In the Spotlight: Jona Doug
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Screenwriting is a calling. It reaches out to us. We can ignore that call as if it's a siren beckoning us to a shore full of mystery and potential dangers but eventually, we will answer that call. That is when our eyes are opened. Yes, we become entranced by it. Captivated as we strive to master its mysteries. But we are also filled with the excitement of unlimited possibilities to be discovered through a lifetime's dedication to the craft. That is why I am excited to introduce you to Jona. He has answered the call.
This is Jona Doug...
Michigan native. Lover of outdoors, Jeep Wranglers, and smoking meat. Contracts Lawyer by day. Screenwriter at night. Husband and Dad. Child at heart. I have a spirit that is most happy when creating anything. I write both professionally as a contract lawyer and creatively as a screenwriter.
I consider myself a multi-genre disciplined writer, holding Coverfly’s The Red List placements and Finalist placements in diverse genres though I have a penchant for mysterious creepy-type thrillers or horrors, like the classic Creepshow and The Twilight Zone (good clean stuff).
I recently won the Script Summit Michigan Writers Award for Shorts (2020) with an 8-page thriller that has since been adapted to a larger horror short that placed Fourth in its category at the International Horror Hotel Film Fest and Convention - which I now hope to develop into a feature horror. I also contributed as a writer on the feature thriller, Outlier.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I‘ve been writing creatively since I was a child. Just short stories, poetry, anecdotes, etc. Then, in 2000, the idea struck me. I went to a brick-and-mortar bookstore (Maybe Barnes & Noble- Remember those?) and looked for books about screenwriting. Whatever I saw didn’t “take” and life interrupted. Then in 2006, I googled “screenplay format” and started my first feature in Word (ugh- very clunky and tasking way to do it!). I also got some of my short stories into screenplay form. Life happened again and then it struck me in 2019, “Duh… you make money. Buy some dang software!” Long story shorter, I ended up with Final Draft and began the journey of converting my unfinished Word form feature and several short story-converted Word screenplays into “real” screenplays.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
I am creative in nature and somehow naturally good at framing photographs or shooting videos. So, I always would envision some of my stories or life moments as parts of film or muse how I would film something. So, I’d say the creative spirit that inspires the written story very organically led me down the path of wanting to put the story into screenplay form. Of course, breaking-in stories like Quentin Tarantino and punchy gritty films like Mickey Rourke in Barfly and The Wrestler - or the dry wit of Punch Drunk Love - are on the spectrum of all Hollywood offers that inspire me as well.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
My first memory of chunks along the path was that in third grade, actually over at Apollo Elementary school in Highland, Michigan, I wrote a story about a poor kid and Christmas. I don’t remember the details of it but my teacher, Ms. Lippitt, called me aside after school and said she was so moved by the story that she asked if I would re-write it in my hand and give it to her as a personal copy to keep. I remember that. Thereafter, in fifth grade, now at Elizabeth Street Elementary in Lake Orion, Michigan, they started a short story contest in the school. I entered and won Most Original story two or three times between that year and sixth grade. So, that was very encouraging. Then, when I was in ninth grade, I submitted a fictitious anecdote about a clairvoyant dream to The Detroit News for its reader-contributed section, It Happened to Me. They printed it and paid me $15. I thought that was great and it really kept me going. In high school, I was on the first journalism program and had my own feature column, The Jagged Edge, which probably helped me connect the dots of blending creative writing with professional writing as well. Contract drafting involves that skill.
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Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
That first night back in March 2019, that I decided I was going to buy the software, now at my age, after all the time I let pass, and just do it. I remember going to bed, my wife was already in bed, and laying down next to her in the dark and feeling like I was glowing because of the feeling inside me, just at the prospect of being able to sit and write again- in a whole new medium! It was exciting. I wanted to tell her but didn’t.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
When I see a feature on the big screen (even if limited, indie-style) with my name credited and I have a network of relationships and contacts that I work with regularly on projects, both writing assignments and specs that I can bring for consideration.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl: My biorhythms make me a night owl. Every time I have total charge of my schedule, I end up staying up late and sleeping later.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? I try to remember to pray first.
What do you do at night? This is the quietest time of the day and the only time I feel like I could possibly write. So, I try to do most of my screenwriting then, at night.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual? … take supplements, watch TV.
How do you define a successful day? If I can accomplish those three things: walk, read the Bible and do some significant screenwriting, it is a successful day!
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Perseverance. And I am still learning it. In many forms. It’s easy to want to give up emotionally, but my spirit won’t let me. And much of the best advice out there in the screenwriting world is to persevere.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Time. Having enough and making use of the little bit I do have. I really need to work on that last part, making use of it. That can be a problem even if one has all the time in the world.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
Wow. What a huge question! Since it implies there can only be one thing, I’d say the reward of perseverance that comes from faith in what I’m doing.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
Two things: What they need individually that I might be able to help with and practical methods and processes they use to write.
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