Noble Jones is an urbanite from New York, yet he was first introduced to Ed Hemsler in subzero temperatures in North Dakota.
The filmmaker’s affinity for Westerns, and John Ford movies in particular, brought him to the frigid prairie, where he met some kind, if eccentric, locals who frequented a sporting goods store with a unique selection of “gear.”
Before long, Jones was writing dialogue for Ed, the quirky rural survivalist who inhabits the title role of his debut feature, The Tomorrow Man.
“All of these things conspire together to create characters,” Jones said during the Dallas International Film Festival. “This guy just showed up and started yapping.”
Ed (John Lithgow) is a retiree doomsday prepper whose paranoid, know-it-all ramblings have distanced him from friends and family. Ronnie (Blythe Danner) is a lonely and socially reticent widow who becomes enamored by Ed’s gruff small-town charm. During their golden-years romance, his journey to redemption comes with the realization that he can’t prepare for tomorrow without living for today.
“There’s a lot of the average American in him that couldn’t be characterized as a prepper. He’s interested in the world around him, and communicates with people who are like-minded,” Jones said. “There’s not that much difference between him and anybody else who’s obsessed with gear.”
Jones said Lithgow responded favorably to the script, managing to work the independent film into his busy schedule of other projects, including his Emmy-winning portrayal of Winston Churchill on the series “The Crown.”
“I was very happy he decided to do it,” Jones said. “I’m amazed at how he would speak every syllable, inflection, and every stutter that I wrote. He read it and served it back and didn’t change much at all. It was really impressive to see.”
Jones has almost two decades of experience as a writer and cinematographer. He’s a longtime protégé of director David Fincher, and has directed music videos for Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, among others.
However, the path to directing his first feature has been challenging. He’s been linked to multiple projects that were aborted for financing or rights issues, including a remake of American Psycho several years ago.
He describes The Tomorrow Man as “a movie about secrets” that took him out of his comfort zone, and might do the same for moviegoers.
“Some people seek novelty. For me, it’s being able to examine something that might not be familiar. I enjoy deciphering the nuances,” Jones said. “You think that you understand everything, but if food couldn’t get to your local supermarket, you’ve got a problem.”