INTERVIEW: A Few Beats with Screenwriter Jamie Nash
Welcome to my first guest interview! I’ll be adding to an already impressive lineup of scheduled writers every Tuesday, so make sure to stop by for more writer chats.
To launch this new feature at the Quill Ink, I’m honored to have as my inaugural guest Jamie Nash, a working screenwriter and author of more than a decade. (Everyone who knows me knows how I love to dreamcast book characters and imagine my favorite books adapted to film, so it's apt that my first guest is an established screenwriter.) Jamie’s written feature films for Lionsgate, Haxan Films, and Nickelodeon, to name a few. His biography states he is a genre writer for Horror and Family—weird combination—he said weird, I didn’t…but yeah, that is weird. Still, if it’s working, bully for him.
Jamie hit my radar when I signed up for one of his The Save the Cat! Beat-sheet Workbook webinars about letting the main character be the co-writer. By the way, the webinar and workbook helped the whole process for how I revised my debut novel, which was no easy feat when writing a dual-era story with four points of view. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Christina: When did you first think you had a book to write and how did you start?
Jamie Nash: Hmmm…which book? I’ve been attempting novels since I was in seventh grade. My novel writing career got hijacked by screenwriting. As for my screenwriting guides, I’ve written through Save The Cat! I’ve always been fascinated by coming up with rules and processes to help myself and other writers with specific obstacles that commonly arise during writing. This led to teaching, and this led to collecting my ideas/theories into the books Save the Cat! Writes for TV and The Save the Cat! Beat-Sheet Workbook.
Christina: Ooh yes. The workbook! I found it a clever exercise, invaluable practice to break down my novel and make sure I’ve got authentic voices and fully developed plot lines. Clever prompts encouraged meaningful dialog and more effective conflicts and themes. Easy to recommend. So, the workbook leads me to ask, "How did Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! come to you?"
Jamie Nash: Back before Blake Snyder wrote Save the Cat!, he asked me to write a screenplay with him. It was probably my fifth or sixth screenplay and he used all the methods he described in the book. I was a little looser in regards to process back then, and when I saw the beat-sheet and the 10-20-10 (his index card methodology), it hooked me. It was a collection of several methodologies I was using with lots of new spins and easy to remember and communicate language. I’ve been using it for almost 20 years now.
Christina: I nicked this question from The Save the Cat! Beat-Sheet Workbook (about character analysis on page 8), because I’m all curious, “What do you absolutely LOVE? What gets you up in the morning?”
Jamie Nash: I’m project oriented. I go to sleep thinking about whatever project I’m working on and wake up itching to attack it right away.
Christina: Also, from The Save the Cat! Beat-Sheet Workbook (page 10), tell me “What gets you steamed? What gets under your skin? What makes you scream?”
Jamie Nash: Anytime I lose work…I both get steamed and scream. Even in this day with auto backups and cloud-based storage, it still happens. Nothing hurts more than losing ten days of writing or something. So painful.
Christina: Lawd, don't I know it. Living in the county with sketchy Wi-Fi...I totally get this.
If you could have dinner with three people, living, who would be at your table and how would that go?
Jamie Nash: Steven Spielberg, Penn Jillette, and Spike Lee. I would expect Penn and Spike would do all the talking while Steven and I shot looks of amusement at each other.
Christina: Can you imagine the buzz seeing that table for four at a restaurant? Let's manifest that out into the universe...
As a mother of 21 and 22-year-olds, I'm constantly thinking of what wisdom I can impart to them. I often wonder what my 21-year-old self would think of such advice. If you could tell your 21-year-old self anything, what would you share?
Jamie Nash: Superhero movies are about to be massive. Don’t sell your comic book collection.
Christina: What is your current project or latest release?
Jamie Nash: The Save the Cat! Beat-Sheet Workbook is my latest release.
Christina: Best advice for new writers?
Jamie Nash: It’s gonna take at least five years. Probably ten.
Christina: So, who is your favorite screenwriter?
Jamie Nash: Author — Stephen King or Clive Barker — I started reading both in like sixth grade. Screenwriter — Aaron Sorkin — just for the dialogue.
Christina: I’ve gotta know. Who would you dreamcast in your next screenplay?
Jamie Nash: Uh…without giving anything away…it takes place in a hospital setting with two women patients, a nurse ratchet meets Tracy Flick character, and an evil doctor.
So… Lupito Nyong’o, Helen Mirren, Anna Taylor Joy, and Wilem Dafoe.
Christina: I feel like I barely scratched the surface, but I did request only a short interview. Thank you, Jamie, for your access and candor. And for making my first interview easy. Best of luck on your animated project Santa.com.
What did you think? Stay tuned for a fascinating lineup of established writers as well as rising stars. I'm all anticipation. And that's a wrap! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie Nash, the author of the best-selling Save the Cat!(R) Writes for TV, knows what it's like to make a living as a writer. He has sold almost every type of story under the sun, including the horror films Exists, V/H/S/2, The Night Watchmen, Altered, and Lovely Molly, and the family films Santa Hunters and Tiny Christmas. He has written the Middle Grade novels Bunk! and The 44 Rules of Amateur Sleuthing and the sci-fi novel Nomad. When he's not writing and selling work, he teaches screenwriting at Johns Hopkins University and MICA and co-hosts the podcast Writers/Blockbusters. Jamie lives in Maryland with his wife, son, and a talking dog. You can connect with Jamie on social media or via his website.