She wrote the script of Robert Anthony Padilla‘s Graduation Afternoon Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Marie D. Jones: My name is Marie D. Jones. I’m an author of fiction, non-fiction, and novellas. I have over 24 books in print with several more under contract. I also write screenplays and I have been optioned over the years by a number of production companies, currently working with two in particular. I also wrote and co-produced my first short film in 2018, KINGS BOULEVARD, and then wrote and co-produced GRADUATION AFTERNOON in 2019. I am planning on doing my first feature soon.
I am a widely published writer with hundreds of credits in magazines and publications, and I’ve contributed to over 150 inspirational books working with Publications, International for the last 20 years. I’ve been on over two thousand radio shows worldwide, and appear on the History Channel shows, ANCIENT ALIENS and NOSTRADAMUS EFFECT.
I have been writing and telling stories all my life, and began selling short stories in my teenage years to men’s magazines that published horror and science fiction, and to science fiction magazines. As a teenager, I also wrote reviews and features for several entertainment related publications
I live in Northern San Diego county and have a teenage son, with whom I have written a middle grade novel series, EKHO: EVIL KID HUNTING ORGANIZATION.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a screenwriter?
Marie D. Jones: It was in 1977, the day CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was released. It’s my favorite movie for personal reasons, and before then I was focused on fiction and non-fiction, but seeing that movie made me realize I could tell stories visually writing screenplays, and I began writing scripts and taking clases and mentorships shortly after that. I still pursued fiction, but really focused on scripts and moved to L.A. eventually, where I got an agent, pitched around, wrote more scripts, signed deals, lost deals, wrote some more scripts, signed more deals, got a new agent, and so on and so on, etc…I realized it was something you had to commit to for the long haul!
SKSM: How do you communicate with a director to design a screenwriter strategy for a film?
Marie D. Jones: I had never met Rob Padilla, the director, before, so it was intimidating. And it was my first time being on set, since I was not able to be on set for my first short film. But Rob and I hit it off from the start and he was the most professional collaborator and director. We had the general short story selection and narrowed it down to a few, then chose GRADUATION AFTERNOON from King’s book, JUST AFTER SUNSET, and we began meeting and discussing the way we wanted to present it. I wrote a first draft and Rob did a rewrite and we went back and forth several times until he was happy with the script. It was a smooth process and one we hope to translate soon into working on a feature together.
We communicated mostly via Messenger, but also meeting in person, and emails. Thank God for technology, it’s made everything so much easier!
SKSM: You worked in a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King short story. It was your most challenging film?
Marie D. Jones: I would say so but mainly because it was the first film I got to be totally involved with and on set for, so I was immediately immersed in the crazy world of filmmaking. It was also challenging because the story in JUST AFTER SUNSET as King wrote it had very little dialog and action, and I had to really créate a scenario around that story with our interpretation layered in. It ended up being a lot of fun to do and I think we nailed it by presenting something that is both an adaptation and an interpretation that keeps the original spirit and tone.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Marie D. Jones: It is one of the shorter stories available for Dollar Babies, and yet it is incredibly powerful. It looks at class systems and the rich/poor divide, while also presenting grace and hope under duress and how ultimately, love alone is eternal. So there are many powerful elements just below the visual surface at work in this story. There are no monsters or demons or strange creatures. It is a purely human story, yet also one that shocks and horrifies in its own way.
SKSM: Can you tell us about the filming steps? Funny things that happened so far (Bloopers, etc).
Marie D. Jones: I basically found out about Dollar Babies and asked my friend and colleague, producer Luke Pensabene, if he thought we could do one. He got back to me within a few days with a “yes” and the beginnings of the crew! Rob Padilla was on board to direct, so we connected then about script. From there it happened pretty quickly, with getting the contract, having the team assembled, thanks to Luke, we got the script finalized and did a table read, and then casting and locations. It was literally boom, boom, boom, with everything falling into place because of the great people Luke had assembled and his own ability to supervise all of the chaos.
We shot it over the course of three weekends and everyone really had a great time. It was a good learning experience for me, but also a chance for many of us to bond and see who worked together well for future projects! It succeeded on all fronts, I believe.
I was really amazed at how much work was involved in all áreas of the making of this film, and how willing and capable people were. They all truly rose to the occasion and contributed so much of their energy and effort, espcially Rob and Luke. It was really something to watch. Again, being my first time on a film set, I was just sort of dumbstruck most of the time, trying to make myself available to do whatever was needed, but also stay out of the way. I remain so grateful for every single person involved and how much effort went into this idea of mine to do a Dollar Baby having no clue at the time what was involved. I sure did learn!
The one memory that most stands out for all of us is Luke Pensabene, a former Marine, bellowing QUIET ON THE SET! And literally rendering everyone speechless!!! It worked and we always had dead quiet when we neede it!
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Marie D. Jones: I am always under contract for new non-fiction books, so I have three I have to write through 2021. I also have a contract for a horror novel with another publisher, for reléase in summer of 2021. I am writing two new screenplays with my production partner, Denise A. Agnew, and book three in the middle grade series with my son. I just turned in a script for a new short with the director of KINGS BOULEVARD, Neil Payne, called RED, WHITE, AND YOU. And perhaps doing a feature with the same team from GRADUATION AFTERNOON later this year.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Marie D. Jones: Oh, a huge fan, in fact, his book THE STAND remains the main reason I wanted to write novels, and is my all-time favorite novel. I read it the week it came out eons ago, and even own a collector’s edition, which is somewhere in my storage room. I was so enamored of his ability to write the scariest material, yet set it amidst everyday, ordinary people and places, and love his use of Americana elements that suck you into the story from page one and créate a sense of comfort and familiarity before he terrifies you. I also love that he ventured into screenwriting and producing movies and series based on his work. And he has a wonderful writer wife and son, too!
His DARK TOWER SERIES is my all-time favorite book series and something I can honestly say I wish I had written myself! So I am not just a fan from a reader’s perspective, but mainly from a writer’s.
I would KILL to write the script for BLACK HOUSE, INSOMNIA, or REGULATORS… A girl can dream!
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Marie D. Jones: My first dream was to be a jockey, and I am an avid horse racing fan. As a child, my idol was Man O’ War, a racehorse. It was a love I shared with my father, who was a scientist, yet who also loved the great racehorses. As early as 6 or 7 I could tell you which legendary horses won which races and what their stats were. I now own shares in several racehorses.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Something you’d like to tell our readers?
Marie D. Jones: Stephen King inspired me and so many others to write novels and make films. Find who inspires you and model them and their work, and never give up. Two years ago I had no idea I would be making short films. Life is full of surprises when you stay open to them!