What is the REAL value in entering 50 Kisses?

When 50 Kisses offered the opportunity to be included in the making of a feature, and particularly one with a theatre release, I jumped at the chance.

The concept was that Chris called for 2 page scripts loosely based on ‘a kiss’. From over 2000 entries he selected the top 50 and put them on-line for filmmakers to choose from, to make a film.

Like everyone here, I read all the scripts. I took the advice offered and chose tactically. There was only one other team declaring for the ‘heist’ and further, from the comments, I could see that people really liked the ‘aah’ factor but were afraid of the problem of adults kissing kids on film. It’s the age we live in I guess. I could see a solution to the script other than setting it in the 70’s while still remaining true to the essence of the story. I phones Nathanael (the writer) with my ideas and he seemed happy with the changes. My strong connection to stories set in school is also because my daughter, my wife, her mother, both my mother and father and both my grandmothers were all teachers. Indeed my mum and dad taught me in school. So as far as background knowledge and access to locations were concerned I believed I would be better off than most.

Wrong ! My local school flatly refused my request on the grounds that they didn’t like the idea of even being associated with a film where a child (ONLY ONE in my version) gets a kiss. A child being beaten up in the playground – they would be OK with that. I fell into despair. Cue, my good friend and rock of sense – the principal of another local school – Gerard Fahy who could see the beauty and innocence of the story. He invited the parents of the junior classes to meet me. They were all excited to have their children involved. Then I began to really examine the school classroom. Windows on the ground floor a child could climb through. Just the right number of children in the room. A room filled with colour and light. My main actor ‘James’ could be played by a six year old, with freckles on his rosy cheeks and some missing front baby teeth. I spoke with their teacher Sorcha, a beautiful young woman with flowing blond hair that every child in the room was completely in love with. She agreed to take part, it couldn’t get any better than this. I can’t say enough about the great support I received from the school and the parents.

I asked that the children should not wear their school uniform as I felt it would make them more childlike and more comfortable. The plan was to complete filming in two half days. Ya, like that was ever going to work. My main problem working with the children was their interest in the camera. They would constantly look at it to see where it was pointing. The other problem was a look to me ‘was that OK?’ milli-seconds after completing each take. I solved that problem by extending every instruction to include a small action I could cut out. So much for working with kids. Animals on the other hand are a different matter. I purchased ‘Bubbles’ and his tank for the school and he (she) is now a happy resident there. He swam about with great vigour for the first two days. When his turn came to be filmed, he decided to rest at the bottom of the tank and no effort could encourage him to move. Luckily, I had filmed him on his arrival and could cut in that footage.

I sent in my entry before the deadline and waited to see what would happen. An email saying that the films would be uploaded to be commented on and given a chance to re-edit. Some frantic emails to Chris which finally ended with – ‘you don’t have to upload’.  Why did I not upload ? – Because,  It is very common advice and indeed a stated requirement from most of the top festivals that the film should not have appeared on-line. I paid everyone, cast and crew. My RED Epic is and expensive beast and even more expensive is the time I invested in this film. I considered this as a career advancing, professional film. At that stage and indeed even as I write this, I don’t know if my film will be used in the feature. I must admit I felt that I had annoyed Chris and his team by not doing so and have damaged my chances in the competition. So be it. I must protect the future careers of the crew who gave so generously of their talent, and make sure that the film will reward their efforts to the maximum possible.

Did I loose out by not uploading ? – YES I DID. The educational value for the filmmakers was immense and evident, particularly when you look at the second edit. The comments (in the main) were constructive and supportive. The ability to see the different interpretations of each script I’m sure was valuable for both writer and filmmaker. I choose to loose out on that.

Now the competition has taken another turn. The effect of some scripts not being completed, some of not a high enough quality and others where more than one film could make the grade. Life sucks Chris. There has been a number of blogs trying to work out a solution, and what is evident is that you can’t please all the people all the time. What is absolutely clear however is that Chris is trying as hard as he knows how to make this project into the success it deserves to be. In that, he has my solid support.

Chris advised everyone to enter for film festivals and promote their film. I have done this with great success. The first five festivals I submitted to accepted my film. This included the very prestigious ‘Newport Beach’. I attended that festival and write on the experience on my website. www.bigideafilms.ie  The film will play in at least 5 festivals, but I expect, a lot more than that, based on the response from selectors and audience.

I am very grateful to be involved in this project, and have learned a huge amount thanks to the process. Through his books, his website, the excellent ‘gone fishing’ seminar and indeed his ‘Hollywood field trip’ – Chris is one of the top educators of our time in this industry.

Big Idea Films


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