It was said to me recently, “You've been at this a while; about time you saw some success.” “This” being screenwriting, which I have been “at it a while,” but I realised, after stewing on this comment, that the writing is only part of it.
To see some success, you also have to put that writing out there. And that is where I’d been going wrong for ten years.
I’m from the school of “Never send work out before it’s ready” and I spent my time writing features that were NEVER ready! In ten years I don’t think I experienced that finished
feeling. The 50 Kisses competition, however, delivered a whole new experience on that score. It was two pages. (Why on earth had I not thought of writing shorts
before?!) I also believe you must love the process of writing, all that comes with it: the agony, the joy, the discovery, the discipline: not just putting the hours in, but the
different discipline each draft demands. When writing a short script, you go through this entire process very quickly. You make progress quickly. You see results
quickly. Crucially, for me, you experience the finished feeling, which is only temporary, but on this occasion, lasted long enough to see my two-pager venture out into a particular
corner of the world that was happy to receive it.
My script ‘Poster Boy’ began as an image I had whilst brainstorming ideas for the kiss. I decided that I wanted my kiss to be between a person and an object. After going through a number of unfilmable ideas, one image in particular stayed with me: the image of a lonely girl in a grimy flat kissing a poster. Something about that image resonated with me; the theme of barriers to love. I just had to figure out who she was and why the heck she was kissing a poster.
The original version was a personal response to those questions. I created a character in Ava that I recognized and understood. However, it was clear from the feedback to the script that many other people didn’t! Some readers, (perhaps those who also recognized Ava in either themselves or those around them), were accepting of her behaviour as a personality quirk, while other readers needed to know the reason for her reactions. It was clear, I needed to ‘redesign’ her.
For me, it is a different Ava in the original draft to the Ava in the rewrite. In the original, Ava behaves that way because that’s who she is; in the rewrite, she behaves that way because she’s a social phobic who can be fixed. Ava (mark two) allows for a screen story transformation that original Ava would not.
Identifying this point proved a problem for the filmmakers too; the most important element being to communicate Ava’s problem to the viewer. Otherwise, what happens to her when she leaves her house makes no sense. I take responsibility for that and if I could do another rewrite, I would. We’re all learning in this process.
Whatever happens next with 50 Kisses it’s going to take us by surprise and that’s why creating is both exciting and addictive. Before 50 Kisses, my work was like Ava: terrified to leave the relative safety of home. To achieve any level of success, it needs to mingle; it needs an opportunity to meet the Jeromes of this world - the filmmakers - who take those pages and turn them into something extraordinary. This project has put me in touch with filmmakers who I wouldn’t otherwise have had contact with and has opened doors to possible future collaborations. It has also got me finishing stuff; it’s made me want to work harder and increase my productivity. I’ve sent more work out in the past few months than I have in the last ten years. Like Ava, 50 Kisses has made me hungry for what’s outside.