Fire breaks out at a famous London hotel. A bathrobed hero emerges from the flames carrying the woman who loves him. They kiss and find themselves on the world’s front pages; their moment of passion and courage inspires a new perfume. Then our hero goes back to his wife…
If that sounds like a pitch for a romantic comedy, you’ve guessed right. I’m the writer, and I can’t resist pitching. You never know when a hedge fund manager might be reading…
Seriously, every film story needs a crucible in which characters are trapped until they work through their demons or face ruin. I always knew mine would be the world of perfume, but for several drafts I didn’t know why.
I thought it was about glamour, fantasy and a serenely calm and fragrant public world at odds with the story’s private arena of anger, old grievances, betrayal, insecurity and…yes, it is still a romantic comedy.
Then I realised perfume had to be at the heart of the story because it is about the memories that surround one moment captured in a picture. Memories that differ for each character.
Linda — the leading lady who is rescued from the hotel fire and then dumped by her married lover — can’t remember the moment for what it was: an honest and true moment when two people forgot their emotional ties. All she sees is a man she loved who was about to dump her. She only remembers the moment’s future.
Harry — the fire hero — sees the moment and remembers how his courage collapsed into cowardice because he wasn’t sure he could be that man for the rest of his life.
Steve — the man who replaced Harry in Linda’s heart — sees Harry’s and Linda’s big moment and fears he’s not made of that kind of heroic stuff.
Ralph — the photographer who made Harry and Linda famous — remembers snapping two people who had cheated death, who had looked the devil in the eye and said: ‘Not today. We’re in love, and you can’t touch us.’
Pierre — the perfumer so inspired by the moment that he turns it into a fragrance — deludes himself that the moment can return exactly as it once was, if only he can reunite the couple who were his muse.
These are a few of the people I spend my life with. Writers need to find themselves in each of their characters and Pierre hits a major nerve with me. He’s ridiculous in many ways, too precious to operate in the real world. He channels perfume from a universe not known to mere mortals, coming to life only when talking about fragrance and protected from reality by his adoring wife Christine.
Well, I regularly become pompous and authorial about writing generally and film stories in particular. Then I can’t be bothered about the nitty-gritty of real life. Pierre cries when his creation is dragged through the dirt by the very people who inspired him, and cries again when he feels his world is ending. Again, er…me. And, like me, Pierre often wears sunglasses indoors — sometimes to hide the tear tracts on his face. How can you not love him?
He deserves a reward for being put through hell. He deserves more than a fictional perfume. He deserves a real one. So we’re going to make life imitate art. Why shoot a film with a mocked-up perfume that’s probably tea in a bottle when you can have a real fragrance, inspired by the same moment in the story?
But I’m a writer, not a perfumer. So I’ve found our real-life equivalent of Pierre — John Stephen, of The Cotswold Perfumery — who is creating a character I can write, but can’t cast. John can bring this character off the page and into real life. In time, we hope that you can not only see the film, but also buy the perfume. If there are any hedge fund managers reading, that was another pitch for funding…
We want romance, courage, fire, honesty and forgiveness, all in the one bottle. So no pressure, John. Before he bolts for the exit, I should stress that no real-life perfumers will be harmed in the making of this film…
You can find us on Facebook at thekissmovie, on the web at thekissmovie.uk.com and fundraising on indiegogo (at http://bit.ly/12Ztina until 5 August) with perfume perks as our thanks for support.