It was always going to be difficult, honing a list of 1800+ scripts down to just 50. It wasn’t just a case of picking only the “best” writing either, but balancing the “best” with the “right” subject matter too – we didn’t want 50 smoochy-smoochy scripts, or 50 outlandish ones either.
The reading team needed to keep that end outcome in mind of “50 Kisses – the movie” as well! NOT easy.
And I for one think the reading team did a fantastic job again. I wasn’t able to head the team this year because of other work commitments, but think Ste of Love Me Not Films & Scripts did brilliantly in ensuring his readers got the “best right” scripts out the pile.
So here’s my thoughts as an overview, followed by my specific reactions and musings for various scripts’ development:
The boring stuff. Most of the scripts look fine more or less in terms of format, but there were the classic problems rearing their heads as usual. Italics, bold, mixed tenses (“is sat”/”is stood”) and apostrophe misuse snuck in, but most surprising was the endless random capitalisation of words, particularly for objects. Oi, writers no! You only need to capitalise characters’ names the first time we see them. Some minor capitalisation for style is OK, but can become wearing for the reader very quickly.
Stereotype alert. Stereotypes can be useful, especially with only two minutes to get your point across, but many scripts took stereotypes and ran with them, rather than dig that *tiny* bit deeper. This was especially true of scripts with homeless characters, so-called “chavs”, or male/female conversations about love or relationships.
Dialogue slog. I always say scripts have more dialogue than they need – and this was definitely the case here, with many of the scripts having too much, even in just two minutes! Hard to believe, but true. Less really is more. I didn’t think it accidental so many non-dialogue scripts got through on this basis, but that’s not to say dialogue isn’t useful in the micro-short. Just keep it in check.
Visualtastic. Many of the scripts that got through to the final 50 have strong visuals, even distasteful ones – or use motifs in some way. Some are set in the past or future and offer a (reachable) challenge for the actual the filmmakers. Remembering the filmmakers is a great way of getting noticed in the spec pile.
Expectations. It’s no accident most of the scripts that got through to the final 50 play with the readers’ expectations or push the boundaries in some way. If there’s anything to take away from the contest – and you’re wondering what you can do “next time” to get the best chance of placing, it’s that.
And now, onto my favourites!
These are the scripts I felt were near-enough “spot on”, with only minor changes needed (if at all):
LAST CHANCE by Nick Grills
Though quite “sketch-like”, I found Martin endearing and loved Sheila’s (mistaken) belief he doesn’t think before he speaks, when his real problem – signified in the VO – is that he overthinks. We’ve all been there – on both sides! – so we can relate to both these characters.
BOXES by Rhys Howell
This is a straight forward little short, with an inevitable ending, yet it still feels satisfying because of the original way Rhys has set up Carol and Stan’s last meeting. How easy would it have been to have Stan in a nursing home or something equally “expected”?
NEVER FORGET by Peter Carruthers
A really well set up short, that plays to our expectations – we know Lauren is about to get busted – but the resolution really packs a punch in HOW. Bravo.
BERYL by Sarah Page
This is a hilarious little short, which again plays with our expectations. Too often we see old people as tragic and pathetic (in the true sense of the word) – yet here Sarah has Beryl play with those prejudices and show that there’s “life in the old dog yet”!
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT by Mark Pallis
Clint’s “practice” goes from “normal” to far-fetched in this amusing short – only for a peck on the cheek to be the end result, rather than the disaster we envisage. Great fun.
CLOUDY DAYS by Louise McCooey
This is a great little short that doesn’t succumb to sentiment OR the expected – that John will kill Helen and then himself on her birthday. John has a hard life looking after his adult disabled daughter; this is not in question. Yet we also see how his rewarded for it – with her unconditional love.
DREAM DATE by Anne-Marie Draycott & Charity Trimm
Though DREAM DATE is not quite “industry standard” script format, it’s easy to see why readers put it through. This is a great script that EVERY parent can relate in the audience can relate to – and again plays with our expectations. In fact I could do with checking into a hotel just to sleep RIGHT NOW.
NOTHING VENTURED by Nina Haerland
Buying flowers from a florist … To give to the florist. Such a simple premise, yet so effective – and a kind of double gift if you like (flowers *are* her livelihood).
LONELY HEART by Mark Jones
Another Zombie short, this was topical and amusing with its inclusion of Twitter and spin on “giving your heart” to someone … who throws it away. What would George Michael think??
COUNTDOWN by Oliver Drew
This is a strong short with a great sense of pace. Loved that we don’t know the outcome of snipping the wire.
LOVE by Rob Burke
A simple yet heartfelt piece, which never succumbs to sentiment or stereotype.
FIRST/LAST by Stephen O’ Brien
This is an interesting spin on the Zombie myth and indeed on love and responsibility. We ALL potentially put our health at risk for new partners, women possibly more than men once pregnancy and birth is thrown into the mix further down the line, so I liked the fact it was Maz, not Scott, who died.
JEALOUS MAKING by K Satchwell
This short was topical and original and in short (pun intended), I loved it. Simple as.
AND THE REST…
And now, in no particular order, here’s my thoughts on development for the rest … This feedback is obviously just my own “take” on the stories, no more, no less – but is based on my own experience as a script reader and as Head Reader of *other* contests for LSF … Ready? Here goes!
ADVICE by Ross Aitken
An interesting short that shows “being yourself” is key to romantic success, which many audience members will be able to relate to. However, I felt we need to see Dave set up in an advisory capacity first, BEFORE Mike meets Rachel, so we can truly appreciate Dave’s (crappy) advice, especially as it’s given as the title of the piece.
A GLASGOW KISS by Larry Diamond
An original take on the notion of “kissing”, I felt we need to know a little bit more about Billy and Wullie to appreciate the source of the vitriol between them – because the short is dialogue-led, we miss out on a “feel” for the characters. I would recommend cutting dialogue here in HALF in order to be able to do this.
60 YEAR VALENTINE by Marc Lockier
This is a heartfelt piece that plays out as we’d expect, with history even repeating itself. I felt there’s more here the writer can do in terms of surprises. What if the couple’s daughter rejects her young suitor? What if she’s happier alone? What if the couple’s son was gay or married a black woman, challenging the older couple to accept their boy’s “coming out”, or grandchildren of mixed heritage? I felt a reflection of times changing could really aid this story.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS by Phil Berard
We’ve all met exes and wanted to tell them how we *really* feel, so VO works really well here. But the last shot ties up what is a messy situation in too neat a little bow for me. What if it REALLY IS too late? What if Dave and Stacy DON’T look back?
COLTON’S BIG NIGHT OUT by Nathan Gower
An intriguing short with well-drawn (American) teens that was hampered for me by a confusion as to *where* these kids physically “are” in the story … Are they at Colton’s home? If so, why would Anna invite her boyfriend to Colton’s house? If they’re somewhere else, like a hotel, has Anna misguidedly thought this was a “gathering” of friends before the prom? I feel this needs pinning down. Also, why is Anna’s boyfriend seemingly not bothered by Anna’s proclamation and kiss to Colton at the end?
THE CYCLIST by David Griffith
A topical short where a cyclist is grifted by con artists pretending to break up is original, especially since we see many depictions of con artists beating (partner) women, so “heroes” will come to their rescue in scripts and on TV/Film. However I was troubled by the fact “Unshaven Man” was foreign, as I didn’t see what this added to the story or character.
DON’T by Aaron Ferguson
As every reader knows, suicide is staple of the short film, but DON’T is not the average “suicide short”, leaving us with hope rather than disaster. However, for me, the addition of the tennis ball felt contrived. I felt there were other ways the two potential suicides could communicate. A lot of people carry pens with them – so we wouldn’t have to suspend our disbelief – so what if they wrote on their bodies? They could start with the obvious, like hands and arms and grow from there, becoming more ridiculous, thus leading the audience to believe these two sad people could overcome the grief that took them to the top of the buildings in the first place.
ENOUGH by Kirsty McConnell
A tale of lost love, ENOUGH is a poignant little script that for the most part works well, but I felt I needed to know for sure whether Jack and Leila had been having an affair behind Thomas’ back, or whether they were an “item” BEFORE Thomas was on the scene.
FIRST, LAST, BEST by Jennifer Leigh Allen
Another poignant script, FIRST, BEST, LAST works well as it introduces us to Melissa’s life – right from the beginning, with her birth and taking us through the major milestones of her life, including infidelity. Somewhat ironically then, I felt it faltered when she met her “Mr Right”, as the tone of the script appears to switch abruptly from “snapshots” to in-depth detail. I would recommend her meeting with Jack, their first date, their marriage, etc was as much a “snapshot” as the rest – and without those cheesy glowing chests, which didn’t work for me (sorry!).
THE GREAT KISS HEIST by Nathanael Bauer
“A kiss from teacher” is an interesting concept and not having gone to school in 1974, I’m not in a position to argue as to whether this is “true” or not – but even if it’s not, this script is a great spin on the classic “run from one side of the picture to appear twice” prank that was so popular in old school photos. However, THE GREAT KISS HEIST is a classic example of “too much scene description spoils the broth” – that is, I needed to read it twice to “get” what was happening. I would recommend the writer hones it down to the important actions to make the story “clearer”.
HER … AND HIM by Chris Mueller
This is an original, enjoyable short and plays well to stereotypes without using them as a “short cut”. However, if Cupid is “chatting up” the Host, what is the “deal” he mentions? WHY does the host pick the Geek and the Hottie? I felt it needed pinning down, especially given the non-linear format.
I’LL STAND BY YOU by Emily Salter
This is a great short about the responsibilities single parenthood brings – and how potential partners have to fall in with them, if there’s any hope for the burgeoning relationship. However I was unconvinced the story “needed” to be non-linear – it felt more stylistic than story. What if it started with the date, before Steph was called away? Could feel more satisfying IMHO.
KISSES FROM JESSICA by Jess Smith
This is a shocking and sad short about the disgust between women and men, signified in the “relationship” between prostitute Jess and her punter Darius. I found myself feeling sorry for Darius though and felt Jess’ lesbianism was rather contrived: what if they BOTH had a need for each other, but hated each others’ guts, yet met on Valentine’s night? Immediately there’s an irony there. Equally, does Jessica “need” to be a prostitute? We’ve all had relationships that make us feel bad about ourselves and this short could really appeal on that level which the audience could relate to.
THE LAST SUPPER by Richard Green
The homeless couple in this story go against convention or stereotype, which is why I loved them and felt that overall, this was a good short. However, the ending felt as if it was to pull at heartstrings in an inorganic way; can’t two homeless people enjoy a Valentine’s meal without dying? What if the kitchen hand’s refusal of the ring WAS the resolution … perhaps the Man finds it under a napkin?
LOVE LETTERS by Sue Whitting
An original way of two lonely hearts meeting via an eye test, Alice reads out Thomas’ love message on the letters board. We know they’ll go off into the sunset together, but I had one issue: if Alice hasn’t met Thomas before, isn’t she going to be freaked out by him saying “I love you”? What if the message was, simply, DRINK? Or if love must be on the cards, what if Alice was an ex-girlfriend of Thomas’ and came in … and read out her OWN message “I’m sorry, I still love you”? (She could book in under a false name).
LUNCHTIME by Phil Charles
A great, tight little short with just one gripe from me: I felt the dream kiss and the actual kiss were a little close together, structurally. What could be gained if it came earlier?
THE MOMENT by Stephen Cooper
Inritguing stuff – I’ve never seen a potential victim “flirting” with his would-be killer before, yet have read plenty of Hitman scripts over the years. However, other than acknowledgement they had “a moment”, I guess I wanted to know what this MEANT for Thomas: will the Hitman spare him now … Or not? Which would play with our expectations more?
NEVER KISSED by Christopher Smith
This tale of so-called “honour killing” is shocking, but plays out in the same way as scripts I’ve read before on the subject, even down to the use of the plastic bag. I found myself wondering, “what if this was a WHITE family?” How could that play out, if “honour” was at stake? After all, haven’t we ALL been told, “I am very disappointed in you …” by parents?
ON THY CHEEKS A FADING ROSE by Andrew Turvill
Telling the story from an inanimate object’s view – in this case a rose – was really interesting and provides some first class visuals, particularly the rose in the lager can. However I did find the dialogue playing to stereotype and wondered – what if there was NONE?
NOT THAT GUY by Thorsten Hageman
The theme of this story appears to be “deny temptation”, which lots of audience members will be able to relate to – and I particularly liked the slamming shut of the bus doors as Ben makes his decision to go to Sasha. However I was a little confused it took him so long to change his mind and why he would go back to his wife if all he says to her is “Go back to sleep” – what is it that pulls him back to her? Is it *just* his marriage vows and the fact he feels it’s wrong? In which case, why not confess what he almost did – where would that take us?
A KISS GOODBYE by Tina Lowe
This is an evisceral short with shocking visuals and a complete contrast to many of the “warm fuzzy” scripts 50 Kisses received, so it’s not difficult to see why the reading team got heat for choosing this one. “A woman scorned …” is a classic theme for revenge, so I was a little disappointed to see abortion hinted at as the catalyst for the events, as this felt clichéd. Also what if WOMAN was Mark’s wife, rather than the mistress? I felt a LIFETIME of horror at Mark’s hands could be more reminiscent of the Lorena Bobbitt case in the 90s and give us more clue to WOMAN’s motivations.
ONE (DISTINCTLY AVERAGE) DATE LATER … By John Thornton
This is a fun short that plays to stereotype about male/female emotions, but I felt it didn’t quite go far enough in exploiting this, possibly because we spend a little long with the MIND character. What if MIND was not there and John – and thus the audience – had to figure out what he’d done (or not) by himself?
RED LIGHT by Ryan La Via
I liked the motif of the traffic lights in this short a lot, but felt clarity was an issue. Where is the female in the man’s car whose head bobs up at the end – is she giving him a blow job? Then why is he trying to peek at the woman in the other car? I felt like we were marking time until the reveal.
THE NEARNESS OF YOU by Sam Heydon
50 Kisses got lots of scripts set in the past and there’s a great sense of nostalgia to this one. We sense there is something going on between the two friends – possibly a relationship – but I felt it needed pinning down more. Is there any way to retain the subtlety, yet make this more overt, especially visually? Could something be gained by seeing Dianne and Angela in their more private moments before the dance?
TIED UP by Christopher D. Bacon
A heartfelt piece with a lovely message, but it suffers a little from uber-sentimentality in my opinion. What if the Down’s couple were the ones helping the “normal” couple? After all, many people are so busy, they neglect their relationships – and could have much to learn from those who are not in the “middle” of everything.
UNBEARABLE by Nick Luddington
This is an original take on the theme of breaking up – told from the POV of two teddy bears. The script “feels” to me as if the writer is directing from the page – where is the room for the filmmakers’ take? Also, I wondered if there was something to be gained from ignoring the human element altogether and making it just about the bears. What if this was a miniature Rom-Com: “Bear meets Bear – bears fall in love – bears break up”?
YOU NEVER BRING ME FLOWERS by Jo Buckman
This is another amusing Zombie short that plays with our expectations, but feels rather dialogue-led to me. What if we discovered more about the couple’s previous life from visuals, rather than Shelley? What if the reveal Stewie is a Zombie came later? What could be gained/lost?
NEIL by Nigel Karikari
An interesting story about what it means to be human and reminded me of that Bjork music video where she is a robot. I was unsure about the emotions hinted at here – why all the tears from Rita? Why is Neil “beautiful”? What is his purpose? What if Rita was cynical, rather than nervous? What if Neil actually changed her mind about him?
ROMANTIC HIDEAWAY by Kulvinder Gill
There are some class reversals to the writer’s story here – not only do we have the reveal Elena is Norman’s prisoner, she then ends up with the key on the wrong side of the door and she’s killed the only person able to save her! I guess then I wanted to know a little bit more about Elena as a character – how did she get kidnapped by Norman? How long has she been there? How has she been planning her escape? Just tweaks could do it.
SWALK by Mac McSharry
A good story that plays with our expectations – we think it will be Louise within the coffin, but it’s Jon in the style of Patrick Swayze’s character in GHOST. Nice! However, though the reveal is powerful, getting there feels a little familiar – the photos, the paint charts, etc. What could the writer substitute here to inject more “pizzazz”? Dig deep.
SLOPPY SNOGS by Honor Flaherty
The story behind this feels “set up” more like a sketch, for the end image of piss around Chantelle’s feet. What if Gary and Chantelle weren’t stereotypical “chav” types? How could we get to the piss then? Would it be more surprising/unusual?
SMASHEROO by James Howard
A heartfelt, insightful short about a man looking after his wife after a head injury. However I was left wondering if she “needs” to speak so much nonsense to get the audience to realise the gravity of her injury. What if she described something about their lives together – a breakthrough moment for her and Jay, where he and Padma can really connect – only for her to seemingly “disappear” again when the cat appears (except the cat really IS “Phil Hartman”?).
THAT GOOD NIGHT by Kenneth J. Lemm
Another heartfelt piece with lots of nostalgia, I was left wondering if Mara necessarily pulls her weight in the story and why is she disfigured? What if Mara wasn’t there – would this give more room to Angela and the baby and why they were estranged/distant before from Frank?
OTHER PEOPLE’S KISSES by Gabriella Apicella
This is an interesting take on “Be My Valentine” – an overenthusiastic, somewhat threatening man at a bus stop. Even better, there is no “knight in shining armour”: Marianne steps in to help Sophie instead. I did wonder if the images might be more powerful with no or very limited dialogue?
POSTER BOY by Tracey Flynn
This was an intriguing, non-dialogue short with potentially strong visuals (I really liked the origami flower), but the script left me wondering about Ava’s motivations: why is she so cut off from the world? If Jerome can’t get her attention at the time, why the poster later? I felt this needed pinning down a little more.
PRICELESS by Vanessa Yardley
This script is funny, with particularly amusing dialogue from Shandi when she describes her “services”. I did felt the KO to Gaz was a little convenient, however. What if Sam humiliated him, instead? Where could that lead us?
PROOF OF LOVE by Jesco Puluj
The tale of two saddoes who want to get into a disco free, I loved their mistake in this short, which made me laugh out loud. I did wonder if it could be funnier however if they were mismatched – but rather than the normal Female/Male “Beauty and the Geek” stereotype, the other way around?
Can’t wait to see the finished films! Good luck everybody.