Nick is a resident of Hollywood, California. As you may guess, he’s in the business of making movies. Well… he writes for people that make them.
He packed up his car and drove across the barren desert to follow his dream of entering the most cut-throat business on the planet. When Nick isn’t destroying the hopes of young interns, hot-tubbing with models and pouring expensive champagne out on Hollywood Boulevard – he’s suffering from writer’s block.
Nick took the time out of his busy day of creating Hollywood gold to discuss the land of plastic body alterations, bad head shots and broken dreams.
BOJ: How did you get interested in the world of film?
NM: I guess I’ve always loved movies. Who doesn’t? I think the first time I actually thought it might be a career path though was after watching the first Lord of the Rings movie. So like, seventh grade? I had never really seen a production on a scale like that. I kind of became obsessed with it. I loved watching the special features and behind the scenes and director commentary. It just seemed like the most fun job in the world.
BOJ: What kind of education did you need to enter the field?
NM: Education is important and not important. Most entry level jobs require at least a B.A. or B.S., though. A concentration in film studies with credits and examples will only help you, but for a lot of those lower level jobs they just want to make sure you have a good head on your shoulders and can handle the pressure that comes with a lot of “industry” jobs.
BOJ: What is the hardest part about breaking into the biz?
NM: Well first and foremost, I’d say committing to it. It takes thick skin and perseverance to survive in the entertainment industry. The first job you get is most likely going to suck. You’ll probably be working behind a desk, taking orders and forwarding phone calls to someone who seems out-of-touch and cold. But commitment to what your ultimate goals are will eventually take you where you want to go. Hollywood doesn’t have time for lukewarmness (is that a word?), you’re either the man/woman for the job, or you aren’t.
BOJ: What kinds of writing do you enjoy the most?
NM: Actually getting something down on the page. Getting on a roll. There’s really nothing like it. Writing anything is hard. Writing something original and creative is the hardest. I can have a million ideas for stories, for scenarios, for dialogue but sitting down and executing it is the biggest hurdle I have to climb. The thing about writing is that something might sound great in your head, but as soon as your fingers brush the keyboard, all of the insecurity and self-doubt bubbles to the surface. You might wonder if you’re good enough, if anyone would care, why would anyone care? That’s why when you sit down and actually write for two hours and see the letters on the page, even if it sucks, something about that creation has beaten all of those negative feelings and the glow that comes from that is why I enjoy it.
BOJ: How do you combat the competitiveness of the industry?
NM: Man, it’s tough. Before I moved out here I heard how competitive it was, but I had that happy-go-lucky Midwestern attitude that said, “It doesn’t matter. You’re going to make it.” And I think that is how you do it. You have to keep that attitude. It’s so easy to become jaded and cynical in this business or any sort of market these days, but it’s the ones who keep that positivism that will end up succeeding. A family friend told me once that since I had shoveled snow before in my life, I already had a huge leg up on most of the people in Los Angeles. They have never had to dig their car out of a icy ditch or trudge through some biting wind to get to class. I try and use that anytime I can. Never forget about shoveling snow and think about how lucky you are to be staring at palm trees every day.
BOJ: Have you seen / met anyone famous?
NM: Sure. If you go hiking in Runyon Canyon you’ll most likely find Gary Busey proposing to a trash can. It would be weird if you didn’t see that, actually.
BOJ: Are all people in Hollywood aspiring actors, writers and directors?
NM: Many are, but Los Angeles is a huge city. Most of the people that live here are just trying to pay the rent, send their kids to school and just live a peaceful life. It’s nice seeing that side of the city since the Tinseltown image is ingrained in a lot of people’s minds that don’t live here. At the same time, yes, there are a ton of people who want to act, write and direct. Unfortunately it adds a layer of suspicion and insincerity on many conversations. Sometimes I don’t want to talk shop, I don’t give a shit where you got your headshots taken, I don’t work at a talent agency and I just want to know who your favorite hockey team is. ALRIGHT?!
BOJ: How does the script review process work for industry studios?
NM: Super competitive. Scripts get sent out to many places. Agencies, management companies, production houses, film festivals. You name it. Getting a script actually sent to these places is generally the result of a credit (previous work, script competition), having an agent or knowing someone in the right spot. Then, these places will have either unpaid or low-paid interns read them and give them a general thumbs up or thumbs down before the script goes up the next rung or gets thrown in the trash. If your script does make it to the next level, it might be optioned (sold) and then it’s not yours anymore. It’s the studios. So get ready for your modern interpretation of Hamlet to turn into the next Battleship. Only this one doesn’t have Liam Neeson. Only Rihanna.
BOJ: What would you say to those looking to become a Hollywood writer?
NM: Relying solely on being a screenwriter is a luxury that very few people in the entire world can afford to have. Writing in any medium is a pretty thankless job and in Hollywood expect it to being more so. When it comes to the movie development process, the screenwriter is generally the lowest mask on the totem pole. Your work will be changed, corrupted and misconstrued but your name will still be on it (that’s how you get paid, though). Luckily the writer has a little bit more control in television now a days, but I digress. If you want to be a Hollywood screenwriter, I would give a few pieces of advice: 1) READ. Read a script every day. Good and bad. The best way to learn how to write is to read. 2) LEARN. Learn the structure of a script from front to back. You should be an expert at story structure before the first word is even on the page. 3) WRITE. Write every day. Force yourself. 4) BE INSANE. Go buy a chinchilla and try and teach it how to ski.