Interview with WGI Mentor, Mel Nieves

1. What is your earliest memory of writing?

I believe I was eighteen. I was in an acting class at John Jay College taught by my mentor, John “Gus” Fleming and we had to create scenarios for structured improvisational scenes. We were expected to bring in two to three scenarios a week, but I would end up bringing in twelve to fourteen a week. I was very imaginative in my teens.

2. What inspires you?

The members of LAByrinth Theater Company. They are a constant inspirational force in my life on so many levels.

3. When did you know you were a “writer?”

I still don’t.

4. What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?

It’s such a subjective question and it varies depending on the genre, also the subject matter at hand within the genre, but I think the main thing for me is language, I love listening to plays, films, I like listening to how people in stories express themselves, especially to each other, the questions that come up that they (the people) in these stories are searching answers for.

5. What are some of your favorite books? Movies, plays, TV shows – your favorites?

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, The Chosen by Chaim Potok, Outlaw: The collected works of Miguel Pinero, the plays of Arthur Miller, Cassavetes on Cassavetes, Serpico (film), West Wing & Classic Star Trek (TV)

6. What is your favorite genre to write in and why?

I do not know if I have a favorite genre. I probably do, but I cannot really identify it. I like character driven stories rather than plot driven stories. I guess because I always think in character rather than plot, but then again, I end up finding my plots through the characters and what they are searching for.

7. What is your process like?

Very slow at first, but then once I latch onto something, I tend to go extremely fast. I think the reason I tend to write fast is that it keeps my brain and judgement at bay so that I can solely write with my heart and impulse.

8. What’s the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?

That I can actually do it (writing) and that sometimes people, not just my friends actually respond positively to what I wrote.

9. Do you have a writing quirk – if so, what is it?

I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I like having a lot of noise around me, loud music, usually jazz, film scores, old school hip hop – to get a sense of a beat that I can incorporate into my use of language and also it’s like a game of concentration for me. I like mentally shutting everything off around me and all I am left with is the voices in my head and the tapping of the keyboard.

10. Any advice or tips for anyone struggling with writing?

I guess to be kind to yourself. Know that what you’re writing is never going to be perfect for the simple fact that human beings are imperfect creatures and the beauty of those imperfections is what you want to put onto the page. It is what in the end your fellow human beings will be connected to.

Mel Nieves is an actor-playwright-screenwriter. He is a long-time member of the award-winning LAByrinth Theater company and a graduate of The William Esper Studio. He is a two-time Princess Grace Playwrighting Fellowship semi-finalist. His most recent work, On The Boulevard, a one-hour pilot was an official 2020 selection of the HollyShorts Screenwriting Competition. Representation: Thenewtonagencyllc@gmail.com

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