Writer Emma Jenson catches up with Cinemax owner Stephen Buge after a Q&A and screening of Emma's first movie Mary Shelley at Cinemax.
Writer Emma Jenson catches up with Cinemax owner Stephen Buge after a Q&A and screening of Emma's first movie Mary Shelley at Cinemax.

Seachange switches the script for local screenwriter

TWEED Coast-based screenwriter Emma Jenson is fast building up an enviable portfolio.

Her first filmed screenplay Mary Shelley came out earlier this year, another about the life of iconic Australian singer songwriter Helen Reddy is filming and she is currently working on bringing How (Not) To Start An Orphanage (the story of Australian Tara Winkler who established the Cambodian Children's Trust).

The talented long-time film industry employee turned to writing in recent times after more than 18 years in the industry and has taken to it like a duck to water but her change in job and recent move from the city to the coast hasn't been without some crazy experiences.

And while having a critically acclaimed first film and getting to see a second actually turning from screenplay to film is surreal enough imagine going to the local studio to do some relaxing yoga and finding the cinema next door is showing your movie. Not only did that happen but owner of Cinemax Kingscliff, Stephen Buge put on a special screening and invited Emma to do a Q&A.

"It's a treat to do a Q&A like 500 metres from your home," she laughed before heading in to talk to the audience (which included her biggest fan - her mum).

Growing up in Brisbane, Emma has trekked around the world living in London and LA before deciding to come home, where she met her husband Jason before eventually making a sea change to the Tweed.

"We were big citied out, we just wanted a smaller community, we loved the beach," she said explained adding she's not regretting it either.

"I've just been in Sydney for two week's it's crazy.

"You've got to have normal - that's been the good thing about living here because you can step out of it (the movie industry) and get a bit of real world, a bit of perspective on it."

While she wrote Mary Shelley - the story of how a young woman who wrote one of the most influential novels of all time - in Brisbane, it was the quiet seaside town of Kingscliff that proved the perfect place to write her latest script.

The Helen Reddy movie - aptly titled I am Woman is being made by acclaimed director Unjoo Moon in both Sydney and the US and stars the up and coming Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

"With Helen I used her biography as source material but I researched outside of that as well because Helen is selective about what she shares," Emma explained.

"And she is alive so you are very conscious of that and of the family. It has been done with Helen's full support and the family's support. But it was a big research project.

"Hopefully it will come out at the end of next year on Transmission (like Mary Shelley)."

While there was no source book and the idea for the Mary Shelley movie was all her own, this time around Emma was sought out for the project.

"Helen Reddy came to me through the producer Rosemary Blight who did the Sapphires and the director Unjoo Moon. Unjoo had met Helen at one of those Australians in LA things and said you have a great story I'd love to tell it. Then they approached me and asked if I'd consider writing. I love music stories and this has music, feminism, the 70s - so it was tick, tick, tick, tick for me. And it had an iconic song."

However Emma admits that going in she didn't know a lot about Reddy.

"And that was the thing, at first I thought great I have to read the book and work out what's my way in because it can't just be a linear kind of thing you know this happened and then that happened - which a lot of these stories do become," she said.

"The focus is on her friendship with Lillian Roxon who is a rock journalist in New York and then the manager/husband Geoff Wald."

She said it was all a totally different process from working on Mary Shelley.

"I've been in the film industry for 18 years now and kind of in that time I've come across Frankenstein a few times, I studied it at school and then I read a book Intellectuals which is kind of like the divide between men, art, politics," Emma said.

"I guess that whole debate that has come up again about separating the man from the artist and Shelley was one of the case studies. So reading about their relationship through that lens was fascinating. I picked up Frankenstein again and thought Mary's stories amazing why has no one told this story. That would have been in my early 20s so it's been this really long time of going why has no one done this, why has no one done this."

And finally it happened and here she was in her new little home town with her mother and friends and a crowd of locals watching the movie that she wrote and was executive producer of.

"It was surreal because this is the thing you have worked towards for so long and then when it happens it was amazing," she said.

Hopefully she will have an even more surreal experience in the next 18 months when I Am Woman is released and hopefully finds its way to the small Art House theatre not far from where it was written!     

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