Writer/Director Nicole Jones-Dion chats up the upcoming release of her Sci-Fi feature, STASIS.
Passion, enthusiasm, courage, was the banter I experienced interviewing screenwriter Nicole Jones-Dion. Nicole has tossed the dice, and taken a seat on the feature director’s throne, for her Sci-Fi film, STASIS.
Nicole is a genre girl, some of you may know her as the screenwriter for Tekken 2 – Kazuya’a Revenge, and Dracula: The Dark Prince, or from the Sci-Fi/Horror Featurette Debris, her writer/director debut. Debris garnered multiple award nominations including, Best Director – Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, and Praxiscope Productions (co-founded with husband, noted animator Glenn Dion) getting a nomination for best Featurette, as well as the Mary Austin Award, Featurette nominations for Best Director and Best Screenwriter.
Nicole has been walking the walk that every screenwriter must apply to make screenwriting dreams reality – get out there, get writing assignments, network, take charge, take chances.
I hope I honor her straight from the heart candor.
Pamela – How did you transition from writer to director?
Nicole Jones-Dion – I consider myself a writer first, but I encourage every screenwriter to direct a film, even if it’s a two-minute short on their cell-phone. It drives home all that you have learned. In this magical stew that is movie-making, it made me a better writer. You see how every scene must have tension and conflicting drama, how much actors respect their craft and relish juicy dialogue. You take full responsibility for the journey, that the visions in your head end up on the screen.
Pamela – I know the STASIS genre is Science Fiction, did you also target a specific market?
Nicole Jones-Dion – Yes, YA! Young Adult is a demographic hungry for content, especially for teenage girls. I read mostly YA novels. I could easily spend my career catering to YA audiences. No matter what, you will be pigeon-holed in this industry. YA Sci-Fi/Horror is a place I’m comfortable with.
Pamela -What is the difference between spec screenwriting with paid assignment screenwriting?
Nicole Jones-Dion – With a spec script you are demonstrating your storytelling skills, it gets you the job. In a paid assignment you bring your bag of tricks, and you get to use them. You learn what it feels like to work with a team, but in the end you totally lose control. Once you hand in your finished script, people start to make changes. The actors make changes, the producers, everyone. When you see the final cut you think, “that’s different”, then you get hate mail for details you had nothing to do with. You get tough, you get your feet wet, and you get to meet helpful people like Pearry Teo, the producer of Cloud Atlas, and STASIS.
Pamela – How did meeting Pearry Teo help?
Nicole Jones-Dion – Pearry and I ran into each other at a film festival and he asked, “How would you like to direct your first feature?” I asked what he had in mind. He says, “I have an idea for a film. A rebel teenage girl O’D’s from heavy partying, when she sneaks back into her home, she sees herself already in her own bed. Can you do something with that?” Of course I said, Yes! We originally toyed with the idea of making it a horror film, but eventually settled on sci-fi instead.
Pamela – Why did you gravitate to Science Fiction and Horror genres?
Nicole Jones-Dion – They take real world issues and allow you to explore them in allegory fashion. They are often cautionary tales that are thought provoking, taking the ‘what if’ scenarios to the extreme, and exploring social issues. They are fascinating landscapes with no limitations, focusing on uniqueness. The uniqueness of the world you have created, the uniqueness of your characters, and the emotional changes they need to make.
Pamela – Who are the actors in STASIS?
Nicole Jones-Dion – I was so fortunate to have fantastic actors. I’m not just saying that because I’m their director. Our two main leads, Anna Harr and Mark Grossman were consummate professionals. Anna and Mark had both worked together before on a film where they played siblings. And the incredibly gorgeous Phyllis Spielman, who plays Anna’s mother in STASIS, was also her mother in the horror film GHOSTHUNTERS, so it was kind of like a great big family reunion on set. As the lead in STASIS, Anna Harr pulls double duty and plays two parts — a ghost girl and the girl who replaces her in physical form. She had a ton of dialogue to remember and she mastered it, seemingly, without effort. Anna is a dancer, so she’s excellent about hitting all her marks and even did all her own stunts. Mark Grossman was a dream to work with, always his giving his all, and making things easy for me. I would work with them again in a heartbeat.
Look for the short film Debris, coming in April on Amazon, and the feature STASIS, debuting in 2017.