You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With ‘Diane,’ Kent Jones Works Both Sides of Fest Circuit

Kent Jones has never liked rejecting films submitted for the New York Film Festival. But now that he’s written and directed “Diane,” NYFF’s director likes it even less.

Diane,” his narrative film debut, revolves around a selfless widow (Mary Kay Place) struggling to help her drug-addicted son (Jake Lacy). The film debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it earned the top prize for narrative film and picked up screenplay and cinematography awards. In August, IFC Films acquired the U.S. rights to “Diane,” which it will release theatrically in early 2019.

Jones, who has directed several documentaries including “Hitchcock/Truffaut” (2015), got the idea for “Diane” long before he took over as director of NYFF in 2012.

“Since I was very young I’ve been moved to make a movie set in the world of my aunts and uncles and cousins,” Jones says. “Then I saw Mary Kay in ‘The Rainmaker’ and I decided that it really had to be for her.”

In the 1997 Francis Ford Coppola film, Place plays Dot Black, a woman whose son is dying of cancer. It was Place’s approach to the role and the humor she brought to it that appealed to Jones. “That and the way that her character carried sadness,” he says.

It took Jones decades and plenty of drafts to complete the screenplay for “Diane,” but it took just 20 days in early 2017 to shoot the drama.

When making the movie, Jones called upon the knowledge he had gathered from watching and writing about films as well as interviewing and being friends with seasoned directors including Martin Scorsese, who executive produced “Diane.”

“Olivier Assayas once told me that directing is constantly answering questions,” Jones says. “He said, ‘you are responding to everything. Is the response always right? It doesn’t matter, you just respond.’ That was really important to me to hear him say that.”

Jones has known Scorsese for 27 years. The two met when Jones worked as the director’s video archivist in the early ’90s. From 2009 to 2012, Jones served as executive director of the World Cinema Foundation, founded by Scorsese. Together, in 2010, the pair co-directed the documentary “A Letter to Elia.”

“Marty has always been supportive of me making a narrative,” says Jones. “My friendship with him is something that’s at the core of my life, and inevitably it’s reflected in ‘Diane.’”

In his role as fest director, Jones is unusual for making a narrative film on the side. “They are two very different jobs,” he says. “They stand in contrast.”

Now that he’s made “Diane,” Jones has even more respect for filmmakers and the filmmaking process, invoking Frank Capra’s comment: “nobody starts out to make a bad film.”

That said, Jones points his finger at filmmakers for those movies that do turn out badly. “Generally when a movie doesn’t turn out well, the filmmaker is lying to themselves about something on some level,” Jones says.

“Diane” won’t be at NYFF, but Jones will be. He won’t be leaving New York City for the festival circuit for at least a month. In addition to NYFF, he is getting married in October.

“I’ve always been comfortable doing a lot of different things,” he says. “I like it that way.”

More Film

  • Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive

    Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Director Was Cheated Out of an Oscar Nomination

    “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” screenwriter Nicole Holofcener offered a blunt assessment of the lack of Academy Awards recognition for director Marielle Heller, and women directors everywhere. “I feel Marielle was cheated and I feel badly about that,” Holofcener said backstage after winning a Spirit Award for screenplay with Jeff Whitty. Holofcener was originally attached [...]

  • Stephan James as Fonny and Brian

    2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners: Complete List

    The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards took place on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” taking the top prize for best feature along with best director for Jenkins. Ethan Hawke and Glenn Close took the prizes for best male lead and best female lead, respectively. Bo Burnham took [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Hated It! How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Gripe About the Oscars

    Watching the Academy Awards telecast, then grousing about it the next day, has become a hipster parlor game — it’s what the Complete Oscar Experience now is. The complaints are legion, and we all know what they are, because we’ve all made them. The show was too long. The host bombed. His or her opening [...]

  • Boots Riley arrives at the 34th

    Boots Riley: Spike Lee Yelled at Me After 'BlacKkKlansman' Criticism, But We're Good Now

    “Sorry to Bother You” director and musician Boots Riley, who wrote a scathing criticism of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for its positive representation of law enforcement, said that he and the “Do the Right Thing” auteur are good now. But it took some time (and drama) to get there. Last year, Riley called Lee’s Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman” [...]

  • Dr. Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali, right)

    Read Variety's 1957 Review of 'Green Book' Pianist Don Shirley

    “Green Book” viewers who are not totally versed in the ways of ’50s and ’60s jazz may come away from the heavily Oscar-nominated movie wondering just how well known and respected the film’s central musical figure, Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), really was in his heyday. The answer: revered enough to have picked up [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content