Jacobs grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He attended Yale University, where he received the Curtis Literary Prize for his short fiction and graduated with honors. He earned his master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Jacobs began his career as a writer of short stories that were published in little, prestigious magazines that generated little, prestigious income. Jacobs’ love of movies brought him to California, where it took a number of years for his work to finally start paying the rent. Jacobs’ screenplay credits include Out to Sea, Dinosaur, Chocolat, The Shipping News, Flushed Away, The Water Horse, and Extraordinary Measures.