Rhys Howell on writing his 50 Kisses script ‘Boxes’ – interview by Michelle Goode

ImageThen someone said, again on Twitter I think but not directed at me, that if you weren’t able to complete a 2 page script which could be made and released theatrically, how serious, really, were you about this writing malarkey? This hit a nerve with me and got me back at my laptop typing away. After all there I was with an opportunity to turn from an ideas man into a doer and I was hanging back because it may be a little bit tough. What was the worst that could happen? If it was a disaster, at least it would be a learning experience.

What’s the film about?

What happens in each version, the original and the rewrite, is quite different. They both involve a man, who finds himself confronted by a woman he loves, whom he thought was dead. However who that woman is and the nature of their relationship is very different in each. What the film is about is the same in both; how those we love stay with us throughout our lives. Whether that’s literal or metaphorical is up to you.

 Where did you get the idea from?

The idea started out as a love story between two boxes. I figured it’d be easy for anyone to find two boxes willing to star in their film. I have no idea where that original idea sprang from; probably not enough sleep. Eventually it was rejected due to it feeling too static. So this then altered to being about 2 people inside these boxes, then to just one person in a box. I figured a person-sized box wouldn’t just be lying around the house, so set the original version in a warehouse. The main character of Stan was old, as I think I’d been reading an article about the lack of roles for older actors that week so thought I’d do my bit to address that. Unfortunately this then did lead me into the cliché of the older men/younger women love story. The rest of the basic story just seemed to follow from there.

What did you like about the challenge?

Having a deadline and a tight page limit really brought out the best in me. The original draft was about 3 pages so I had to lose a 3rd before submitting it. It really helped to boil down the essentials of the story.

How did you manage to condense the story into just 2 pages?

I used the trick of finding sentences which just slipped a word onto another line then reworded them to shorten the sentence and give me a whole extra line to play with elsewhere.

What did you think of the experience?

I loved the experience of 50 Kisses. It was also exciting to be part of a new way of making a film, crowd sourced from start to end.

What did you learn about writing?

I learnt loads. To start with it taught me the importance of rewriting and listening to notes. If you take a look, you can see the initial version I submitted and the feedback I received from the producers. I weighed up what I was being told and decided I could implement them whilst maintaining the heart of the story. This led to a vastly different “Attic Draft”. Both versions have their champions and I’m hard pressed to pick between them. It taught me to decide what is negotiable in a rewrite and what I’m going to put my foot down on.

What did you learn about filming?

It taught me to be aware of whom you are writing for. 50 Kisses was a no-budget production and looking back now I can see the elements of both versions which made it harder to film with that budget. It needs special effects, an older actor to have romantic clinch with a younger actor, a setting (Warehouse) that we don’t all have access to. The “Attic Draft” attempts to solve some of these issues but raised issues of its own. Its probably no coincidence that it is the Attic Draft which was filmed rather than the initial draft.

Anything else?

It taught me not to count my chickens before they hatch. The 50 Kisses initiative was and is a new crowd-sourced way of making a film and as such there’s no roadmap for how it should work. This has meant some things have changed since the launch, in order to make a more solid feature length film. As such my piece will not be incorporated in quite the manner originally thought, although it will still be appearing. I’m not complaining, its just a reminder that until its on the screen, anything can happen.

Do you think, if there is one, you’ll take part in the next big challenge?

Oh definitely. It’s been a great experience, both in terms of learning and just sheer enjoyment. I’d encourage everyone to give it a go.

What advice would you give to a writer approaching a 2-page script for a challenge like this?

Write the first draft with abandon but try to remember who you’re writing it for. After you’ve done that, its time to edit your work mercilessly. Each word has to earn its place, especially when you’ve got such a tight page limit.

Rhys Howell is a writer based in Sheffield,UK, who’s just starting out. After some success with the 50 Kisses initiative, Rhys is currently working in an office during the day, spending evenings crafting intricate fictional worlds on paper or throwaway Improv comedy on stage. He’s currently working on getting a personal website up and running but until then he’s on twitter: @ghop56

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