American Gem 2007 Short Screenplay Competition - YONDERWINDOW BREAKS
  American Gem Short Screenplay Competition
2007 WINNERS  

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Nick Miller

Tenth Place Winner

Nick Miller
of Fort Wayne, IN
Black Comedy

Nick Miller is a 22-year-old college student from Fort Wayne, Indiana. His studying telecommunications and media production at Ball State University. He picked up a video camera when he was seven or eight years old and has been making movies ever since. He is also a jazz drummer, but since starting college he has not been able to play nearly as much as he would like.


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter.......  

long before I finally accepted it. Being from Indiana, screenwriting is not something I grew up considering as a career possibility. I decided on attending this university because it has a good architecture program, but I never did apply to it. I had been lying to myself, reasoning that architecture would be a satisfying creative outlet while still being a steady, "real" occupation in the fullest Midwestern sense of the word. I would design a casino or a skyscraper, and I could continue making movies as a hobby. Then something clicked. An architect getting the contract for a major skyscraper or casino is about as great a long shot as succeeding in the film business, so why not go for the long shot that would make me happiest?

I know I've succeeded.......  

when I run out of goals to accomplish. I'd like to hope I will never settle for considering myself successful. If I may turn a phrase, success is consolation for those who have forgotten how to dream. Corny, I know. I apologize.

My inspiration to write YONDERWINDOW BREAKS.......

will sound incredibly clichéd, but I awoke from a particular sort of dream that I believe most people have experienced, and I felt that this dream would make for a good short. I don't mean to sound pretentious, as if "the idea came to me in a dream." It is more that I had a mundane dream, one I have had numerous times in the past, and for whatever reason I started to think of narrative possibilities in the very concept of mundane dreams.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Nick Miller: In many ways, I have the internet to thank. Conventional wisdom seems to say that the internet has all but destroyed the way my age bracket communicates in writing. I firmly believe that it had the opposite effect on me. Spending a great deal of time on various message boards, arguing about and discussing anything from politics to sports to comic books, I learned to "speak" naturally in writing. The internet, for me, has been the difference between taking French classes and living in France for a year. When I started getting into filmmaking, I wrote to give myself something to shoot, but I soon realized that I was overlooking the part of the process in which I had the most training.

FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to write your first script? 

Nick Miller: Not much, to be honest. I became excited about the notion of writing a script and jumped headfirst into it. To get the basic formatting right, I found a script sample and did my best to match it manually in MS Word. Only after this first haphazard attempt did I slow down and begin doing the legwork necessary to write something worth reading.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write YONDERWINDOW BREAKS?

Nick Miller: Yonderwindow Breaks is one of my first short scripts, although not the very first. This is really bad advice, but I conceived and wrote the script in one evening, and then I submitted that first draft to American Gem later the same night. I wouldn't suggest following my lead, but I stumbled upon the contest shortly before the deadline and was determined to enter something.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Nick Miller: It seems you folks are bound and determined to uncover my bad habits. I wish I could say that I have a disciplined schedule for writing, but I have yet to find any consistent groove that works for me.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Nick Miller: Short of writing, writing, and writing, entering screenplay contests is one of the most important things an aspiring screenwriter can do. There's no substitute for getting your work in front of capable, objective eyes.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Nick Miller: I planned to write a short script over the summer and produce it during this school year, but I get really nervous about approaching actors and things of that nature. I felt that having a script with a concrete selling point, "it placed in a contest," would bolster my confidence and give me the edge I need to approach people. After researching various short screenplay contests, American Gem seemed to be the most outstanding.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Nick Miller: More than any particular script, I would strongly suggest reading screenplays for movies that you have not seen. All too often it can be comfortable to reach for that script of your favorite movie, but it is very difficult to appreciate a script as a work unto itself when you transpose memories of the produced film over your reading.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Nick Miller: I have played the drums, mostly jazz, since I was knee-high. Both my father and my uncle on the mother's side played, so drumming is in my blood. Then there is the internet, but I don't know that I would call it a passion. An addiction, maybe.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Nick Miller:  I almost feel self-conscious in giving this answer, but I loves me some Tarantino. Too many writers and directors in the mid-90's took to fashioning themselves in his image without having his same passions fueling their work, which is where the hint of insecurity comes from when I conceive of myself along those lines. But then, I was seven years old when Reservoir Dogs came out. I think that I can honestly say I grew up with Tarantino in the same way Tarantino grew up with his various influences.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Nick Miller: The man with no name--Clint Eastwood. I have no substantial evidence to support this, but he strikes me as a director who respects his writers and the work they have done. Other than failing miserably and becoming a career dishwasher, my biggest screenwriting fear is seeing something I have written turned into a movie I never envisioned, for the worse. Even if Clint Eastwood were to turn my script into something I never intended it to be, I can't imagine it would be for the worse.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Nick Miller: Jack Nicholson. Come on. I'll call it, "Jack Nicholson Talks for 90 Minutes: A Documentary."

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Nick Miller: I do not feel accomplished enough to be giving advice, but I suppose I can make a suggestion. Avoid the temptation to start out with high-concept, epic adventures. Write what you know. As a rule of thumb, I don't write anything I couldn't shoot with little trouble. If shooting a movie on no budget would be impractical, then I probably don't know enough about the subject to be writing that movie, anyway. You will have plenty of opportunities to time-travel and explore strange new worlds when you are a successful writer working on assignment.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Nick Miller: Unless something unexpected happens, I'd like to shoot Yonderwindow Breaks myself and maybe enter it in the Student Academy Awards.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Nick Miller: If I knew, it would be the farthest ahead I've ever planned. Ask me what I'm doing for dinner tomorrow.


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