Monday, February 16, 2009

INTERVIEW: Writer/Director/Producer Mark Jones

I spoke recently with writer Mark Jones about his new online soap opera, ON THE EDGE OF HAPPINESS. In addition to writing the project, Jones served as producer and director. It was a labor of love that came partially out of his lifelong love for the soap genre. The new show has been described as one-third DALLAS, one-third DYNASTY, one-third "GAYS" OF OUR LIVES. It will be available on the show's website at starting Tuesday, February 24, at 9pm CT, and subsequent Tuesdays over a five week span. You can watch a trailer there now.

Tell me a little about your background.
I'm a native Memphian. I went to college in South Carolina and got a degree in religion and worked a little over two years in a church in Mississippi as a Youth Director. Then I took early retirement from the church at age 24 or 25. I always wanted to make movies and make TV, but just didn't know how. I moved back to Memphis and took a job interning at a small local TV station. I also got a bunch of little odd jobs - teaching baseball to inner city kids, working at a t-shirt shop - to support myself. Then I got a job with our local PBS affiliate and did that for several years in the 90s. I was associate producer for a couple of shows. Then I worked for our Fox affiliate for about a year. I always had that hunger to make a movie. I wanted to write a movie and tell a story.

The first movie that I wrote and produced was Eli Parker is Getting Married?, and it was a coming out story. A lot of my friends from the PBS affiliate helped out on the project. My family owns a couple of acres in Mississippi and the story was set on a farm and we shot it for about a month. It took us a while to edit but it finally came out and was shown in about seven film festivals. I came out several years before this, and while Eli Parker wasn't about my life, some of the conversations I had with good friends were put into the movie. My second movie, Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island, got into six or seven film festivals as well.

How did ON THE EDGE OF HAPPINESS come about?
I had the idea for a soap storyline for a long time. Right after Christmas of 2007, I was driving from Memphis to North Carolina and was trying to think of new ideas and I thought of turning my soap story into five short films.

The show takes place in a small town in Mississippi. The first episode introduces several characters and plot points that will come back in future episodes.

I think of myself more as a writer. One thing I really like about the soap soaps is the fact that in one episode you can have adventure, romance, drama, comedy. Not many other genres can have all of these elements in a single episode. That's another thing that I enjoy about the daytime stories.

How long were you in production?
We started shooting in mid-April last year. We shot all the scenes at each location, such as the cemetary, at the same time. We shot the hospital scenes over four or five days. We came back for five more days in June. We had around 20 total days of shooting.

Where and when will the show be available?
The show will be available on Tuesdays at 9pm CT at staring February 24. Each episode is about 15 minutes.

Can you give us a preview of the first episode?
The first show is the "wedding" episode, and Sarah Perkins (played by Corie Ventura) is the bride, and she is in the bride's chamber at the church. Several people come into the room and threaten her. The father and mother of the groom don't want the marriage to take place. She slept her with old college boyfriend and his unhappy wife shows up. Her cousin, Elizabeth, is angry with her. She's also blackmailing her brother, the town minister. What happens to Sarah is the main through line of the episodes.

Are there any gay characters on the show?
There are two. More on this in a future story.

What were some of your soap influences?
My grandmother watched DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and our maid watched THE EDGE OF NIGHT. I watched GENERAL HOSPITAL with my sisters, the Luke and Laura adventures. I also was a big fan of DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING. I love the real honest-to-God Friday afternoon cliffhanger or the primetime cliffhangers like "Who Shot JR?" That's something we really strongly wrote in each episode of ON THE EDGE OF HAPPINESS.

Is there a chance there will be a second season?
All the actors are agreeable to do more episodes. I have an idea on how it would continue and there were some things I wanted to do in these episodes that we didn't have time to do. We want to see how these first five episodes go and then we'll take it from there.

1 comment:

  1. After seeing Mark's other films, I cannot wait to see his current on-line production set in Mississippi.

    Memphis, TN