50 Kisses ~ The Contest ~ The Feature ~ The Premiere in Houston, Texas by Laura Koons

What an incredible journey for those who made it from script to screen. My own script was not chosen, so why in the world would I want to host a premier? Humbly, I declare I had a lot to learn and 50 Kisses was a great teacher. What the contest allowed for many of us new to the craft was simply an opportunity. There was something uninhibited about it that led many of us to buck up and give it a go.

How did I even hear of the 50 Kisses contest in the first place? Let’s step back to 2012 at the Great American PitchFest in Burbank, California. There I was attending a Master Pitch class taught by the fabulous Pilar Alessandra.

Just before her presentation began I grabbed a seat at a table filled with other writers conversing amongst themselves. I overheard a woman say she recently arrived from Scotland to pitch her script in hopes of having it produced in the States. I jumped in to share my wish to have my 15th Century script produced in Scotland. In a quite serious manner she advises, “You can’t pitch here, you need to go to London”. Taken back I further inquire, “Excuse me? London?” As a matter of fact she concludes, “Yes, in October, at the London Screenwriter’s Festival.” Oh! Now this just raised the excitement to a whole new level!  I immediately bought a LSF pass and started researching everything the festival had to offer. 50 Kisses. Hmmm…What’s this? A contest? I only need to submit a 2 page love story that includes a Valentine kiss? I’ve got this! Whoa, not so fast there cowgirl. Didn’t even make it into the ‘Near Kisses’ round up.

I never realized how a single script can affect so many people on so many levels. The setting or location alone can cause panic if it screams excessive funding on a modest budget. Not only would my own script have been very expensive, it was filled with other challenges, as well. Not a big surprise there. I’ve always been told I have champagne taste on a beer budget. 50 Kisses encouraged me to be especially considerate with other people’s time and money.

I thoroughly enjoyed having access to all the screenplays and then being able to view the corresponding films while observing their own metamorphosis until final edit. It’s obviously a lot of work trying to perfect the craft. Inspiring to say the least. As a screenwriter I would have been thrilled to see filmmakers fight over each other.

“Pick my film!” “I presented it the best.” “I know I nailed it.” “My film was so amazing I didn’t even need to use your dialogue!” Now this I found very interesting. At first I was irritated to see two versions of the same script in the same feature, “NEIL” for example. However, when I took the time to truly reflect on the idea, I actually respected the decision. There is no doubt that a film without dialogue can visually transcend universally. It worked and I came to admire both versions. Strike 1 for me.

One of my favorite scripts “TIED UP” was not shown in its entirety in the feature. How did that happen? Why did that happen? Grieved and rightfully thinking to myself, “Oh, yeah, let’s put in another zombie love flick instead, that would be SO much better.” I bit my tongue and smiled through to the ending credits. I needed to trust that the films chosen were those that worked best for 50 Kisses. Deep down I knew my biased decisions were irrelevant. Case in point, I had just witnessed my own audience enjoying the feature. They didn’t have a clue and that became my cue. My audience was thoroughly entertained! That’s what it’s all about. They got it and they loved it! As I was speaking to one of my close friends, I asked him, “So what was one of your favorites stories?” He chuckled, “I’d have to think about it. There were quite a few. But I will tell you this, the first one, you know with the zombie? That was f****** hilarious. Totally unexpected. You set this whole thing up as a Valentine lovely dovey film premier night so I was caught off guard. Never saw it coming.” Strike 2.

If only I could have had the foresight to have known the success of this premier night. Let me tell you I would have rented out a theater! Since I had not seen the feature, only the trailer (which was fantastic by the way), I had no idea what to expect from my audience. Word got out and it was like, “Why wasn’t I invited?” Oh Lord! My own hesitations, reluctancy on who might appreciate the film left me to limit my invitations. I should have extended the invite to everyone and not concern myself with the needless reservation about what other people might think. Strike 3. The lessons learned from the premier alone just kept piling up.

Let’s step back as I prepared for the premier… I asked my very good friend and screenwriter Jo Anna Chapman Finkelstein to help me host the 50 Kisses world premier at her home. She graciously said yes which was fortunate for me since she has a beautiful theater room. I ordered posters, but they did not arrive in time. This turned out to be a blessing. Out of necessity I used the 50 Kisses picture image to order a backdrop poster. This was perfect for photo opportunities. I also ordered a custom red carpet that led my guests to this unique photo moment and they loved it!

Another blessing was that my “go to” caterer was busy the night of the premier. What?! Don’t they know who I am?!  Panic spread across my face. A friend who was not able to make the premier mercifully gave me the name of her caterer “Behind the Bash”. They went above and beyond the call of duty. Whatever I requested was met with zero hesitation.  From valet parking, succulent hors d’oerves, decadent desserts, to a full premium bar, the service was outstanding. They were a first class operation and I will be using them again.

As my guests began to arrive, the professional photographer I hired gathered people together and even gave them suggestions for posing in front of the camera. Thus began the merriment and playfulness of my friends as they came alive while he worked his magic. A charming ice breaker. He had shown up not knowing what to expect and simply went with the flow. It was a fun gig for him. He honestly appreciated every favorable circumstance that came his way. A pleasurable experience for everyone.

There were about 20 people in attendance to view the film. This was perfect for an intimate Valentine showing of 50 Kisses in the theater room. I was pleasantly pleased to see a photo of “BERYL” being viewed. Very cool to hear it won an Audience Award. It was a hit among my guests, as well. I wish I would have printed out a list of the movies in the feature and asked my guests to rate their favorite and give their immediate feedback. All around my guests genuinely enjoyed the originality of these stories and respected the vision of what love means to each film creative involved in 50 Kisses whether it be through passion, heartbreak, jealousy, mercy, kindness, or so many other facets found within humanity.

Weeks later, my friends are still raving about the premier. It was much more than a special night out. The 50 Kisses 2014 World Premier in Houston, Texas was spectacular and will always be remembered.

Laura Koons

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