This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Orange Coast.
The movie he co-wrote, “Like Crazy”, killed at Sundance. Paramount bought it, and it’s about to go national.
So far, 2011 has been a great year for 27-year-old actor-screenwriter Ben York Jones, with the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize behind him, and the national release of “Like Crazy” this month. But his is a movie career that almost wasn’t. Two-and-a-half years ago, Jones, raised in Irvine and an alum of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, found his ambitions had stalled. He wanted to write, direct, and act. Instead, he was living in Silver Lake, helping create music videos destined for obscurity.
After shooting a film with boyhood friend Drake Doremus, Jones packed up his stuff in March 2009 and headed to Santa Fe. He forgot about movies. He forgot about writing. He strapped on a tool belt and went to work alongside his father installing kitchen cabinets and doing home improvements. “I was just straight-up depressed and resigned to the fact that I might not work in film,” Jones says. “I had set out to do something and failed. … The real world was thrashing me around, and I didn’t know how to handle it.”
By summer’s end, Doremus, who grew up in Santa Ana and now lives in Marina del Ray, helped entice Jones back, telling him: “I have ideas and I can’t do them with anyone but you. … He just needed some space. It was good for him to think about things and come back refreshed.”
Jones moved to Corona del Mar, where he still lives, not far from his roots in Irvine’s Woodbridge neighborhood. He and Doremus resumed working on a movie about a pair of combative brothers on a road trip, which their producer at Super Crispy Entertainment saddled with the unfortunate title “Douchebag” to draw attention. Despite that—or perhaps because of it—the film was accepted at Sundance for the January 2010 festival, and received solid reviews.
The duo decided to make another movie, fast, to build on that success. “We had the post-Sundance blues,” Jones says, sitting outside an Irvine coffeehouse. “It’s like a parent having a baby and coming home—‘What do we do with this now that we have it?’ ”
Both Jones and Doremus were involved in long-distance romances, and “the theme on both of our minds was this starcrossed love story,” Jones says. The result was “Like Crazy,” about young lovers separated when a British college student’s visa expires and she’s forced to leave the U.S. They created a 50-page framework for the film in just six weeks, working toward an August 2010 submission deadline for the 2011 Sundance festival. Financing was arranged, the actors cast, and the film made. Elapsed time: 10 months.
Even before it won the grand jury prize for a drama (and a special jury prize for actress Felicity Jones, no relation), Paramount bought the film for $4 million, setting up this month’s national premiere. But Jones isn’t resting. He and Doremus are developing another project they hope will be completed by the time “Like Crazy” hits theaters. That would make three years in a row with a new movie, Jones says. “I don’t know a lot of other people who are doing that.”
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