Posted on July 15 2010 by James


“Shocking the Donkeys” is the working title of a romantic comedy feature-length movie project set on a remote Greek island with a passing resemblance to Symi.

I am currently working on the screenplay with a writing partner and we are hoping to have it completed by March 2011, ready for shooting next summer.

Through these pages, we hope, over the course of the next two years, to take you with us on the exciting journey from concept to film festival. We  want to share with you the whole creative process, the highs, the lows, everything – but without giving away too much of the story.

Yes, it’s a romantic comedy. But it also happens to be a romantic comedy involving a couple of gay men. So does that make it a gay romantic comedy?

We think, no. It happens to be a romantic comedy with gay characters. But the theme is universal and the issues concern everyone. The thematic argument (a term screenwriters like to use) is that true happiness, true love, and being true to the real you are so much more important than superficial considerations of sexuality, keeping up appearances, or conforming because that’s what other people expect of you. It’s about not living a lie. And that’s not just a gay issue.

Most films start with a “what if….?” Shocking the Donkeys starts with “What if a Greek man wanted to marry his gay partner on an island where this had never happened before?” How would everyone involved react?

A gay marriage on a traditional Greek island is just what screenwriters call “cultural encoding”. It could just have easily been about a Moslem from a conservative family wanting to marry a Christian, or any other kind of marriage that would fiercely test the cultural norms and cause a community crisis. Many such examples exist in the world today where people are forced, or force themselves, into unhappy marriages because they’re expected to conform. They are living the lie, and they are often deeply unhappy yet trapped by their sense of duty to stick it out.

And “Shocking the Donkeys” is a comedy. So, although there are important, universal issues, there will also be plenty to laugh about as well. Sometimes the deepest issues are best explored with the lightest touch.

We intend for Shocking the Donkeys to be shot on a genuine, small Greek island sometime next summer. Finding the right island will be all part of the creative process which we will share with you. If “Mama Mia!” is anything to go by, the lucky island that becomes the set for “Greek Island” can expect a multi-million dollar boost in tourism. And we hope to give several locals the chance to appear as extras. Who knows where that may lead for them?

At the moment (July 2010), we’re still in what screenwriters call “the structuring stage”. It may surprise you to learn that actually writing the dialogue happens right at the end, and can still be going on right up to the moment of shooting. Before that, the theme, characters, plot, are all worked out in detail, revised, re-written, and changed, and then the scenes are mapped out. Once the “spine” of the story is fixed, then the dialogue can begin. And that too will be re-written and re-written until everyone is happy, including the actors who have to deliver the lines.

Side by side with all that goes the business. “Shocking the Donkeys” is only a roughly sketched idea at the moment, but already wine companies are interested in sponsoring the completed film round the international festival circuit, potential distributors and backers want to be kept informed, and potential producers are asking for more details.

As and when we can, we will share all this with you through our pages. So keep coming back here for more. Come with us on this journey, and feel free to have your say. You never know. We may take on board one of your suggestions and include it in the screenplay. If so, expect a mention in the thanks.

Let’s not beat about the bush. We’re in this for the money and the fame. Of course we are. But we’re going to have a lot of fun too, and no doubt a lot of stress and pain, and days of difficult decisions. But when we have our altruistic hat on, we also hope to give something back to Greece, especially at a time when internationally it’s getting such a bad press. We hope “Shocking the Donkeys” will remind audiences of what Greece is really all about. And we hope too that people will ride with our message of not letting outdated prejudice stand in the way of people’s happiness. All will be revealed.


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