Turned toward the sun ─

Sarah Nicole Jones, Writer & Show Runner

How did you get to where you are now with your career?

The short answer is: a lot of time spent hunched over a laptop and a lot of luck. I knew I wanted to write in film and tv, so I went to school for that. While there, I tried my hand at writing whatever I could: movies, tv, comedy, drama, plays.  While at school I was lucky to meet a person named Peter Heller, who was one person in a long line of extraordinary individuals who was batshit crazy enough to take a chance on me. He passed on my work to a man named Greg Shephard who would become my manager. Greg worked really hard to get me a job as a baby writer, and it paid off. To this day, I shower him with muffin baskets and presents for his effort. I got staffed very young and have been lucky enough to meet a long line of showrunners and agents who have been crazy enough to keep giving me work.

What do you love most about your job?

I love how impossible it is. I know that sounds insane, but this job is also insane. Writing and breaking story with a group of strangers, who usually become like a family, is crazy. Sitting down at a laptop and coming up with things for imaginary people to say is crazy. Then, balancing a budget, balancing differing tempraments, working with hundreds of people, all in an effort to make one vision, it's nuts. It's also frustrating, and there's always a moment when you say "this isn't gonna work", but then it does work out. The feeling when you accomplish the impossible - it's the best feeling you'll ever have. I've never tried heroin (saving that for when I'm 80), but I imagine the high to be similar.  You get a taste of that, and you'll never want to do anything else.

What kind of projects are you most passionate about writing?

"How did I never notice that?" I love when I discover a place I've walked by a million times and never noticed before. I like writing stories about those kind of places and people. They are right in front of us, sometimes we drive thru a small town, or just walk past a person we see everyday on a commute. But when you can write something that highlights that, you see it on a readers face, that mixture of surprise and happiness when they say "How did I never notice that? How did I miss that story, that person, etc".
Where do you find your inspiration?

Usually from other writers. I love to watch a great tv episode or read a great book and realize that everything I'm feeling is exactly what the writer wanted me to feel. There is a kind of magic to that - to know that the person who wrote this is probably a stranger, but they were able to hit on something that is true to the audience. That's usually when I get inspired, also the moment when I say "fuck, I'm never gonna be that good"...double edged sword, for sure.  
Is there anything you'd like to see change for female filmmakers in the film/tv industry? 

Someone I worked with once said "men are judged based on their potential, women are judged based on their experience." I've largely found that to be true. I've seen men with terrible reps get jobs over women, purely because the women don't have as many credits. Women and minorities I do believe have had to work twice as hard to get half as far, in many cases. I'd like to see people start judging women for their potential as well as well as their experience. A lot people are surprised when they find out that I'm a woman, with my job, at such a young age.  But the truth is, people took a chance on me when I didn't have a ton of experience.  I'd like for that to be a more common practice. Maybe then people would stop making that "big-eyed" shocked expression when they find a young woman or a minority in a higher position - I know a lot of folks find it flattering, but believe me I've been on the receiving end, it's awkward.
Do you have any daily wellness rituals or little things you like to do for self care?

Every morning when my alarm goes off, the instinct is for me to start thinking about all the things that need to be accomplished with my work. But I tell my brain to be quiet until we get out the door. Then for that one hour when I get ready, I don't think about anything relating to work. I give myself that one hour to quietly take a shower, do my hair and my make-up, read some articles, work out. It's good to have some alone time, and think only about what I want to think about. Also, massages, gotta do that at least twice a month - hunching over a keyboard is murder on my back.  
When you are at the office or on set for long hours are there any rituals you do to re-center, calm, or energize yourself?

 I walk away for a minute. Is anything on fire? Nope, okay then, I'm going to take a walk.  I step away from the laptop or walk a short distance away from set. It usually helps me to just find a quiet place for five minutes and listen to my own voice. I like to make sure I hear everyone's thoughts, concerns and problems on set, but I think it's also important to listen to myself for a second. Catch your breath, then, once more into the breech.
When you are in between jobs or on hiatus do you have a writing routine to help create structure in your days? If so what does that look like?

I'm a creature of habit. I like to maintain a similar writing schedule on my own projects as I do when I'm on another show. I wake up early (I work best early in the morning). Then I go to the coffee shop I usually go to, and write for a couple hours....with a few youtube breaks in between. But, when I'm on a hiatus I do also like to make sure to refuel my brain - take more a nap or two, go to the museum, take the vacation.
What is a big obstacle that you have learned to overcome in life?

Just because someone says you're wrong, doesn't mean that they are right. I had a lot overbearing personalities in my life growing up. I spent a lot of time trying to keep them happy and ignoring what was best for me. If I thought differently from them, they would say I was wrong. But, slowly, over time, I've been able trust myself more - to say, no I think I'm gonna do this my way and I can accept the outcome for my actions. It's a process. That's what whiskey and therapy are for.  
What is your super power?

I have a freakishly good memory. Friends who I've known for decades are always amazed that I can remember the day we met, what they were wearing, what we talked about. I have been known to recite pages of book, whole movies, plays, purely from memory.  To be clear, my brain isn't an iron trap. I rarely remember names, but I will remember crazy shit like how many siblings that stranger has, how the boss I worked for ten years ago took their coffee and asked for green pen on January 28th, 2011. It's weird.

I can also find parking in pretty much any neighborhood and open pickle jars all by myself.  
If you are having insecure thoughts and feel as though you are getting in your own way, what are some things you do to push past that?

Oh that insecure little voice, I named her Kendall. Kendall is a bitch. But we all have a Kendall. She comes out when I'm not able to write a scene, or I'm not sure if what I'm doing is right. And then Kendall starts right away, "You're no good at this. You have no talent. You're a failure, you can't even french braid hair." You get the picture - I spiral.  And when that happens I usually stop and ask myself, "Where is this insecurity coming from?" Are you hungry? Are you tired? Did you just have a fight with someone?"  Often times my insecurity has nothing to do with my ability to write or my ability to navigate life. It's important for me to remind myself, that just because I'm tired, or hungry, or I can't do a french braid - that doesn't mean I'm a bad person who doesn't deserve to be happy.  That usually helps. Also shut the fuck up, Kendall. No one likes you.  

(Disclaimer: No offense to anyone named Kendall who reads this...except that Kendall I met once, she knows who she is.)  
What are some things you love most about yourself? 

My hair is big and it's red - like a lion's mane. I'm vain about it. Sorry, not sorry.
When do you feel most confident in yourself? 

Writing alone is my happy place. But I find I'm most confident when I'm drinking or cooking with my close friends. We are all degenerates, but when you surround yourself with people who don't judge your every move, it's very freeing. It's a big point of pride to know I have people in my life who I can call and say, "I may have just killed someone-" and I know that there answer is, "No problem. I watched Forensic Files, here's what you do...."
Any mantra or words you are trying to live by?

"Compare and Despair". I'm not a fan of platitudes, but I do know that that one is true. If you're doing good, don't say to yourself "I'm doing so much better than so-and-so". Why? Because when you are doing badly you will also say, "I'm not doing as good as so-and-so. BUT WHY? I WORK SO MUCH HARDER! FUCK THEM! I'M A BETTER WRITER, DIRECTOR, etc". It really doesn't matter what someone's else successes or failures are. There's no point dwelling on it, and it doesn't solve anything. So, you've just heard your best friend was staffed and you weren't? Don't be an asshole!  Say, "good for them", shake their hand, buy them a drink! When you alone, take a whole ten minutes to feel bad, then, get back to fucking work. All you can do is stay focused on what you want to do, and try to find how you can make it happen. 


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