Writing to Leave a Legacy of Kindness: Interview with Jason Wright
Fresh from the release of his adapted film, ‘Christmas Jars’, writer Jason Wright gave us some insight into the process of developing it, the inspiration behind the story, and what’s next.
How did you start your career as a writer?
I started writing in the 3rd grade and never stopped. I was always the kid who avoided everything but English and creative writing. I loved telling stories finding ways to surprise an audience. The love of writing never faded, even as I dabbled in business, politics, sales, etc. But thanks to teachers who believed all along the way, and their voices never really leaving my head, in 2004 I took a shot at moving from writing as a hobby to writing for a living.
My process is to write slowly for a long time and then very quickly for a few weeks when an agent or editor starts hounding me.
How’d the adaptation process take place and what sets this Christmas film apart from the others?
It all began in February 2006 when a producer reached out and asked about developing it into a film. We hit every imaginable obstacle, but after 13 years and some really talented people being added to the team, we made it.
We think Christmas Jars is different because the romance isn’t the primary storyline. I love Christmas movies, but typically there isn’t much conflict. Our story takes the audience on an emotional journey that has the potential to change them — if their hearts and minds are open.
Were you involved in the development stage of the script and/or the production? And how was that process?
I’m so thankful that Muse Entertainment and BYUtv involved me. They didn’t need to — authors rarely have much input — but they treated me like a member of the team and gave me a voice.
My advice for other writers would be to not be afraid to be vocal and to be protective of your work, but to also understand that they are two very different crafts and you’re probably working with people who know their craft — filmmaking — better than you do. Choose the right team, then trust them.
What or who inspired you to write and develop the story?
I was inspired to write the novel because my family experimented with the tradition and had a life changing experience. I knew that if we’d been moved and changed by anonymously giving away a jar, others might be, too. Writing the novel was less about selling books and more about creating a vehicle to start a movement.
I wrote the novel quite quickly. I wrote it in a few weeks with tremendous editorial and proofing help from my family, especially my older brother, Jeff.
We all know there are more people who watch more movies than read books. So I’m thrilled the movement will be introduced to a whole new audience.
Which scenes were the most memorable to you?
The opening four minutes and closing four minutes are movie magic. I cry every time I watch it. In fact, I cry when thinking about watching it.
What things have you learned throughout your writing career?
I like to remind writers that you don’t work for yourselves. That’s a myth. We work for readers. We report to them. Writing for yourself is good and healthy, like any hobby. But getting paid to write means responding to readers and serving them well. This is true for all creators. It’s OK to be considered a “commercial” writer or creator. That means you have a market and consumers who appreciate what you do and show it with their hard earned money.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a storyteller?
I want to leave a legacy of stories that invite people to feel something and to be better. To choose kindness. To choose service. To quit looking in the mirror and be more aware of people around us. Stories have a way of reminding us there’s more to the world than our own atmosphere.
We are developing several other films now including The Wednesday Letters. We have a script and producers and could be in production by spring 2020. Also, very excited about my new children’s book with Gail Miller, The Christmas Doll. It’s based on a true story from her life and it’s such an important lesson in today’s disposable culture.