SheSociety had the chance to ask Brisbane born, Emma Jensen, a few questions about writing the screenplay of newly released Mary Shelley starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth.
I have always wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, however I only really got the nerve to pick up my pen (or put my fingers on the laptop keys!) 8 years ago. I studied film and television at university with the hopes of becoming a screenwriter but somewhere in my post-university years I lost my confidence. Instead, I got my first job in the industry at UK company FilmFour back in 2000, I started as a producers assistant and in that environment became interested in working in script development. When I returned to Australia I then worked for a number of years as a Development Executive for companies such as Working Title Australia and Mushroom Pictures and also as a script editor/assessor. However, the desire to write remained and it was only when I moved to Los Angeles to pursue working in development, that I unwittingly unlocked my writers block! I co-wrote a book that was optioned by Working Title for a TV series adaptation and although we didn’t pursue publication of the book, the sale was a turning point in my career and I have been writing ever since.
Mary Shelley speaks in her prologue to Frankenstein about her deep desire to write but was in search of a story – this resonated with me, in my own journey to becoming a writer (not that I by any means compare myself to Mary Shelley!) Her determination, authenticity and courage were also very inspiring to me. What was of utmost importance to me in the process was bringing Mary’s story to light – I believe Mary Shelley is an unsung hero, we all know Frankenstein but so few know the woman who brought us this incredible, ground breaking piece of work that spawned the science fiction genre.
The struggle of Mary Shelley to be recognised as a writer, that she would have to fight to assert herself as the author of the work, feels resonant because as women, I still feel we can be dictated to as to the stories we should be telling and equally, that Mary should be judged as a woman daring to tell such a story. Also, Mary’s choice to buck against the expectations of society mightn’t seem as shocking today at first glance, but I wonder how we still perceive those choosing to live outside societal norms.
My intention in telling this story was to bring Mary Shelley to centre stage at last – arguably we would have seen this story on screen by now if Frankenstein were written by a man! I never envisaged the movie would land at this time with the rise of the #metoo movement and similarly the fight for women’s voices and stories to be heard, so I would hope that the movie provides a contribution.
On this journey of writing Mary Shelley, I realised that very few people know the story of Mary Shelley, and many more were shocked to learn Frankenstein was written by a woman – let alone an 18 year old. Mary’s life was incredibly unconventional for the Regency period setting, which we are used to experiencing through such works as Jane Austen’s, so I think Mary’s incredible journey will offer the audience many surprises!