The following is from an interview with 2021 Screenwriting Winners Ken Jones and Suzanne Fitzpatrick, two very talented working screenwriters.
What’s your background? I started out as playwright and then moved into television. How long have you been writing? 37 years! And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? I got into the Warner Bros. Television Writer’s Workshop and went on to serve as a writer for Light Point Entertainment at Disney/MGM Studios for the development and creation of content for animation, television and film.
What screenwriting training have you received? I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting/Directing from the University of Florida, a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting from the University of Virginia and continued on to graduate in Playwriting from Harvard University and the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? I have 27 produced plays with 10 published, 9 musicals, 4 CD’s of original soundtrack scores and listings in several anthologies and monologue books. I have had multiple Off -Broadway productions. My work has been recognized by TIME Magazine’s Critic Choice, Best Plays of the 1980’s, and the Post-Corbett award for Best Literary Artist. I have also received a numerous Telly Awards and Communicator Awards, a Delauney Playwriting Award, the Prima Facie Playwriting Award, the Kentucky Playwright’s Award, the Trailblazer Educator’s Award, seven Acclaim Awards, eight International awards for screenwriting and filmmaking, and two Emmy nominations.
What else have you written? What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking?
I have written many plays. Two for Off Broadway. I also wrote for Disney in the 1990’s. I was in development so we created the pilot episodes for 17 different TV shows. I have a couple of other original screenplays. THE ABJECT, DREAM THIEF and RELENTLESS. I typically write at home. I work in long sessions where I create a ’scene’ and finish it before stopping. I am very fast at rewrites, because of my days in television. I work on many of my film scripts with a writing partner. Suzanne Fitzpatrick. She and I have worked together since Disney days in the 1990’s. (She wrote for the TV show 7th Heaven.)
What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about? The script that we entered was called BEYOND THE MOON. A pair of aging former Apollo astronauts, who decades ago rocketed to the Moon, take on their toughest mission yet as they, and the sassy widow of their third "space buddy," drive across Ohio to attend a tribute dinner at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Along the way, the delightfully mismatched threesome rediscover their unique bond and reignite their Faith. Through laughter and tears they realize that even in today’s youth obsessed, ‘instant-culture', folks still long to celebrate these brave American explorers. BEYOND THE MOON adds sparkling humor to its heartfelt story and reminds us that even in our twilight years, the best journeys are sometimes still ahead.
Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? I grew up in Titusville, FL in the 1960’s across from Cape Canaveral. We would watch the rockets take off from our backyard. Then in 1987 I wrote a play called DARKSIDE, which was actually chosen by Time Magazine as a Critics Choice and a BEST PLAYS of the 80’s. DARKSIDE was about an imaginary APOLLO mission that goes awry, and the pull between the nightside and dark side of both the moon and the men’s personalities. After that, I always wanted to write more about astronauts.
Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow? I use a storyboard. I create images to layout the story. I put them together in giant displays. (I love the FINAL DRAFT beat board option on the program.)
What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on? The festival was amazing. I had always wanted to enter, but I did not have a Faith Based script ready to go, until BEYOND THE MOON. The festival organizers were so good at communicating each step and the progress of where I stood in the judging. And after winning the Grand Prize, I was able to talk to 3 Hollywood professionals who gave me such valuable information and suggestions for making the script even better.
What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? Right now, I am actually writing a play. I just finished it and had a workshop production at Ensemble Theatre in Cincinnati, OH. The next step is to move on to Chicago or New York City.
Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay? Think about the structure of the piece! You probably have a great idea… but really layout the plot points, characters and where and how you’re getting there!
Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA? This year, I won 3 Telly Awards for a film I wrote and produced called DIVINE WILL. It can be found on PureFlix and UP:Faith and Family. It’s been a great year for writing, and I will always be so thankful to the Faith In Film folks!