Nicholas Dunn graduated from the Actor Training Program in 2007 which led him to an extensive resume on and off the stage. A few highlights include acting on stage with Pioneer Theatre Company and on film with Magnolia Pictures, playwriting featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, script coordinating for HBO, and owning a film production company titled Overcranked Pictures LLC. 

While Dunn continues to create impressive art he inspires students as an adjunct instructor for the Department. Did we mention you don't need to be a Theatre major to take one of his classes? We caught up with him to discuss how the U impacted his career and what advice he would give to our recent graduates. 

How did you get into film?  

I started auditioning for films and commercials while in the ATP, and right after my internship at Pioneer Theatre Company ended, I was cast in a feature film in a role that would give me four consecutive weeks on set. I loved every second of it, but found as much as I was exhilarated with the acting opportunity of every take, I was also drawn to what was happening behind the camera. In fact, on one particular day, I was hanging out in video-village and having a great conversation with the script supervisor. She was walking me through what she does and the techniques she uses. The Assistant director had decided to throw a few more members of the cast into the scene (we were a baseball team, and they needed more of us in the shot for a rousing speech by the coach) and I chose not to be the in scene so that I could stay behind the monitor and watch the Script Super work. It was an early indication of where my interests truly were. Over the following years, while still doing commercials, film and theatre jobs, I started to learn the ropes of filmmaking. I participated in the Salt Lake Film Society's Screenwriter's Workshop, their Digital Director's workshop, and worked Sundance venues. Eventually, I went back to grad school for Playwriting and Dramatic writing.” 

How was the idea sparked to create a film company with fellow adjunct faculty member, Matthew Whittaker?   

As luck would have it, right out of the ATP, I met Matt on the set of that same first feature film. Matt also has quite a bit of theatre experience and so we were fast friends. I was getting very into screenwriting, and had made a couple of short films, and I had expressed to a few friends my desire to create a production company as an avenue for producing my own stuff. I was teaching a filmmaking class at the University of Utah Youth Theatre with Connor Rickman, another U of U alumn, and we entered a filmmaking competition hosted by the Salt Lake Downtown Alliance and we won! The cash prize gave us a fair amount of seed money, so we finally formally incorporated. Matt had been working on a number of video jobs already, so it made sense to join forces with him, and that's ultimately how Overcranked Pictures came to be what it is today.” 

What do you most enjoy about teaching?  

I really can't express how much I love teaching the acting classes I get to teach each semester. To be honest, the more work I was doing in the film industry, the less acting I was doing, until I stopped pursuing auditions all together. And I didn't miss it. But teaching these classes has reminded me of what brought me into the artform in the first place, and has rekindled that fire. Last year I acted in two plays with Pinnacle Acting Company and had an excellent experience. So I'm getting back into it. More than anything else, I love connecting with the students and having discussions about the human condition, and exploring empathy and the dramatic story behind every human. Seeing it click when we connect the artform with their personal experience is very rewarding and gives me a lot of hope for the future.” 

What advice do you have for recent grads?   

Don't wait for anyone to give you permission to do your art. We hear so much about how competitive the industry is, and how rejection is just part of the job. True enough, but we currently live in a world with greater access to each other than any time in human history. We all carry in our pockets technology that indie filmmakers would have killed for only fifteen years ago. With platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, formats like webseries and podcasts, the ability to share a story is literally boundless. So while you're grinding it in audition after audition, hook up with other dedicated artists and do your craft. Always be practicing it, always be studying it, and always be sharing it.” 

Dunn will be teaching Acting for Non-Majors next year and to see all of our classes offered to non-majors click here

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