Grad Turns Creative Writing Thesis Into Feature Film

Grad Turns Creative Writing Thesis Into Feature Film

Draft number one of Finding Home was the beginning of Nick Westfall’s thesis project for Full Sail’s Creative Writing MFA program. Now, draft number 139 is a movie.

“I started creating drafts because I was forgetting to save my work and kept losing stuff, so it’s probably at more of like, draft number 150 now,” says Nick, laughing. “The program really helped with the beginning stages of the story and screenwriting.”

Since graduating from Full Sail’s online MFA program in 2013, Nick has finished and promoted his script, co-founded the company Dock Street Productions, and raised money to bring his project to life. It all culminated this summer during a 14-day shoot in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. In addition to his role as screenwriter, Nick served as director and producer as well, overseeing the film’s 48-person cast and crew.

“The shoot was absolutely a fun time,” says Nick. “I think that’s how you know you’re on your path, when you’re completely exhausted but there’s still this childlike energy that you have within. We worked 12-14 hour days, but everyone was still high energy on set.”

The shoot was part of summer break for Nick, who by day is a P.E. teacher at an elementary school in Holden Beach, North Carolina. It’s a job he’s held for the past six years (he attended Full Sail while working full-time) and one he truly enjoys.

“I’ve wanted to be a P.E. teacher since I was 12, when my dad told me he thought it’d be a great job to have,” says Nick. “I got my degree in education before attending Full Sail.”

And while you wouldn’t think teaching P.E. and filmmaking would ever overlap, Nick organized a 5k race as a fundraiser for Finding Home and started an after-school film club for fifth graders. You can see one of their projects, an anti-bullying video, on YouTube. “Being able to introduce those kids to film and give them an experience like that is really cool,” says Nick.

Finding Home is a drama about a man who tries to help find a new home for a young boy. It’s an in-depth look at family values, adoption, and the foster care system, as well as an emotional exploration into what elements of a house truly make it a home.

“I’m really drawn to writing unconventional love stories,” says Nick. “I see this film as a parental love story about a man and young boy who go on a journey to find a family.”

Nick spent his summer break editing Finding Home, and later this year, the film will premiere in downtown Wilmington. Additionally, he’s also already at work on a number of other scripts, including an adaptation of a novel.

“In the next three-to-five years, I hope to be doing exactly the same thing: writing and directing films. I haven’t had to ask myself, ‘Should I quit being a teacher?’ yet. Plus,” he laughs, “I’m pretty sure I’m the only screenwriting P.E. teacher on the planet.”