Fred Jones, professor of mass media at Southeast Missouri State University, teaches film courses and coordinates the University’s annual Fault Line Film Festival, but he still finds time for screenwriting, which has earned him national and international recognition.
Jones’s feature-length screenplay, “Sunbeam,” recently received honorable mention recognition at the University Film and Video Association’s conference and was a quarterfinalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.
“He’s very soft-spoken about his successes, but he has placed or won at many academic and professional festivals,” said Dr. James Dufek, professor of mass media. “Colleagues frequently tell me about his successes and tell me he’s a great writer.”
In 2017, he earned first place in the short script category for his piece, “The Clown-Faced Plumber,” at the Slamdance Screenplay Competition.
“Slamdance is held at the same time and place as the Sundance Festival, so it was cool to be a part of that,” Jones said.
In the film industry, however, the wins are uncommon but reaffirming.
“I’m always surprised when I get recognition, so it’s always nice, but there’s a lot of rejection,” he explained. “So when I get recognized, it encourages me to create more.”
He balances his roles of committed professor and successful screenwriter, carving out time for his professional endeavors during nights, weekends and semester breaks.
“It’s really demanding, but I’m not happy unless I’m creating,” he said.
Jones’ interest in film began as a love of storytelling when he was young. A Southeast alumnus, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English to develop his writing skills. He then studied film as a graduate student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where his teaching skills developed as well.
“As a grad student, I was a teaching assistant, and I liked it. My father was a teacher, so I was always around it,” he said. “After graduating, I had a normal job but also taught at a community college and liked it better. I decided to do it as a career.”
Jones guides his students to tell their stories.
“My hope is that they get a chance to develop their voice and express it though film,” he said. “I try to encourage them to use their voice, and try to support and assist them without getting in the way of telling their stories.”
His dedication and talent are evident in the growth of his students.
“The students love him. He is concerned about their well-being and success and guides them to write their best story,” Dufek said. “He has strong writing skills and emphasizes the importance of a strong story with the students. From that, they improve elements like character development, setting and sound.”
Jones is also committed to supporting students and their stories beyond the classroom.
In 2010, Jones co-founded the Fault Line Film Festival to encourage Southeast students to create short films and showcase them. Now in its ninth year, the Festival has grown to include college and high school students from multiple institutions.
“The festival has grown into a regional festival that highlights student films from across the Midwest and beyond,” Jones said. “Our purpose will always be to encourage and promote the work of student filmmakers.”
As the festival coordinator, Jones has had a remarkable impact on its success, said Dufek.
“He is the engine that keeps Fault Line running,” said Dufek. “He contacts schools, gets the films to the judges, creates the sizzle reel – his energy makes it work.”
For Jones, whether it’s writing or encouraging students, he stresses a commitment to your beliefs.
“If you believe in what you’re doing, keep at it. There will be plenty of rejection, but be patient and keep developing your craft. It will all be worth it.”
Jones is looking forward to completion of a current project with his wife. They are working on a feature-length film and hope to shoot it next summer.