If you talk to anyone in the entertainment industry the start of their journey and where they end up is rarely the same. Heck, if you talk to anyone in any industry, their career has evolved as their needs and interests fluctuated. Nicky Hawthorne is an actress turned casting professional turned writer and writing is where she is settled… for now. Get ready for an interview filled with knowledge about the industry both in front of and behind the camera. If you are anything like me, I am sure that by the end, you will be waiting anxiously to learn more about the next step in Nicky’s career that is sure to be as impressive and entertaining as her past.
Where did your journey start out?
Started as an actor, was the lead in all the school plays so I thought I was untouchable. I went to Wesleyan and got a BFA there in musical theater. When I graduated I was blessed with all these job offers in equity theater and then when I started to look at them I saw that the salaries would not even pay living expenses or help pay off my school loans. I realized that I got a degree in a very obscure subject that wouldn’t pay me back for all the money and work that I had put into it. I grew up watching a lot of films with my father and brother. I grew up in Minnesota where it is cold nine months out of the year so we would watch movies. When I realized how little money I could make from theater I started to think that I could be a film actress instead.
I started to do film in Chicago and Minnesota and eventually made the leap to Los Angeles. I had a year of waiting tables which was very soul searching and then I booked a national Petco commercial which allowed me to figure everything out and not wait tables.
I auditioned for a short film in my first year in LA that was cast by Beverly Holloway and I realized that I didn’t know that much about the indie film process. I was cast in the role and after that I emailed her and asked if I could somehow help her in the office that way I could learn more about the film process. Much to my surprise, she messaged me back and said that she needed someone the next day. That email turned into 15 movies with her.
How did you evolve into writing?
I go to Sundance every year and I met a friend there who introduced me to his friend and we worked on a few short films together and then as the trust built, we ended up writing a feature film together called “The Tank” which comes out in theaters via Open Road later this year. I never saw casting as my long term goal and writing has become my calling. I’ve since gotten a manager and developed a pilot with him that he’s super excited about.
What does the development process look like with a manager?
Well I came to him with 20 or so ideas and he said no to all of them except the only one I actually loved. Says something about writing what you’re passionate about. He wasn’t saying the ideas he didn’t pick were bad but just that the story had already been done or he just couldn’t sell it. His feedback is always based around the business side of things and whether or not he can sell this product that I am creating. When I first started to work with him I had only written features. I grew up watching movies, not TV, and so that is where my focus was. His suggestion was that if I wanted to write female protagonists, which of course is something I love, that I should start writing for TV. His reasoning was that not only is there so many networks looking for content, but that there is a window open for female protagonists on TV. That was such a relief to hear that. “The Tank” is a male led movie. That was purposeful so that we could get it made. I know it sounds bad but we got a $4 million movie made which has now given me the ability to create some awesome female led shit.
This also crosses over into my experience in casting. I’ve met so many amazing actors at casting workshops that I wasn’t able to help get cast solely because the roles just aren’t there for them. This is why I want to write even more. I want to write roles for those people.
I would love to learn more about this manager/ writer relationship. How did you start to collaborate with this person?
It was a process that probably took around a year or year and a half. I found a list online and of course I had the benefit of the fact that I’ve had a $4 million feature produced. I wrote a 7 word email to a lot of people.
Meaning what? Only 7 words?
Meaning I did not attach a script, I did not pitch them on all the great things I have done. I simply said, “Hey person, I have a feature in theaters later this year via Open Road and I have written something else since. Would you like to check it out?” I tried to keep it really short and to the point. I did get some responses but I actually got the manager I have currently through a referral which is how it usually works. Referral just vets out the crazies. I know when I was casting if I got an actor through a referral or through a blind submission, I would hands down go with the referral.
Trust in relationships is super huge in this business but I think a lot of people don’t understand the dynamic of a true relationship in this business. Do you feel like understanding this dynamic is something you always had or did you learn that through trial and error in LA?
I am from Minnesota where people are just nice. In LA there are a lot of different personalities because people are from all over but I grew up just really valuing people and their time. I try to help people connect the dots and succeed in their own projects. That builds trust and shows that it is a symbiotic relationship.
Switching gears here. How do you define success?
Up until now it has been working in film period. I have so many friends who want to be where I am so it feels like a grand achievement to be working, but currently it is to be creating and actually having those creations be made. To create and have it come outside of myself. Meaning, press send. Put it out there. See what happens. Strategically, of course, but even just getting it out there can be such a feat. There is good writing found in vulnerability.
To learn more about Nicky follow her on IMDB.