A UNM student has emerged from television extra to the limelight as an accomplished director.
Nick Nelson, a fine arts student, moved from an extra in “Breaking Bad” to a producer of his own miniseries. The series started as a classroom assignment titled “The End Begins,” and he has recently been contacted by 20th Century Fox to continue the miniseries.
“When I first got on with [Breaking Bad], I was just an extra,” Nelson said. “I was given some speaking lines, which wasn’t used.”
“Breaking Bad” took him on to do standing work, and eventually was able to do some production work in the Marvel Studios film “The Avengers,” he said, and it was at that point he realized he enjoyed being behind the camera instead of being an actor.
After finding his calling, Nelson wrote his own script for a classroom assignment, which ended up being so successful he turned it into a miniseries, he said. Besides the success he has found, Nelson said his favorite part of the entire experience has been filming.
“My favorite part would have been filming the escape scene. There’s an escape scene in the first episode, and we filmed it near my house in Jemez,” Nelson said.
Nelson and his crew spent an entire Saturday driving around, acting out chase scenes and practicing being shot at, he said. Scenes similar to this were inspired by some of his favorite ‘80s action and sci-fi films.
“The idea came from growing up on ‘Red Dawn,’ ‘Robocop,’ the ‘Aliens,’ ‘Terminator,’ ‘Good Fellas,’” Nelson said. “‘The End Begins’ is an invasion movie, so that’s where the whole thing gets started from, and then the whole thing with machines and technology, I got that from ‘Terminator.’”
The names of his cast are all from the movie “Aliens,”directed by James Cameron, his favorite director, he said. Similar to “Aliens,” the characters in “The End Begins” are separated and have to work together to survive., he said.
Shaun Fawver, who is a UNM alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in digital media spent a great deal of his time working on graphics for the film and said Nelson was extremely pleasant to work with.
“I helped set up the title cards,” Fawver said. “If he has a specific idea in mind, then I had to use my assets to make it come to life; and I also modeled an airplane, he had concept art so I had to model it for him.”
Among these tasks, Fawver also worked on boom operation to record the sound, as well as act, he said.
“What I enjoyed the most was the really relaxed environment; [Nelson] was nice to work with,” Fawver said. “If you struggled a bit, he would give you an idea how to go about the problem.”
Every time he gave feedback, it was always really useful, he said. Even as an actor, he gave good direction while on the set.
Fawver hopes to continue working with Nelson on the next three films, he said.
Myrna Ramos, another UNM alumna, was in the same class as Nelson working on the pilot film, she said had no official title and did whatever was necessary to make the film happen.
“I was an assistant, I was a producer, acting, anything he needed to help with,” Ramos said.
Working with everyone was one of her favorite aspects about working on the film, she said.
Being around so many people interested in making the film come to life was an experience she will always look for on new projects, she said..
“All in all I just loved how professional he was trying to be,” Ramos said. “I just loved the atmosphere, it motivated students to do better, it motivated students to do more things.”
Nelson’s motivation and professionalism helped move the film forward and unify everyone working on it, she said. It made the whole process of filming a lot easier.