screenwriter to watch
In 2016, Nicholas directed his debut feature film, Boys In The Trees, a supernatural skater film. This script won the NewDraft Award at NewFest 2011,received a rehearsed reading at the Lincoln Center in New York and was also nominated for the Monte Miller AWGIE Award. It made its world premiere in September 2016 at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
His short film work includes Hugo (winner of the Grand Prize for Fantasy at the Rhode Island International Film Festival), Flight (a Tropfest finalist) and The Last Time I Saw Richard (winner of several awards including Best Short Film at the 2014 AACTA Awards and Best Emerging Filmmaker at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival).
His television work includes directing the Emmy award-winning Nowhere Boys and directing multiplatform content for Conspiracy 365, Time Of Our Lives, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Season 2 & 3), Molly and Glitch.
As a director, Nicholas has attended the Berlinale Talent Campus, Binger FilmLab Directors Coaching Programme (Amsterdam), trained with Song Of The Goat theatre company (Poland), won the 2013 Inscription LA Residency and was awarded an Asialink Arts Fellowship to study robotics in Beijing in 2015.
Credits: Writer / Director Boys in The Trees
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
My first script was optioned when I was still studying at university. One of my lecturers read it and said “I don’t understand a word of it but I’m pretty sure it’s good” and asked if he could pass it on to a producer friend.
She optioned it and while the film didn’t make it into production, it started a long creative relationship that allowed me to transition into television production and kept me writing.
My next feature script, BOYS IN THE TREES, was optioned by another company and that went into production.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Be ready for luck – when you get that lucky break / connection / opportunity, make sure you have something ready to show.
Also, it’s worth having more than one thing on the go. You’ll always have that favourite priority project but have something ready as a back up to increase your odds.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
I once had to do a rewrite on somebody else’s script. It was a really great concept but something had gone wrong in the execution and there wasn’t a unified idea on what needed to be done. At first I thought it would be simple but once I started re-plotting I realised there just wasn’t a third act. There was a lot of busy plot but we didn’t see that character evolution we needed for the story to hit.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I think things really changed after my short film, THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD. It got into a lot of great festivals and scored me representation. But ultimately I think the best thing about it was that it showed my voice and what I do that’s different to other filmmakers. It didn’t need any caveats or allowances – it was just a work that stood strongly on its own.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve just written a new feature film that I’m hoping to send out soon. I’m also working with another great writer developing his script that I’m attached to direct. I also have a few other television ideas on the go.
What are some of your favorite movies?
One of the films that had the biggest influence on me was David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I found it so disconcerting the first time I watched it but I love the way he works with the elements of cinema to create such a unique experience.
I also still have such a huge love for fantasy and coming of age films from the 1980’s and 1990’s – early Tim Burton work and the great films of Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Richard Donner and producers like Kathleen Kennedy.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
I’ve always taken huge inspiration from Callie Khouri. I think Thelma & Louise is a perfect screenplay and whenever I hit a wall, I go back to that film and wonder “what would Callie do?”.
I also love the wit and pace of Billy Wilder dialogue and the magic and heart of Melissa Mathison was something very special.
There’s lot of great writers coming through now that I’m inspired by like Eric Heisserer, Michael Werwie and John J Griffin.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival:
I remember being there a couple of years ago after being invited by Rick and Daniel at Enderby Entertainment. It was my birthday and I was away from home but ended up sitting at a table at one of the functions listening to John August, Craig Mazin, Kelly Marcel, Richard Kelly and Leigh Whannell talk film. I pretty much just sat there dumbly with nothing to offer as I listened to these filmmakers who had all made films I loved dearly talked openly and off the record. It was the more inspiring way to spend a birthday!