screenwriter to watch
Jon Jones is a writer and director working primarily in the UK. Recently he completed Last Summer, his first feature film, which is due for release in North America & the UK in May 2019. Previously he has directed numerous dramas for British Television including the award winning ‘When I’m 64′ (Prix Europa – Best TV FIlm),’ The Diary of Anne Frank’, ‘The Alan Clark Diaries’ (DGGB Best Director), ‘A Very Social Secretary’ (Broadcast Press Award – Best Film), ‘Northanger Abbey’, ‘American Odyssey’ and most recently the TV adaptation of ‘Hanna’ for Amazon Prime.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
In some ways I’m still looking to break in! My first Screen writing job came from an act of blind faith by a producer who entrusted me with the job of adapting Alan Clark’s diaries. I think she probably had a back-up plan as I was principally a director with an interest in writing. I really went for it, getting up at 5am every day to hit the deadlines and it turned out pretty well. It’s taken me 12 years to get something I’ve written on screen again (after a couple of near misses) with my feature film ‘Last Summer’.
Writer/Director: Last Summer, Alan Clark Diaries, Director: Hanna.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
It’s a long game and it’s never over. I think we all spend sleepless nights asking ourselves what the heck we’re going to do when it seems like what we want to do just isn’t working out. Tenacity is everything.
Always be open to criticism. Any note is a good note because even if you disagree with it you’ll be putting yourself in a position to analyze your work and test whether its robust.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
The end scene. I’ve heard writers talk about scripts dropping – when finally they can see clearly what the story is about, allowing them to know precisely how each beat should play out. For me that starts with the ending. I find it hard to write anything unless I have a really good sense of the end scene. For me, it’s only when I’m writing that those moments of inspiration come. The hours of staring blankly at the screen are therefore crucial to the process and that’s the only way I know how to navigate that particular challenge.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I’ve worked in the industry as a director for a fair chunk of time now and there have been a plenty of twists and turns on the way. In terms of writing, when I had success with my adaptation of The Alan Clark Diaries I expected a writing career to fall into my lap. That’s a mistake. You’ve got to be working on it all the time, pushing out the ideas and defining the work you want to do.
What are you working on right now?
It’s early stages but I’m researching the English civil war and wondering how that conflict looked from a teenage point of view.
What are some of your favorite movies?
For me, Francis Ford Coppola made some of the greatest movies ever. The Conversation is one of my favorites. Billy Wilder also stuns me with his brilliance – The Apartment being one of the few perfect films in existence. More recently I think the Europeans have been doing some amazing work – Jacques Audiard’s ‘The Prophet’ was stand out for me. In the US, Adam Mckay’s The Big Short was sublime – but I still sit down at Christmas with my family in front of Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Billy Wilder for his awesome structural powers, Adam McKay for his ability to make the complex simple and with such great wit, Coppola for his range and audacity and Robert Bolt for his intelligence and idealism.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
Austin was memorable on so many levels but catching Tony Piantedosi of Gravitas Ventures the day before he flew out and getting him to see our film changed everything for us when he offered us a US distribution deal.