Watch the Best Scene Reading of COYOTE AND THE DUST DEVIL:
NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
JO – Aidan Black Allen
KRAMER- Steve Shand
CRANE – Brett Kelly
Get to know writer Jonah Jones:
1. What is your screenplay about?
How we connect with our inner selves and what happens when we fail to do so.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
It’s an original idea with plenty of room for visual indulgence. The landscape in which it’s set is one of the most stunning in terms of starkness and contrast. The ways in which the Mescalero Apache express themselves are at once simple and stunning and so the contrast between their way of thinking and our technology-based violence provides a great background conflict.
3. This story has a lot going for it. How would you describe this story in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Not sure – Oh What a Lovely War, Ben Hur (1959 version), 2001, North by North-west and most of Laurel and Hardy.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
The first set of notes on the subject were made in 2013. Other projects got in the way and then I really got down to it about a year ago.
6. How many stories have you written?
Probably in the hundreds – I’m pretty old.
I’ve written about ten short films and this is my third feature-length script.
Eight stage plays produced, two radio plays transmitted, several short stories published or broadcast and five or six novels that didn’t work.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
A sense of wonder that came from research for a failed novel, based on a successful radio play (The Triumph of the Cunning Man) in which I looked at aspects of the Mescalero Apache mysticism, their ways of perceiving this world and the way that their history is entangled with that of the atom bomb.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Several negative reviews – mainly along the lines that mysticism doesn’t sell or that I had too many main characters.
There were a couple of criticisms (numbers of characters and confusion as to which of them were meant to be significant) that meant I had to make fairly big changes to address them.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I’m in process of directing my first film – a short, written by someone else – and I’m enjoying it.
Music – I’m an old rocker, have eight guitars and jam with any other old rockers in the neighbourhood.
I also love graphic art. Have had some cartoons published.
I’m a recorder for this part of Wales – i.e. I record whatever wild-life I see when I’m wandering around and send it to a central database.
10. What influenced you to enter the Thriller/Suspense Festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
The atmosphere that I gleaned from the web-page seemed like the sort of place I’d feel at home.
In the past, I’ve had good experiences with Canadian-based film-makers. I came third in the Canadian Short Screenplay Competition a few years back with a film called Planning Meeting. In a past life I was an animator and we always rated what was going on in Canada during the Seventies.
The first feedback was one of the most positive and kindest I’ve had. The second one didn’t seem as kind but it was still positive. I’ve revised the script to suit both. I’ve also revised the script after reviews I’ve had from other sources – some positive, some not so.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Get as many critiques as you can afford – and not from people who know you. I must have fifteen to twenty of them on this script. You can then see what issues come up most frequently and therefore need addressing. You can also see more clearly the weaknesses in the script that you knew to be there but didn’t want to admit.
Listen to everything everyone says and try to understand why they said it. I spoke to someone about the fact that one of my critics said that Anna killed people throughout the film. She doesn’t and so I was dismissive about the criticism. The other person said “But why did the critic think it might be true?” Make sure they can’t get it wrong.
Criticism is more use to you than praise but learn to judge the judges.