This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
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Next up: an interview with Nicole Jones-Dion, author of Dracula-The Dark Prince and Tekken 2
Nicole Jones-Dion is an award-winning screenwriter who specializes in genre films. After starting out in the video game industry, she then segued into comics, television and film. Her feature credits include DRACULA – THE DARK PRINCE, starring Academy Award-winner Jon Voight; and TEKKEN 2, based on the best-selling martial arts video game. She has also written on assignment for producers Sean Cunningham (FRIDAY THE 13TH), Mark Lester (COMMANDO), and Barney Cohen (SABRINA THE TEENAGED WITCH), among others.
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
My very first writing assignment was for Kickstart Entertainment (the company that produced WANTED, starring Angelina Jolie). My manager told them I had a background in comics, so they sent me a box full of graphic novels that they’d optioned and asked if I’d be interested in adapting one of them to the screen. The one that really jumped out at me was a psychological thriller about a girl with multiple personalities called THE SCRIBBLER by Daniel Schaffer. Even after Kickstart’s option expired, I was still very passionate about the material. Flash forward a few years, and I introduced it to New Artists Alliance and Caliber Media who ultimately produced a film with Katie Cassidy (from ARROW) playing the lead.
- Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
The original script I wrote for THE SCRIBBLER was (and continues to be) a writing sample that’s opened a lot of doors for me. Through it, I connected with director Pearry Teo at the San Diego Comic-Con and we’ve gone on to collaborate on a number of projects since then, including DRACULA – THE DARK PRINCE (starring Jon Voight) and TEKKEN 2, both of which were produced by Crystal Sky (of the GHOST RIDER franchise) and distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
DRACULA was a whirlwind project – Pearry brought me on board to help with the script in March and by October, he was shooting. Luckily, Pearry and I had worked together on a few other scripts prior to that, so we’d already established a good workflow and communication shorthand. This became critical, especially when he was on location in Romania and I was working here in LA. During the shoot, I’d get notes at midnight LA time for scenes that would need to be re-written that night so they could film them in Romania the following morning. It was pretty intense.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
I would say convincing the producer to take a chance on a new writer. I’d written more than 10 scripts at that point, but I was still considered “unproven.” Luckily I had a fantastic champion in my corner who fought to bring me on the project. After that, it was up to me to prove that I belonged there.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
Check your ego at the door. Being easy to work with is as important, if not more so, than actually being able to write. Film is a collaborative medium. If you’re a writer who doesn’t play well with others, you might need to find a new sandbox.
- What are you working on now?
Right now I’m juggling a couple different writing assignments. I’m finishing up a post-apocalyptic sci-fi script, as well as a supernatural thriller for Sean Cunningham (creator of FRIDAY THE 13TH). I’m in the process of negotiating an option on one of my zombie scripts. Pearry and I are talking about collaborating on our next project, so I’m looking forward to working with him again. In addition to that, I’ve directed a little short film called DEBRIS which is wrapping up post-production in the next week or so, then off to the festival circuit.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
Ooo… hard to limit it to just one. I’m a huge fan of the original THE OMEN, but I really dig a lot of the old 1970s horror films. For TV, I’m currently hooked on GAME OF THRONES, but I love the fact that there are so many genre options on TV these days!
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
For better or worse, I don’t think adaptations and remakes are going away any time soon. They’re an easier sell because they (theoretically) have a built-in audience. Universal has taken a counter-programming strategy that seems to be working really well for them this year, so I expect to see more of that in the future.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
Everyone dreams of landing the six-figure spec sale, but the reality is the majority of jobs for writers in this industry are on assignment. So don’t ever give up on your spec. Even if it doesn’t sell, it can still be used as a calling card to showcase your skills.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
I’m a workaholic, so I don’t have much of a life, LOL. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading scripts, watching movies, going to workshops or other industry networking events. Luckily, I love what I do, so that makes it a lot easier. Whenever I do have some spare time, I practice martial arts (I actually broke my finger during Jeet Kune Do practice while I was working on DRACULA and had to type in a splint!). My husband is a huge board game aficionado, so we play a ton of games. And we have 3 rescue dogs who demand lots of belly rubs.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
I’m an Army brat, so I grew up all over the world. I lived in Hawaii and Germany, but I consider North Carolina home. I briefly served in the military for a while, where I was a certified marksman. So when the zombie invasion comes, I’ll be ready for it. ☺
And take a look at the other interviews in this series:
Hernando Bansuelo and Josh Watson http://ow.ly/RiJrv
Jim Vines http://ow.ly/R0gv9
Nick Felice, http://ow.ly/QIF9O
Bryce Richardson, http://ow.ly/OWxBS
Tracee Beebe, http://ow.ly/ODrGq
Mary Krell-Oishi, http://ow.ly/Olp7W
Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu
P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74
Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c
Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6epJ
Todd Niemi http://ow.ly/MOfFq
Louis Pappas, http://ow.ly/LxRji
Allan Brocka, http://ow.ly/LfQNy
Gregory Blair http://ow.ly/KZj9s
Josh Kim http://ow.ly/K7obx
Jim Thalman http://ow.ly/JQ8YT
David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A
Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI
Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq
Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0
Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1