Interview with Nick Horwood
Grand Prize winner of Final Draft Big Break 2013
Article written by Marnie Mitchell-Lister
You know the drill, you get the email; “Page”, “BlueCat”, “Joe Shmoe’s We Have Hollywood Connections Screenplay Contest” has announced their finalists! You scour the list of names, looking for someone, anyone you know. And the grand prize winner, well it’s someone you’ve never heard of. How is that possible? Where did they come from? Are they one hit wonders? Phantoms? Or just lucky bastards?
When Final Draft announced Nick Horwood’s feature “Lancelot”, as their grand prize winner this past January, all my questions were put to rest. I actually know Nick! I’ve even read some of his work. And I can assure you, while Nick may get lucky on occasion, luck had nothing to do with his Final Draft win. He’s worked very hard for this, for many years. He’s definitely no “one hit wonder”.
MML: Hey, Nick. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.
NH: No problem. Thanks for asking!
MML: While we’re all interested in your experience with Final Draft, I really want to focus on what got you there. When did you start writing screenplays? What got you started?
NH: I started about 15 years ago. I had tried various creative pursuits such as cartooning and writing stories for children, but that never really went anywhere and my enthusiasm waned. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I decided to try my hand at writing a film. This was back before the whole ‘How to be a screenwriter’ industry that exists today, so there were very few blogs and websites dedicated to screenwriting – in fact I didn’t even own a computer! I had to use my local library or borrow a friend’s PC to type up my longhand scribblings.
None of the agents or producers I was contacting were interested in reading my work, so I had literally nobody to give me feedback or tell me if my writing was any good. Then I heard a radio interview with Kevin Spacey where he mentioned his newly launched website Triggerstreet.com. Finally I had somewhere where I could display my work for others to read, so I nervously uploaded a comedy called JOURNEY TO THE LOST ISLAND OF KILLER DINOSAURS! To my delight the script was very well received, eventually receiving a ‘Screenplay of the Month’ nomination. I had finally found my talent, as well as my passion.
MML: I know you attended your first “webinar” recently. What other workshops, books, lessons or websites do you think helped improve your writing over the years?
NH: Well, blogs and forums were a useful source of hints and tips, but I mostly just learnt as I went along. I think you can fill up the right hemisphere with as much theory as you like, but it’s what you have in the left, creative side of your brain that shows up mostly on the page. For me 90% of learning to write is practice, but each writer has to find what works best for them.
I did attend a Save The Cat workshop in London a few years back, which was fun, and I also attended Robert MacKee’s ‘Story’ seminar recently, which was very interesting. I’m not sure either helped with my writing… but at least they got me out of my cave!
MML: Your contest track record is ridiculously impressive. Your name has been at the top of “Page” and “Final Draft”, as well as many other contests since 2007. What do you think it is about “Lancelot” that made it “Grand Prize” worthy?
NH: I wrote a version of the script in 2008 and it made the top 10 in Big Break, but it was a very different version of the script, more of a fantasy action/adventure, with a meandering story and many flashbacks. But I kept working on it, trimming the fantasy element away and focusing on the central narrative of Lancelot returning to Britain after the death of King Arthur. I worked on it for several years until it became what it is today, so I would say a big part of its success is just that it’s very well developed. I entered a lot of my scripts into various contests, but LANCELOT is the most successful.
MML: Now, because we’re friends, I’m familiar with your frustrations. I’m frustrated for you. You’ve more than proven yourself over and over as a high quality writer. With this recent success, do you feel like you’re any closer to a paid writing gig, or maybe a serious option of one of your features?
NH: *sigh* Yes, and I know I haven’t always been shy about sharing my frustrations. It’s a long road for any writer. I have optioned and sold a couple of scripts, and been commissioned to write a feature in the UK, but I’ve yet to strike it big. Luck has a large part to play in it, and also managing to successfully combine telling a story that you’re passionate about, but which is also deemed ‘marketable’, that’s the challenge!
MML: I read some of your work on Triggerstreet many years ago Nick, and even back then I knew you were someone to watch. Hopefully soon, we’ll all be watching one of your screenplays on the big screen. Thanks Nick!
You can find a list of Nick’s screenplays along with his long list of awards on his website:
About the reviewer: An award winning writer AND photographer, Marnie Mitchell Lister’s website is available at http://www.marnzart.com. Marnie’s had 5 shorts produced (so far) and placed Semi-final with her features in Bluecat.