Fall Fantasy Author Series: Owen Carey Jones / @owencareyjones

The Story Behind the Writing of: ROUGH CUT

After leaving school, with no A levels (I found schoolwork boring, and where I went to school, in a castle by the sea, attending classes was optional), I went to work as a clerk in Lloyds Bank. Several years (and jobs) later, I was working mostly in London as a consultant advising international banks on establishing mortgage lending operations in the UK. 

In 1994, when I had moved back to Leeds and was running my own specialist magazine publishing company, I got a pain in my jaw. My doctor referred me to a cardiologist who I saw at 6:00pm one evening. At 8:00am the next morning I was in Leeds General Infirmary having an angiogram which was followed that afternoon by emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery as three of my four main coronary arteries were completely blocked and I wasn't expected to last the day without it. It was a great day! It changed my life – for the better.

I went back to work six weeks after the operation but a year later was advised by my cardiologist to stop doing what I was doing, which was quite a stressful job, or I would soon be dead. So, I closed the publishing company and wondered what to do with the rest of my life.

When I had left school and my father had asked me what I was going to do next. I had said “I think I’ll be a poet”. I had always enjoyed writing poetry but clearly as a 19 year old, it wasn’t likely that I would earn a living from it any time soon so I took my father’s advice and got a “proper job” working in the bank.

I think I had probably always harboured a desire to be a writer so now, unemployed, and probably unemployable, I decided to write a book.

By the end of 1996, I had written the first draft of Rough Cut. Wanting some feedback on it, I sent it to a woman who was a reader for Penguin books and who, as a side line, would read your book for you and give you feedback. She wrote back with 14 pages of feedback – all of it negative – the only thing she liked was the title.

Six months later I had rewritten the book and sent it to her again. This time she had a colleague of hers read it and give me feedback and when I received her feedback it was 7 pages long and half of it was positive! So I thought, “OK, we’re going in the right direction here but, if I’m serious about this writing thing, I need to get some education”.

I looked around and the only feasible course for me (I was unemployed with a family of 5 to look after) looked like an MA in Screenwriting (Fiction) offered by the Northern Film School in Leeds, which, at the time, was considered to be the second best film school in the country after the NFTS.

I had little expectation that I would be considered for the course (I had no A levels and had never been to university) but I rang the school and asked if they would consider an application from a 50 year old with no A levels and a bad heart. The response was, of course we would, send us a screenplay you’ve written. Ah, said I, I haven’t actually done one of those. Well, came the response, buy a book and write one.

A month later I had written a full length film screenplay and submitted it along with my application. Imagine my surprise when I was accepted! Of course I was thrown off the dole at that point but was beginning to build a part time income stream from doing research for those international banks I mentioned earlier so that was OK.

In 2000, I graduated from the Northern Film School with an MA in Screenwriting (Fiction) and soon after graduating, I made my first feature film. It was based on my Masters screenplay which David Nobbs, author of The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, who was one of my external tutors, said had “the potential to be made into a powerful and moving drama”.

My other external tutor, Rod Graham, who had been Head of Drama at BBC Scotland for many years said of the script for Baby Blues, “If I were still with the BBC this would now be in the production department awaiting a budget.” The film went on to be seen on television around the world by more than 35 million people. Not bad for a debut film!

After Baby Blues, I decided to adapt my novel Rough Cut as a screenplay and see if I could get that financed. I couldn’t get it financed and went on to write and direct two other feature films, A Mind of Her Own, which won several awards around the world, including a very prestigious Crystal Heart Award from the Heartland Film Festival in the USA, and The Spell which was released in cinemas across the UK in 2009.

 

 

Throughout this period of film making activity, I worked on Rough Cut – the screenplay, getting feedback on it, developing it and making it better. After finishing The Spell, I made contact with someone based in Los Angeles when I was at the American Film Market. She was a film producer with a lot of experience and, after reading the screenplay for Rough Cut, came on board as co-producer and we agreed that the budget for the film should be $8 million in order to allow us to attract A list stars.

Unfortunately, half way through 2010, as the project was developing nicely and looking like it would go into production in 2011, problems at my co-producer’s company in LA resulted in her leaving the company and, at that point, the Rough Cut film project fell apart. 

Over the twelve years between writing the second draft of Rough Cut – the novel and during which I went to film school and then went on to make three feature films, I had learned a lot about story telling and had been continually developing the screenplay for Rough Cut. So I decided to rewrite Rough Cut – the novel based on the latest version of the screenplay.

And the result has now been published. Hopefully, people will enjoy reading it and it is still my intention to turn it into a great feature film – maybe next year!

 

About the Author

Born in Belize in the Caribbean, Owen Carey Jones is a former banking professional who decided on a change of career at the age of 45 and studied for an MA in 

Screenwriting (Fiction) at the Northern Film School in Leeds in the UK.

On completion of his Masters degree in 2000, Owen established Carey Films Ltd and went on to become an award winning independent feature film maker whose most recent film was screened in cinemas across the whole of the UK before being taken on by film distributors in both the UK and the USA.

As well as being shown in cinemas, Owen Carey Jones’s films have been seen extensively on television in countries on four continents inc

luding China and the USA and in 2004, as a result of his work as a film writer, producer and director, he was elected to membership of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA).

Rough Cut is the first novel by Owen Carey Jones but comes after more than ten years of writing the screenplays for his films during which he says, he has learned a lot about storytelling.

Learn more about Owen at Carey films Ltd and Rough Cut.   

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