How to Approach Passion Projects & Personal Screenplays: Advice from a BAFTA Nominated Producer
Nick Taussig is the author of four novels: Love and Mayhem, Don Don, Gorilla Guerrilla, and The Distinguished Assassin and a BAFTA-nominated film producer. His recent credits include producer of Stardust (dir. Gabriel Range), Audrey (dir. Helena Coan), the double BAFTA-nominated McQueen (dir. Ian Bonhote & Peter Ettedgui), Breaking Habits (dir. Rob Ryan), Chasing Perfect (dir. Helena Coan), Fred (dir. Paul Van Carter), Churchill (dir. Jonathan Teplitzky), My Name Is Lenny (dir. Ron Scalpello), Lek & The Dogs (dir. Andrew Kotting), The Spy Who Fell To Earth (dir. Tom Meadmore), The Challenge (dir. Peter Williams), Gascoigne (dir. Jane Preston), The Iconoclast (dir. King Adz) and The Guv’nor (dir. Paul Van Carter). In January 2013, he set up Salon Pictures with fellow producer Paul Van Carter.
Nick won the ScreenCraft 2020 Film Fund with Riccardo Servini for A Space in Time, a feature documentary response to the diagnosis of his two sons, Theo and Oskar, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal muscle-wasting disease. It will be released by Bohemia Media in February 2021.
Nick was kind enough to share some of his experiences as a producer and screenwriter as well as advice on how he approaches sharing such a personal story. Here's how to approach personal projects and get the funding you need to get your next project off the ground.
What advice do you have for screenwriters that want to tell a deeply personal story in their screenplay?
The key is to ensure that if you do write something deeply personal, you think of the audience also. It’s very easy for such work to come off as either emotional catharsis or self-indulgence, so it’s about harnessing your unique and heartfelt experience into something that will nevertheless resonate with audiences. 'Why would someone else, who does not know me, want to sit through this?' Keep on asking this question as you write.
How much of yourself and your experiences do you put into your writing?
Quite a bit, as such material often possesses a far greater authenticity: write what you know.
Are there any other writers or screenwriters that you look to for inspiration?
There’s a wonderful book about creative writing called “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" by Lewis Hyde, which I often refer to. It helps a lot when you’re writing for a reason or purpose, beyond simply making a living. You need something bigger than yourself and your immediate needs to be driving you.
What's the first thing you do when you "finish" a screenplay?
Start picking holes in it, as it’s never finished, and will then become something else when a director, heads of department and actors get hold of it.
How has the filmmaking and screenwriting industry changed over the past 5 or 10 years? Do you see any interesting or exciting trends emerging for new and indie writers and creators?
Curiously, it seems that short-form is/was a false dawn, as shown by the recent demise of Quibi, and the explosion of long-form streaming series, both scripted and non-scripted. I’m deeply relieved about this, as good storytelling does need space and time — an important antidote to the fast-paced world we live in.
How has your experience as a producer affected your writing? Do you write with production in mind or does that come later?
Yes, as I spent many years writing for myself first and foremost, only to find that what I had worked on did not have a meaningful audience. It also helps to know how much things cost, to write with budget in mind, which need not hamper creativity but rather the opposite, force you to be even more creative.
What's the best way to secure funding for emerging screenwriters without representation?
Keep on writing, hone your craft. If you stick at it, you’ll get there.
Do you have a personal story you want to tell on the big screen? Enter your screenplay into the ScreenCraft Film Fund Competition in partnership with BondIt Media Capital for a chance to win up t0 $30,000 for your film project.