Project Greenlight – The Leisure Class

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Almost 15 years ago Project Greenlight was the only reality show I really watched. They put out 3 seasons but unfortunately all of the films produced as a result of the show never amounted to anything of next level quality. The 4th season recaptured my imagination and damn it if they didn’t do it again… another dud. Moving forward: Do I still watch the show? Yes. The show itself is great and I’ve always enjoyed it. The problem (maybe it’s not a problem) is that the films they make as a result of the show simply suck. But why?

Is it the director(s) they picked? Is it the scripts? Or is it the producers of the ‘reality show’ that have consistently come up with duds? I’m still on the fence about how I feel about Effie Brown but maybe that’s what Project Greenlight (as a show) wanted? The big question I have is, How much did the producers of Project Greenlight manipulate the ‘show’ for the sake of conflict? And did that actually affect the quality of the final film they created? The lack of quality falls not only on Jason Mann but on Matt and Ben and the Farrelly Brothers… not to mention HBO.

The biggest irony is that Project Greenlight is designed to help launch the careers of young filmmakers and they may have just killed Jason Mann’s.

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Laughing Derby in Louisville

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Last weekend Sept. 24-26th I returned to Louisville, KY to preform at the Laughing Derby Comedy Club. This is significant to me because I lived there for over a year (from 2009 to 2010) and I haven’t been back in over 3 years. It’s like a second hometown. When I lived there I was new to headlining and my a lot of my writing was informed by the their specific audiences. Going back this last weekend was an eye opener. Since I’ve lived in Los Angeles I’ve really tried to focus on the ‘next level’ of joke writing. Being back in Louisville made me feel like I was regressing. The audiences seemed to really enjoy my least creative material and any time I would try to challenge them with a new idea they really clammed up. In fairness, maybe these new ideas are also new jokes and I need to just keep working on them so I can learn how to get these more complicated ideas across to even the least interested crowds. It’s weird to feel like you are going backwards but that’s exactly how I felt. Hopefully I can go back some day soon and draw the types of crowds that will enjoy more challenging/creative humor.

Here is a nice article my good buddy Brent Owen wrote up: LEO Article

Thanks again for having me Louisville. Part of me will always love that town.

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That time I met Judd Apatow…

I have an unsettled relationship with the idea of celebrity. I hate when people give celebrities more attention than they deserve. I think it’s because I’m such a fan of people and if on a human level the “quote-unquote” celebrity isn’t able to connect with you on that basic level then their status as a famous person is totally moot for me. That being said, living in Los Angeles has provided me with interactions with certain celebrities that are not only famous but are also dynamic human beings that I actually admire. Recently I was performing at The Hollywood Improv and right when I walked in, sitting in a booth with his notes, was Judd Apatow (director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and most recently Trainwreck, among many other producing credits). At first I didn’t recognize him. I walked from the bar into the packed showroom, checked in with the host and was informed that Apatow was going to do a set. I got excited. It’s a rare feeling for me, I’m usually pretty dead to the idea of famous people. But for me Apatow isn’t just a famous person. His career is specifically the template for how I’ve been constructing my own career: Start as a stand-up comedian, go into TV writing, then become a highly successful producer and director…

So I go back into the bar area and confirm that the normal looking guy with a touch of grey in his beard was Apatow. I was one of the producers of the show that night so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and thank him for doing our show. Super nice guy, down to earth, incredibly approachable. I told Apatow that my roommate Jason was the actor who played the bully in Freaks and Geeks and that Jason was in the audience that night. Apatow got excited and regaled me with old memories from the show. At one point I built up the courage to ask for a photo and he humbly obliged.

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Here’s where it gets interesting…

Then Apatow goes on stage, has a good set and about half way through goes into a bit about why celebrities don’t like taking photos. In his words it’s because the person who asks for the photo always ends up putting their arm around the celebrity thus inevitably putting their armpit on the shoulder of said celebrity (see photo above) and by the end of the day if they have done 50 photos their shoulder smells like ass. I’m in the back of the audience realizing I just did the precise faux pas that he is talking about just 10 minutes prior. It’s clearly a bit he’s been working on for a while and not about me specifically but still it was a momentarily uncomfortable coincidence. So I go on stage after Judd and open my set referring to the stink shoulder bit and admitting that I was guitly of doing the exact shoulder stinking he was joking about (again view photo above). It gets a laugh and that should be the end of the story.

Until, we are in the bar after the show, it’s packed. Doing my best to make sure I say hello to everyone who came for the show. It’s a bit of a whirl wind. Suddenly, my roommate Jason comes up to me and points at me with an attitude of ‘gotcha’, Jason then exclaims, “Apatow just took a photo with me! And he put his armpit on my shoulder giving me the stink shoulder.” We laughed our asses off. What a random, crazy story and a blast of a night.

So, what does this all mean? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just guilty of perpetuating the very celebrity culture that I have been so critical of, or maybe this is an objectively interesting story? Either could be true, but when I really think about it… working with someone who has accomplishments that I actually admire was inspiring and if a celebrity is first and fore most a good person than maybe I need to be honest with the fact that that’s what I’m aiming for.

…but I seriously have no desire to be famous, I just want to be really fucking good!

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UCLA Success Story

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The good people over at UCLA Extension wrote up a nice piece about me getting my first writing job. I’m a big fan of their programs. If you are thinking about taking one of their classes I highly recommend it. Below is the article and a link to their blog.

From UCLA Extension:

Nicholas Anthony, who we’ve written about before, has landed his first television writing job on the new fall CBS show The Inspectors, which focuses on a family working for the Postal Inspection Service, one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the US.

Nicholas honed his craft in Writers’ Program screenwriting courses before winning Best Original Half-Hour TV Pilot in the 2013 Final Draft, Inc. Big Break Contest for his script Never Famous. Now, he is a paid television writer.

“The Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension was the final training I needed to be ready for the professional TV writing market place,” says Nicholas. “The classes I took and the people I met prepared me for exactly what I would need to know once I was on the job. If you are trying to become a professional screenwriter or are looking for the beginning of your education, I can’t recommend their programs enough.”

UCLA Extension Success Story Article

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Why “This Is Working” is not working for me

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Once a week professional screenwriters John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Craig Mazin (Identity Thief, RocketMan, The Hangover Part II & III) produce a podcast worthy of any screenwriters attention called, Scriptnotes. It’s a podcast about screenwriting and things that may be interesting to screenwriters. I highly recommend it. It’s one of the top podcast on iTunes and it can also be found at JohnAugust.com. As a fledgling professional screenwriter myself, I find this podcast to be a great resource for unique industry insights and perspectives outside of my own purview. Even though there are times when I disagree with their specific tastes, I find both John and Craig to be sharp, intelligent people who deeply care about their craft and earnestly want to help other writers.

One thing I specifically enjoy is a segment on their show called, The 3 Page Challenge. This is where they give writers a chance to send in the first 3 pages of their script and for John and Craig to give their critiques. It’s such a popular segment they decided to do a special 3 Page Challenge with an entire screenplay. They picked, “This Is Working” by K.C. Scott, a script that had already been featured during a recent 3 Page Challenge and they made it available for download so that you could read it before you listened to the critique. Now this is interesting to me because of the subjective nature of even professional level screenwriting. It’s hard for me to listen to any writer’s opinion (professional or not) on a screenplay before I’ve either read their scripts, or heard their specific take on scripts that I’ve read. Although I have not read any of John and Craig’s scripts they both have films that I’ve seen, some I really like and unfortunately some a don’t like as much but I’ve never had a specific opportunity to understand their objective tastes as they relate to a piece of unproduced screenwriting. So, for me this is where rubber meets the road with John and Craig. I could finally decide if their general tastes match up with mine. Why is this important to me? Listening to a podcast takes a lot of time and if I’m going to continue to be a loyal listener I want to know, at least on some level, that we’re in the same ballpark when it’s come to what we think is quality writing.

So I read “This Is Working” and simply didn’t enjoy it. With all respect to K.C., it just wasn’t my taste. I believe he has a firm grasp on the medium but the story didn’t grab me. The characters are not people I would want to spend time with for two hours in a dark movie theater and the plotting/structure left me feeling bored. I personally don’t find spoiled rich kids to be interesting unless they or someone around them grows. One exception, but only because the story goes way over the top, is “The Jerk.” In “This Is Working” no one changes and Byron is so sad he even sucks the people around him into his orbit. That, and the clever hipster references didn’t come across as comedy genius to me, they just came across as clever hipster references.

So I didn’t care for the script (Sorry K.C.) and I was looking forward to John and Craig agreeing with me. The podcast starts and to my surprise they both rave about the script. At one point a claim was made that K.C. is such a strong writer he should immediately be on staff for an existing television show. I have to admit my head started spinning. Was I just wrong? Did I not read it properly? This was a real, The King Has No Clothing moment for me. So I continued to listen to the podcast and they proceeded to explain everything they felt could be improved with the script. They cited a number of flaws that I also didn’t like about script. At this point I’m incredibly confused. How could a writer of a screenplay that clearly needs as much work as this script needs still be ready to start working on a television show today?

I don’t bring all of this up to be critical of K.C. and I don’t bring all of this up to even be critical of John and Craig. I shine light on this because I’m trying to stay sane and go through the process of becoming a professional screenwriter. The more I go down the rabbit hole the more I realize this entire career I’ve picked is potentially ONLY based on peoples opinions and relationships. I want to think that there’s such a thing as objective quality and I want to think that the cream rises to the top but the more and more I watch success, the more and more I become confused. Lately the Krishna quote has been bouncing around in my head, “You have a right to your labor but not the fruits of your labor.” I write this blog because I want to get through through the fog. Do any of their other listeners agree with me about this script? Am I simply way off? When Craig said, “This Is Working” is a 2015 script, not a 1990’s script that doesn’t mean that it’s a story that should be professionally concidered. To me the script doesn’t feel current, it feels trendy and I’m more interested in finding deeper truths without so many ‘arch’ references.

I feel like writing this at all will potentially put me in the lions den with John and Craig but the fear of that isn’t worth allowing the confusion to win. I make a lot of mistakes in my life and in my work but I’ve continued to keep moving forward. This idea of subjectivity being a cloud that confounds me and keeps me from producing more work is something I’m going to fight through. I come to you not as someone who thinks they have the answers, but as a student of the craft and a curious human who just wants to understand. Any perspective on this would be appreciated.

Nicholas Anthony
The MF Citrus Farm
Los Angeles, CA

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How I got my 1st network TV writing job

There are more brain surgeons than there are professional television writers. I don’t know if that’s actually a true statement but it’s something I tell people and it sure does feel true. When I was 17 years old, in my mind, I decided to become a professional screenwriter and as crazy as it sounds, even to me, I was recently hired to write for a new show on CBS called, The Inspectors (which will air in the fall of 2015). The following is a brief story about how that happened.

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In 2003 I started doing stand-up comedy at ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis, MN. During that time I had a feeling that as much as I loved stand-up at some point I would want more. So I enrolled into the well respected but affordable screenwriting program at MCTC in Minneapolis. While there I studied with the great and mysterious Hafed Bouassida who studied film at the famous Prague Film School in the Czech Republic. What I learned from Hafed is the foundation upon which every other aspect of my writing has been built. He hammered us on keeping our scripts visual and was a tyrant about structure. Although I wish our relationship would have continued past film school he was the mentor I needed at the genesis of my career.

While still in Minneapolis I wrote many scripts. The first one we produced was a Twilight Zone type story called, Breakables. With my fellow producers Wayne Johnson and Brendan Eddy the second film we created was the ambitious WWI short, The Nihilist. This film was the story of a depressed English soldier who had lost the will to live and decided to commit suicide by running into the middle of trench warfare. After producing that short and doing well in the independent film festival market, I decided to move out of Minnesota. First, to Chicago and then Louisville so that I could continue my career as a traveling stand-up comedian. Finally in the fall of 2010 I moved to Los Angeles to realize the dream I had since I was 17.

When I first got to LA I audited a class at Pepperdine University that was taught by the immensely talented and passionate screenwriter Randall Wallace (writer of Braveheart). During that experience I realized that my proximity to talented people had nothing to do with my own talent and as much as I knew I had taste I needed to start developing my own voice. I had already written my first feature length script and was writing a number of TV specs (Modern Family, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) but now I needed connections. Luckily I was accepted into the Advanced TV Writing Program through UCLA’s Extension. There I met and worked with many TV veterans. They helped me polish my first pilot Never Famous which went on to win the Final Draft TV Pilot Writing Contest in 2014. After that I started working on a project called My Girlfriend’s A Doll and during that time I was offered a job on the CBS show, The Inspectors.

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Last month I finished my first script for The Inspectors. They gave me 2 weeks to write it and I was able to finish it in 3 days. What I leaned from that process is something that I was told as a younger writer but didn’t fully grasp until this experience. It’s quite simple: great screenwriting is the result of great outlining. I will say it again, OUTLINE, OUTLINE, OUTLINE! It’s easy to want to just start writing but the outlining process is how most professionals work. The Inspectors will shoot this summer in Charleston, SC and if I’m lucky maybe they’ll give me a cameo so I can have my Hitchcock moment. Stay tuned, I’m as excited as you are to see what happens next.

Links to the scripts that were mentioned:

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia spec

30 ROCK spec

Modern Family spec

One For The Road feature film

Never Famous pilot script

My Girlfriend’s A Doll pilot

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Nick’s 2015 Oscar Picks

NICK’S PICK: Michael Keaton

  LEAD ACTRESS

Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

NICK’S PICK: Rosamund Pike

    Director

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum“The Imitation Game”

Supporting actress

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep, “Into The Woods”

NICK’S PICK: Emma Stone

Supporting actor

Robert Duvall, “The Judge
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

NICK’S PICK: Hands down, J.K. Simmons

Animated feature film

“Big Hero 6” | Review
The Boxtrolls” | Review
“How To Train Your Dragon 2” | Review
“Song of the Sea” | Review
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” | Review

NICK’S PICK: “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Foreign language film

“Ida” (Poland)
“Leviathan” (Russia)
“Tangerines” (Estonia)
“Timbuktu” (Mauritania)
“Wild Tales” (Argentina)

NICK’S PICK: “Timbuktu”

Adapted screenplay

Jason Hall, “American Sniper”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything”
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

NICK’S PICK: “Whiplash”

Original screenplay

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher”

Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (story), “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”

NICK’S PICK: Birdman

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The Post Roll PodCast w/Collin Moulton

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I’m a firm believer in never allowing fear to control your decision making. That being said, as I get older the fear of physically hurting myself grows. I’ve stopped running because it hurts my back, I’ve stop playing basket ball because I don’t want to roll my ankle and part of me hates that. The other part of me is interested in finding new ways to exercise that aren’t as hard on my body. A couple weeks back my good friend and talented comedian Collin Moulton ask me if I wanted to to Jujitsu and then afterwards to a pod cast. I was immediately interested. Welcome to episode #1 of “The Post Roll Podcast.”

The Post Roll Podcast w/ Collin Moulton: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/post-roll-podcast-collin-moulton/id956754797?mt=2

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Goonies Comedy Club – Dec. 26th & 27th

UnknownWhen you get tired of dealing with your family this holiday season and you want to come have a laugh, I will be headlining Goonies Comedy Club in Rochester, MN. 2 shows this Friday and Saturday Dec. 26th & 27th. Tickets: $14 in advance, $20 at the door. For more details visit: www.GooniesComedy.com

Emcee: Greg Berman

Feature: Joey Vincent

Headliner: Nicholas “Chocolate Milk” Anthony

Goonies Comedy Club
7 2nd Street Southwest
Rochester, MN 55902

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Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase (Dec. 18 – 20)

The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase in Michigan is one of my favorite comedy clubs in the country. I will be headlining their brand new location this weekend Dec. 18 thru 20. 1 show Thursday. 2 shows on Friday and Saturday. Ann Arobor Logo

For more details visit: http://www.aacomedy.com

P.S. I can’t wait to go back to Zingerman’s Deli.

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