50 Kisses... 50 writers, 50 filmmakers, one movie...
A London Screenwriters' Festival initiative to connect talent, released in UK cinemas on Feb 13th 2014
50 Kisses is a groundbreaking project that brought together new talent in a global collaboration with the sole aim of creating an extraordinary feature film.
In the summer of 2012 the London Screenwriters Festival issued a challenge to the writing community – create a killer 2 page script that filmmakers anywhere in the world will work with you to produce. The best 50 of those films will then be woven together to create a feature length film that will receive a global release. The only guidelines were that the scripts be set on Valentines Day and feature at least one kiss. Out of 1870 script submissions and 127 completed films, the result is 50 Kisses, a ground breaking film showcasing the combined talents of hundreds of new creative voices from around the world.
Irreverent, charming, ridiculous, moving and at times wonderfully profound, 50 Kisses features everything from love struck zombies, androids and teddy bears to… fatigue fighting lesbians! 50 Kisses is the world’s first crowd generated feature film; a multi-cultural and global reflection of pop culture’s vision of love in the 21st century.
50 Kisses is the culmination of 2 years work, 1870 scripts, 127 films, untold man hours and one vision – to get writers writing and filmmakers making films.
50 Kisses features 127 films made exclusively for the project – all set on Valentine’s Day and containing a kiss. All 127 of the submitted films feature in the film in various contexts with the best 25 presented in their entirety. The film proudly showcases upcoming writing, directing, songwriting and acting talent from around the world.
The London Screenwriters Festival is the driving force behind this unique project. Keen to give writers a ‘real life’ opportunity to work with directors, and get their films made, they launched the 50 Kisses project in May 2012.
The Writers Challenge...
It always starts with a script It started with a competition launched initially through the London Screenwriters’ Festival community; the challenge quickly went viral with entries being submitted from all corners of the globe. Out of 1870 submissions a team of a dozen professional script readers, all volunteering their time and services in return for an IMDB credit, whittled down the pile and created a shortlist of 100, all of which were read, scrutinized and deliberated over until the final 50 winners were selected and announced.
Project co-ordinator and director Chris Jones reflects “Like all acts of creation, there is a great deal of naïveté and madness involved. We hugely underestimated the workload from the engagement we received from the screenwriters.”
50 Kisses producer Judy Goldberg adds, “very quickly we realised that we had a tiger by the tail, an idea that creative people really connected with, and it was going to be a real challenge to see it through with zero budget backed up only by tons of enthusiasm and passion from the team and community.”
The overall winner of the writing competition was Scottish based Kirsty McConnell who penned the poignant and moving ‘Enough’ which proved to be one of the most popular selections for the filmmakers and inspired 9 different teams to create their versions. Kirsty was presented with her award by Producer Chris Jones during the Keynote Speech at the London Screenwriters’ Festival 2013.
Screenwriting Legend John August (‘Big Fish’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’) said of the script “What I like about “Enough” is that such a simple scene outlines such a complicated–but familiar–situation. We’re invited to figure out what happened and what these characters want in the aftermath of an offscreen revelation. The resulting kiss is both unexpected and justified”
‘Death at a Funeral’ Writer Dean Craig said “The script manages to be intriguing, relatable, emotionally resonant and surprising, and best of all it feels real. This is a writer with great instincts”
Development: The Collaboration Begins
With the winning scripts clearly at various different stages of development, some were first drafts selected on the strength of the concept and writing, while at the other end of the spectrum some were third, forth or fifth drafts; tight, polished and confident.
The 50 Kisses process was about to take a big and bold evolutionary step, to engage the community in the process of feedback and improving the screenplays. All winning scripts were posted on the website and we invited the rest of the community, including those writers who’s scripts were not selected, to comment and share their professional opinions on the winning scripts.
Meanwhile behind the scenes, the Producers worked closely with the reading team and spoke with each of the fifty winning writers offering what, for some of them, was their first set of ‘Producer’s Notes’. These notes were also uploaded to the website (again for the entire community to comment on) with ALL of the winning writers urged to write further drafts and keep polishing and improving on their material.
Thus the global conversation and, most importantly, the collaboration had begun. Executive Producer and script reader Gail Hackston commented “No other screenwriting and filmmaking initiative has ever offered this level of feedback and engagement.”
The Filmmakers Challenge: Visualising the Scripts
While the writers were writing, tightening and re-writing their scripts, 400 filmmakers around the world were waiting in the wings.
All of these filmmakers had been issued with their own challenge, to select the script (or in some cases more than one) which resonated with them the most and produce the best possible version of those scripts that their resources and abilities would allow.
All of the filmmakers were encouraged to collaborate with their writers and in some cases, further drafts were produced as a result of these conversations. Within two months, 127 of the 400 filmmaking teams had committed to their projects, taken steps, picked up a camera, gathered their teams and shot, edited and submitted their movies.
In keeping with the ethos of the project, the filmmakers were encouraged to share their completed films on the 50 Kisses website and the community was invited once again to offer comments – both positive and negative – which the filmmakers could choose to either take on board or dismiss.
Of the 127 submitted films, 100 were uploaded to the website; with some filmmakers opting to decline in favour of taking their films down the festival route instead.
Further standing as testimony of the high quality of films created from the project are ‘Love’ by Phil Peel and ‘Dream Date’ by Andromeda Godfrey, both of which feature in their entirety in the film and both of which have gone on to win awards outside of this project. Rom-coms, zom-coms, thrillers, sci-fi, dramas, coming-of-age, erotic stories of love, hate and every shade in between, from impactful emotional stories with a heart, to flesh eating zombies eating hearts – 50 Kisses has it all.
Project Director Chris Jones adds, “All the filmmakers who actively engaged with the feedback process radically improved their films by re-editing and in some cases additional shooting. We wanted to go beyond what most competitions offer, we wanted the community to be active participants in each others learning and success. You can see this clearly in the feedback offered, film maker to film maker, on each of the films pages on the site.”
The Songwriters Challenge
What is a film without music? In addition to the scripts and the films, we crowdsourced all of the music from independent artists and musicians who submitted their work for consideration, with 12 original tracks being selected to feature in the final film. Listen below…
The Challenges (aka, what we didn’t know we didn’t know)
While the original remit of the project was to find 50 scripts, have them made into 50 films and lace them together into a feature. We discovered very quickly that (a) not all the scripts had been made and (b) that some that had been made were not of the quality a cinema going audience would expect, while others were world class.
After much deliberation within the Production Team, we decided (again, in keeping with the spirit of the project) to consult with the community.
The question posed – is it more important to fulfil the promise that 50 films would be featured OR to deliver the highest quality and best possible version of this feature film that we can? The answer was immediate and unanimous; 50 Kisses should be the best that it can be. So some hard decisions were made and even harder conversations were had but eventually the best 25 of the submitted shorts were selected to be presented in their entirety in the final film.
Out of the 25 featured films, one winner will be selected as ‘Best Picture’ at the 50 Kisses Awards to be presented during Premiere on 13th February 2014 in London.
Olivia Hetreed, Head of the UK Writers Guild and writer of the Scarlett Johansson period drama ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ will be handing out awards to the writers on the night. She adds, “I love the idea of ‘50 Kisses’, there is no better way for a screenwriter to learn the craft than to have their words become film. It’s what it’s all about.”
On February 13th 2014, just in time for Valentines Day, over 500 people converged on the Genesis Cinema in London’s East End to attend the black tie World Premiere of 50 Kisses.
The atmosphere was electric as excited screenwriters, filmmakers, actors, crew, friends, family and members of the general public walked the red carpet and posed for professional photos at the official 50 Kisses step and repeat banner alongside decadently glamourous burlesque girls (courtesy of Wam Bam!, London’s Premier Burlesque Club).
Drinks in hand the audience took their seats, filling to capacity Screen number one at the Genesis. 50 Kisses director Chris Jones took to the stage and kicked the evening off in style, acknowledging all the creative involved for their participation in this ground breaking venture. First up were the Screenwriter awards where President of The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, Olivia Hetreed read out the names of all 51 writers were individually recognised for their contribution, those present gathered on stage to accept their awards and pose for a special group photo.
Next Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London took to the stage to present the 25 winning filmmakers with their awards. Once again the stage was filled as directors and producers brought their cast and crew into the spotlight to bask in their moment in another special group shot. Then Chris Jones returned to the helm to present 13 special achievement awards for outstanding achievement in the following fields: Best Cinematography – winner Marc Greenfield for ‘Practice Makes Perfect’
- Best Performance – winner Elizabeth Croft for ‘A Kiss Goodbye’
- Best Production Design – winner Laura kettle for ‘Neil’
- Promo Music Award – Tess Tyler for ‘Stunt Poetry’
- Best Music – Daniel Pemberton for ‘Neil’
- Best Sound Design – Simon Reglar and Ben Baird for ‘Neil’
- Best Song – Fuzzy Jones for ‘Swan’
- Best Editing – Anil Rao for ‘Neil’
- Guerilla Film Award – Phil Peel for ‘Love’
- Best Director – Staré Yildirim for ‘That Good Night’
- Best Picture – Evan and Kerry Marlowe for ‘Smasheroo’
Winner of the Audience favourite award (as voted on the night) was ‘Beryl’ by Screenwriter Sarah Page, directed by Deepak Verma at Capital City.
The Awards Ceremony drew to a close, the lights dimmed and the 50 Kisses opening credits rolled for the first time to a capacity audience that cheered and applauded all the films, paying tribute to the talent and hard work that went into each and every one of them.
90 minutes, 25 short films, over 2000 credits and 50 Kisses later the audience spilled back out into the bar for drinks, networking and more photo opportunities late into the night. To take home from this amazing night to remember, everyone received a free copy of the official 50 Kisses UK Quad poster.
For it’s one day release on one screen, 50 Kisses took £9,436.35 at the UK Box office, proving itself a serious contender on one of the busiest weekends of the year in the film calendar.
50 Kisses Enters The Guinness Book Of Records
‘50 Kisses’ enters the Guinness Book of Records for having the most co-writers on a feature film, 51 to be exact. ‘50 Kisses’ knocked Hollywood movie ‘Forever And A Day’ from the top spot, a feature film that has 21 writers including an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock.To celebrate, a gala ceremony was held a BAFTA on April 4th 2014 where the 51 writers were given their awards.
‘50 Kisses’ has been shepherded by British indie filmmaker and London Screenwriters’ Festival Creative Director Chris Jones. Chris comments… ‘At every stage, 50 Kisses has innovated the way we make films – from script, to production to distribution. Our micro theatrical release actually put the project into profit from the first screening by approaching the whole process in an entirely original way and with a new mindset’.
Chris Jones…‘For us ’50 Kisses’ is just the beginning, we are committed to creating real opportunities for writers and filmmakers to get their work platformed. Perhaps the best result though is the huge amount of new collaborations the project has created, with writers and filmmakers now working together after meeting within the 50 Kisses process.’
The official Guinness World Record page is here… www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-9000/most-co-writers-credited-for-a-film