The Write Stuff with Dan Nixon
Posted by Team APATA | Jun 12, 2022
As a kid Dan Nixon didn’t realise that directors and actors weren’t the only players making a television show. He discovered much later those writers were the ‘magic makers’ and that you could make a career out of writing for television, creating your own worlds and characters and taking them on your own imagined adventures.
Following an Arts degree Dan studied a Masters in Screenwriting at the Victorian College of Arts. A short-term job soon after graduating gave Dan the motivation to become the captain of his own destiny with a dream of pitching his own original concepts. Thus Dan’s children’s television production company, Pirate Size Productions, was born.
Not stopping there, Dan is a lecturer at RMIT and founded the Melbourne Young Writers Studio where he and his team teach young people, and adults, to fall in love with the craft of storytelling.
Dan has a passion for what he does for the screen and with his MYWS programs.
Yolande was lucky enough to pick Dan’s brain for the latest APATA podcast episode. Dan shares how his love of writing led to learning about screenwriting. Sharing his passion. And just what it takes to successfully combine storytelling and animation for television. (visit Dan’s podcast page for the full transcript and extra links)
What we learned about storytelling for television from Dan
1. There are four main ingredients to a Pirate Size Productions story.
“Most of our projects are grown inhouse. We do everything from preschool to projects for older audiences. And the unifying factor, no matter what we’re doing, is that we look for concepts that are in equal parts: funny, sad, beautiful and strange. They’ve got to make you laugh, they got to have a bit of depth, they’ve got to be a bit out there, and they’ve got to make you think!”
2. You need to have multiple projects and ideas on the go.
This not only proves you are serious, but it provides backup when an idea needs to be shelved, or people want more.
“It can be quite risky, as a content creator, to put all your eggs in one basket. This is something I talk to writers about all the time. Have multiple projects! The most common question you will be asked whether it’s the television/ film world or literature world, is ‘What else have you got?‘ ”
“I think if you can show that you’ve got three really good ideas, that are not just off the top of your head, but that you’ve actually put some thought and some energy into developing, then people are going to know that there’s more where that came from and that you’re serious about making your stories come to life.”
3. In television you need to master the art of the Pitch Bible.
“A Pitch Bible is basically a document that has all the information about your story, your characters, your world and for animated TV shows that will also include original character designs, world designs, etc..’ Dan explains.
“People wrongly assume that the most important thing that you have to sell a TV show is the script, but actually it’s really the Pitch Bible. A lot of executives and broadcasters won’t even take the time to read your script until they’ve reviewed the Pitch Bible and got a clear sense of the show as a whole. So, we, as a company, put a lot of time and energy into creating Pitch Bibles. They’re inherently more creative documents than scripts, actually, because you can do anything with a Pitch Bible.”
One Pitch Bible example Dan recommends reviewing is the Stranger Things Pitch Bible titled Montauk. View the (Stranger Things) Montauk Pitch Bible here – Pdf
4. Patience is a virtue.
Shows can take a lot of time from concept to final product and you may be working with teams from around the globe for years.
5. Relationships and collaboration are at the heart of writing for the screen.
“The number one thing I say to people when they are entering the industry for the first time, or wanting to be screenwriters is making sure that everyone is really clear about the collaborative nature of writing through the screen.”
“If you’ve got a very singular, very narrow, very focused vision and you don’t feel like there’s a lot of space for other people to speak into your ideas and your concepts then you should probably write that as a novel.”
“By virtue of writing for the screen there are dozens and dozens, if not more, who will speak into the process. So, for me, it’s about making sure that you leave space. I’m really conscious of being clear about the core journey of characters, the core arcs, making sure that the story is moving through the character. But then I always make sure there’s room because people storyboarding, animators, designers will bring a whole other lens.”
“If you’ve done your job as a writer really well, and created a great blueprint, then they’ll only enrich that. And therefore, the project is enriched as well. It really is collaborative.”
“Your job as a screenwriter is creating the best blueprint possible, leaving breathing space for the house to be built on top.”
Meet Pirate Size Productions
Dan Nixon, Alyssa Smedley and Bryony McLachlan are the creative minds behind Pirate Size Productions a narrative driven studio, telling innovative stories built around dynamic characters and rich worlds.
They’re a small, tight-knit team making big waves thanks to a unique combination of skills and talents, which they continue to hone whilst working alongside some of the best broadcasters and production companies in the world. PSP’s vision is to tell stories that are bold, adventurous, and that audiences adore. Yo-ho me hearties, yo-ho!
Where to find Dan Nixon and Pirate Size Productions
- Website: www.piratesizeproductions.com
- Instagram: @piratesizeproductions
- Facebook: @piratesizeproductions
- Twitter: @PirateSize
- LinkedIn: @piratesizeproductions
The Melbourne Young Writers Studio
While Pirate Size Productions have two big “hush-hush” co-productions in the works, Dan has also created a way to give young people opportunities to explore writing and storytelling in ways he wishes were available when he was a kid.
“If you can encourage a love of storytelling, then the skills will come because the first step is falling in love with that. Then, if you want to continue, you will develop the skills to do it. We focus on teaching the craft of story and helping young people develop the confidence to put their own ideas down on the page.”
At the Melbourne Young Writers Studio Dan and his team of twenty or so writing teachers and mentors, people young and old can explore fiction-based writing and building worlds from scratch. They have over 300 kids attending weekly classes across three locations.
“Based at our beautiful writing studio in Fitzroy North and pop-up studios in Brighton and Laverton, our kids’ programs are aimed at equipping and inspiring young writers with the skills they need to get writing and to develop their storytelling craft.”
“Our creative writing courses are a journey into story, an insight into character and an exploration of ideas and creativity.”
“For adults we run a range of creative writing courses and programs for emerging writers looking to hone their storytelling craft, as well as for those wanting to expand their storytelling skills and connect with a creative community of other writers and storytellers.”
Where to find Dan Nixon and Melbourne Young Writers Studio
- Website: www.mywritersstudio.com.au
- Instagram: @mywritersstudio
- Download the 2022 MYWS School Program – pdf