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Meet the Finalist: Brett Howard Nelson, "BLOOD, SCUM & NEON LIGHTS"

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I was a childhood actor. As an adult, I was a working actor in film and television. I then transitioned over and became a self-taught screenwriter. The transition was easy for me because of reading stage plays and screenplays while growing up, And knowing the disciplines of acting was also a tremendous help.

What's is your all time favorite film? Why is it special to you?

That’s a hard question to answer because I have quite a few and not just one. But as a screenwriter, I think the best answer is “Thelma & Louise.” It’s a special one because I was a Junior in high school when it came out. And the month before it came out in theaters, I almost died from a ruptured Appendix. I was in the hospital for ten days—hooked up to a stomach pump and IVs. Days later, after I gained consciousness, I turned on the TV and kept hearing about a controversial film making serious waves from early screenings. It was a film by Ridley Scott, who was at that time, and still is, one of my favorite directors. Every time a daytime talk show came on, or the nightly news, the controversial film would be the subject of the show. But they never said why it was so controversial. It got to the point that when my nurses went on break, they would come to my hospital room with folding chairs and would sit with me. We would be watching Oprah talking about this soon-coming film about two women going above the law. And still, it was never stated why.

It was a month later, while still out of school and still recovering, my mom asked me if I wanted to go see a movie. It was the very week “Thelma & Louise” premiered in theaters. I said to my mother, “Let’s go see the movie that’s making all the controversy!” She agreed, and we finally saw the film. I was amazed—in awe—by the storytelling of Callie Khouri. It was her first screenplay she had written. And the direction of Ridley Scott brought it to life beautifully onscreen. The film was absolute perfection in every way. And still is.The screenplay, too. After the film was over, I felt like I had just taken a road trip across America. It was right then, I wanted to become a screenwriter. And several years later, I wrote my first screenplay, and it got me a manager. So “Thelma & Louise” will always hold a special place in my heart.

What tips would you give aspiring filmmakers who are just starting their careers?

My tips for aspiring filmmakers (writers and directors) are to watch films and read scripts. Old and new. Discover and see what made them work successfully. And the others not so much. Pay attention to the writer’s voice. How is it that they use words effectively and honestly on the page? Pay attention to, and learn from actual human dialogue. Go to cafes, dinners, and coffee shops. Listen to the surrounding conversations. It’s verbal human communication that you need to tune in to, in order to hone it yourself on the page. I also recommend taking an acting class in your area. Understand the disciplines of the craft of acting using your senses. Voice, movement, awareness and connection to yourself and others. How to be honest and truthful in everything you say and do. This especially true for aspiring directors. The more you learn about acting, the better you’ll be able to direct them. And the same is true for the aspiring screenwriters, as it will allow you to better focus and maintain believability of the characters on the page.

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Tags: 7th Annual New York Film Awards 2023


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