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  • Writer's pictureAmerican Dream Screen

Ken and Suzanne Soar to New Heights

In the vast cosmos of storytelling, we turn our gaze to Ken Jones and Suzanne Fitzpatrick, the visionary minds behind the award-winning screenplay 'BEYOND THE MOON.' As we step into this exclusive interview, Jones and Fitzpatrick graciously invite us to navigate through their creative process. Join us on a journey through the genesis, challenges, and artistic inspirations that birthed the Best Feature Screenplay, 'BEYOND THE MOON.' Get ready for a captivating exploration into the depths of storytelling, guided by the pens of Ken Jones and Suzanne Fitzpatrick.





American Dream Screen : Every screenplay has a unique journey from concept to completion. Can you take us through the moment or experience that ignited the spark for this story, and how it evolved into the screenplay we see today?


KEN: Many years ago, my grandfather was in a retirement home, and I visited him for dinner. A dinner with his friends. My grandfather had served in the Navy for 37 years before retiring, and he had been in WWII. Many battles at sea. His friends were all WWII vets as well, including one friend who had been a Doolittle pilot. I listened to their amazing, frightening stories of the war, but soon I realized that a few of the younger staff at the home were treating these men like children just because they were older, weaker, and little slower. I realized that they these young folks had no idea of what these men had done so many years before. That’s when the idea of how we in America often forget our heroes as they age. So, I thought I needed to write a script about how in a flash culture, paperback society we sometimes lose sight of who got us here… and I decided who better to represent the forgotten heroes that aging astronauts.


SUZANNE: The younger generation tends to forget what it took for us to be here today. The struggle and the grit with which exploration proved could change the world. We must remember those who inspired us all. Especially today. We need all the heroes we can get.


American Dream Screen : Screenwriting allows for creative exploration. Can you share an instance where the narrative took an unexpected turn during the writing process, and how did this spontaneous development contribute to the depth of your screenplay?


SUZANNE: There were moments where we had to decide whether we should have flashbacks or not. How far do we go back and how much do we explore? As we dove into their lives, we felt that striking the right balance would bring depth to the characters.


KEN: There was also the moment when we decided that the main character would switch their large Cadillac out for sporty Camaro. This of course gave us an unexpected moment with a car salesman, who only saw a couple of 80-year old’s, suddenly found himself on a test drive with ex-astronauts! That was definitely an opportunity for humor.


American Dream Screen : Collaboration is integral in bringing a screenplay to life on screen. Could you share a memorable experience of working with a director, producer, or actor, and how their input influenced and enriched the script?


SUZANNE: As co-writers we collaborated on a constant basis. As we tried to allow each of us to play to our individual strengths, we seemingly would sync up and flow together, often not remembering who wrote what. And we have found that we could always keep each other in check on how men and women would say a certain line.


KEN: Suzanne and I first partnered on scripts many, many years ago when we were at Disney. So, when we get back together it’s like old times. She throws out a bit of dialogue and then I can finish the sentence. A beautiful moment was when I handed over the character of Brenda and Suzanne magically gave her layer upon layer almost instantly.


American Dream Screen : Dialogue is a powerful tool in screenwriting. How did you craft the distinctive voices of your characters, and can you share a line or moment from your screenplay that you are particularly proud of?


KEN and SUZANNE: Here’s a sequence… when Jack, Will and Brenda are crammed inside a fitting room at a department store trying to get some clothes for Jack (who they broke out of the retirement home.)


BRENDA

Jack, a couple of years ago, I got up

and found my stomach still lying in

bed. I was tired, depressed, and old.

So that day I decided I could either

sit in a rocking chair until I wasted

away, or I could throw my sagging boobs

over my shoulder, pick myself up, and

start fighting for the time I had left

on this Earth.


Jack wipes a tear from his face.


JACK

I think I'm still in that rocking

chair.


Brenda puts her arms around Jack.


WILL

You know what I see when I look in that

mirror?


JACK

Three old farts crammed into a dressing

room in the middle of the night.


WILL

Exactly.


JACK

Is that it? No inspirational message.


WILL

At least we're still alive?


JACK

That's it?


WILL

At least we're still alive!


BRENDA

Well, it's no "remember the Alamo," but

it'll do.

(proudly)

At least we're still alive.


ALL THREE

At least we're still alive.


American Dream Screen : The life of a screenwriter can be filled with highs and lows. Can you describe a moment of doubt or a challenging period during the writing process, and what strategies did you use to overcome these obstacles and keep your creative spirit alive?


SUZANNE: Always keep laughing. If you can work with people who are having fun, then it takes the heaviness off trying to get everything perfect. If you can collaborate with a writing partner who sees the humor in even the bleakest of times, that energy will keep you moving forward. You always want to keep the momentum going.


KEN: I agree with Suzanne. We have carried this script from person to person. It wins awards, gets great feedback, piques interest, but still, we have to keep going from door to door hoping for someone to take on the project. During these times, we depend on each other to keep our spirits up and hopes high.


American Dream Screen : As you look back on your journey as an independent screenplay writer and the creation of this unique script, what do you feel is the most significant lesson or insight you've gained about the art of storytelling and filmmaking that you would like to share with aspiring writers and filmmakers?


SUZANNE: The most important lesson is to stay true to your original idea. As writers we like to get feedback, and it’s good to get criticism. But sometimes too many opinions on how the story should unfold makes you second-guess yourself. The best thing is to take people’s notes and sit back and think about them before rushing in to make changes. Because before you know it, you have a different script, and you might not recall why. So always keep your focus on the story you set out to tell from the very beginning. Sometimes your gut knows exactly where you’re supposed to be headed.


KEN: If you wrote an entire 120-page screenplay, then there must have been an idea that you were excited about at one time. Dedicated to telling that story. Remember why you put it down on paper and trust your gut.


Jones' and Fitzpatrick's insights have illuminated the path to crafting a Best Feature Screenplay, offering a glimpse into the magic behind the words. As we bid farewell, the promise of 'BEYOND THE MOON' transcends the pages, leaving an indelible mark on our appreciation for storytelling.



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