I’ve been putting off penning this blog post for a while. Self-reflection isn’t a skill which I exercise very often, but here goes.
I first encountered Chris Jones at Bournemouth University during the Southern Screenwriting Festival. The lecture was framed around Chris’ experience with his short “Gone Fishing” and shooting for an Oscar.
Afterwards, I can remember thinking one thing. “Man, that guy is ambitious!” It was refreshing, especially in a country where ambition can sometimes be found wanting.
So, when I heard about the 50 Kisses Competition, an initiative which was planning to theatrically release a feature film comprised of short films, I was psyched to take my shot. I studied Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth Uni, and was lucky enough to be surrounded by other creatives and writers for three whole years. We were encouraged to enter as many competitions as possible and so I booted up Final Draft and hammered out the two pages that would become A Ghetto Punk Romance.
The primary objective of my writing has always been to entertain (or attempt to at least), rather than deliver a social statement or convey a deeply personal experience. Other screenwriters do this magnificently but it isn’t my forte. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write something less conventional than a straight up romantic kiss. My first idea was a “Glasgow Kiss” which I dismissed, thinking it may have been pushing the rules. Now it’s clear I wasn’t the only one with that idea.
Instead I decided to use the required “kiss” as a jump-off point; a device to spark a conversation. I knew early on that I wanted the conversation to have nothing to do with the characters’ actions. Inspired by writers like Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, I adore the juxtaposition of mundane small talk and extreme action. Ultimately, I decided to use this action (armed robbery) as the script’s final exclamation point. Finally, the hypothesis of “love as chemical addiction” provided a healthy point of contention between the main characters, inspired by a friend’s similar diatribe.
I finished the script in a day and was gifted the cool title by a friend (Thanks Henry). Away it went, whizzing through the interweb, and out of my hands. However, here’s where my story differs from most of the other 50 Kisses writers. I was longlisted, along with dozens of my fellow Bournemouth Uni students. Good stuff. Then I was shortlisted – Great. But, I didn’t make it into the final fifty. “Ah well,” I thought “Better luck next time”. It was hardly the first time I hadn’t succeeded in a competition. Thankfully Arron Ferguson (Don’t) and John Thornton (Getting Ahead of Yourself), friends and course-mates both, had gotten through with their attempts, so not all was lost.
I carried on with my life, until a few weeks later when I got a phone-call. I had just woken up so can’t recall the specifics, but, due to some unforeseen problems with two of the chosen 50 Kisses, the producers had decided to replace them. A Ghetto Punk Romance was back in the race and this time, there to stay.
Over the next few months I consulted with several directors interested in shooting Ghetto Punk. Having written short films before, I’m all too aware that script tweaks are essential and was happy to provide these to any film-makers who asked. This ranged from changing the robbery location to adjusting the climate. Collaboration is my favourite part of the writing process and this feeling continued throughout the 50 Kisses project. Any time I get to see a director’s interpretation of something I created with my imagination, Christmas comes early.