ideas directly to former NBC anchor Meredith Vieria, who is looking for ideas for her film company, Meredith Vieria Productions.

In last year’s New York PitchFest, Natasha Carrharris, 13, was one of the two people selected by executives for the bonus pitch with Paula Wagner, who has been a top agent, studio head, and production partner of Tom Cruise.

“They actually do surprisingly well most of the time because they are still in school and take instructions well,” Megan Leiter, a senior event coordinator for Author Solutions, said about kids at the PitchFest. Leiter added that they usually only have about four to six candidates under 18, out of 150 participants at each pitch fest.

But Oliver’s position came as no surprise to his dad.

“This is something I saw him being able to do if he was able to utilize his talent and grow,” Robert Oliver said.

Robert taught his son how to play the piano and compose music at an early age. Since then the teen has starred in junior high school plays, acted at the Black Spectrum Theatre in Jamaica and writes screenplays in his spare time.

Only time will tell whether or not a Hollywood company will contact Amir for a deal with his novel, but he isn’t too worried.

“I’ll be fine with it, because I’m going to LaGuardia and I’m trying to get myself to audition for Broadway,” Oliver said. “Either way I feel I’m moving closer towards my dream.”