Jo Buckman on her RomZom ‘You Used to Bring Me Flowers’

It’s this funny thing being known mostly as a Producer rather than a writer. Truth is I write a lot. I’ve got a drawer full of short film scripts ready to go, a TV pilot, a documentary and a feature outline.

It’s just that while I’m creative, I’m also a born organizer: I’m very practical and excel at people wrangling. So people keep asking me to produce their stuff and then I’ve been too busy producing their stuff to produce my own stuff or find the right person to produce my stuff.

The upshot is that I’ve amassed quite a few production credits and not many as a writer. But I am a writer. I just want to be a paid one. I dream of being in a TV series writer’s room, throwing around ideas and churning out story after story under the kind of pressure that would crush a nuclear submarine.

So as a producer/writer who fantasizes about being a writer/producer, the process for 50 Kisses has been interesting. First off, like Nathan Gower said in his blog here, I found the feedback on the website helpful. That said, my second draft was actually worse than the first because I tried to take on board everyone’s feedback at once. As a result, I over complicated what I really wanted to be a very simple love story. Lesson learnt. Hello third draft.

(Actually, I was surprised people thought the script was as funny as they did, because to me Shelley’s story is a bit sad and comes from loss. Her monologue for example, comes partly from my own feelings over my Dad’s recent death and something an ex once said to me. Maybe that’s what makes it funny – feelings we can all identify with, in a rather ludicrous situation.)

Anyway, after the official announcement, I eagerly sat in front of my computer awaiting the flurry of emails from excited filmmakers to arrive. Nothing. I awaited some more. Nada. Then I noticed no one had signed up to produce my script. I got really nervous as I waited some more. Finally, bingo! Four groups had signed up to make my script! (OK, so one group were filmmaker friends from Melbourne and I did float them the cash, but still they got some great people involved and it’s going to look awesome!)

So yay! My script was going to be being made, baby. So now I just sat back and eagerly awaited the flurry of emails from the filmmakers who would no doubt want to consult me about my vision for the script. Nothing. Eventually, I sent an email to one of the producers. I got one email back. I replied. I didn’t get another response. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed.

Then I realized, this is what being a writer is. Once you’ve finished your final draft, it’s not up to you what other people do with it. You have to let go of your baby and trust the process (This probably explains why I have so many unmade scripts sitting in a drawer). As a producer, it’s a really weird feeling to be sitting around twiddling my thumbs and waiting to see what it looks like when its finished. As a writer, this is normal

So to me, the true gift of 50 Kisses is experiencing this side of the process – as writer – in an open forum. On this website and on twitter, I’m surrounded by likeminded people – now I know there are 49 other writers going through the same thing (I must admit, I’m a tad envious Nathan Gower appears to have had a bit more of a response from his filmmakers than I have).

There’s also plenty of opportunity for feedback, networking, connections and a chance to trade skills (experienced producer and 1st AD going here, folks!). It wasn’t with the filmmakers who made my script as I expected, but I still received plenty of feedback from my first draft and I have connected with a few other writers on the site.

I’m also surprised and incredibly grateful for the sense of community I’m getting from this competition. So many people are contributing and engaging with it. All the content I’ve read has been incredibly positive, supportive and constructive. As someone who’s only been in London for 6 months, it’s great to feel like I’m part of this group of screenwriters/filmmakers and what’s more, that I belong in it!

I hope that 50 Kisses will also open some new writer’s doors for me. If that door opens into TV series writers’ room (even if it’s just as the quirky work experience chick who fetches the coffee), I will happily do the judges’ and ALL of the other 49 finalists’ laundry for a year.

If it doesn’t, so be it. It’s still fantastic to be involved in it. I’m loving the journey so far! I’m also really looking forward to seeing my film – something I wrote – on a BIG screen and hearing an audience laugh at something I’VE written. And just quietly, I’m also looking forward to the moment when my Mum finally recognizes that I have what it takes to make it in this industry – as a writer – and stops asking me to consider alternative careers like medicine.

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