by Shannon McGrew
DCP: What brought you to California from South Dakota?
NS: I was always a big film nerd. I was working in advertisting doing commericals in Sioux Falls and I applied and got into the American Film Institute for directing so I kind of figured I should go. I was kind of late getting out here [to California] I was 33.
DCP: Your new movie "The Girl in the Photographs" has been doing terrific at all the film festivals. How did "The Girl in the Photographs" come to be?
NS: It's a bit of a long story. The first film I did was "Removal" and we shot that in 2009 and after that we started working on the next thing right away which was "The Girl in the Photographs." So I started writing it with my co-writer Osgood Perkins, and we kept writing drafts of it and we were originally going to pitch it to the same guys that did "Removal" but the script was in a weird place back then and the guys from "Removal" weren't really into it so we put it aside. Then Os and I got hired to write "Cold Comes the Night" so we stopped working on "The Girl in the Photographs" and focused on "Cold Comes the Night." After that then we of course went back to working on the "The Girl in the Photographs" but Os wanted to write and direct his own thing so he stopped working on "The Girl in the Photographs" and starting writing a movie called "February." So then it was kind of just me working on it until I talked to my friend Robert Morast. At the time I was living in South Dakota, I had moved back to do some advertising stuff, so Robert started working with me on it and then eventually Os came back. However, at this time I started writing "The Pyramid" with Dan Meersand, who is my regular writing partner, and writing that took up about 6-7 months of our time. After "The Pyramid" got picked up and was off to get shot, then I started back up with "The Girl in the Photographs" and then finished it. Essentially it's been kind of a labor of love for the past 6 years.
DCP: Wow! How did you even come up with the idea for "The Girl in the Photographs?"
NS: The idea was basically just Os and I talking about slasher writers and how it would be fun to do a slasher movie. That was a concept I really liked growing up but I wanted to make it a little different, try to weave in some more "Silence of the Lamb" type things. We wanted to make movies that were different than what was already seen in the slasher genre. We wanted to make the movies as realistic as we could, meaning it was something that could actually happen.
DCP: I just want to point out that the killer (played by Luke Baines) was phenomenal.
NS: Yeah, he's a really really great actor. He did a terrific job in this film.
DCP: Another actor I was incredibly impressed with was Kal Penn. I've been a fan of his for awhile. I'm so used to seeing him in comedies and to see him play the role that he did, I have to say, it's probably one of the best things I've ever seen him in.
NS: It's something he's never done before. We had been going back and force trying to cast that role for some time and it was really important for me to find someone who could do both comedy and drama. Kal did a movie called "The Namesake" and I knew he could handle the drama side as well as the comedy side that was needed in "The Girl in the Photographs."
DCP: Not to take away from the movie, but seeing as this was one of the last projects that Wes Craven worked on, what was it like working with him?
NS: We had become friends through a mentor program I was part of with the Writers Guild. He would have us, there was 5 of us in the program, over his house every 2-3 months for dinners. Through this I had developed a friendship with him and he would ask us what projects we were working on. I had told him about this script I was writing [The Girl in the Photographs] and it was going to be the next movie I directed. I wasn't sure if it was going to be any good and Wes told me to send it over to him. Ten days later he had read it and loved it and asked me how he could help in getting it made. He then came on as a Producer and it was cool to see our relationship grow from a mentorship to collaborators.
DCP: Where you a fan of Wes Craven prior to working with him?
NS: Oh yes definitely. I mean Nightmare on Elm Street really f*cked me up as a kid. I also like that all of his films had humor in them, I mean Wes is a really funny guy.
DCP: What was it like having Wes on set with you?
NS: He actually wasn't on set [due to his brain cancer diagnosis last January]. We started shooting the movie in April but I saw him in March when he came to a table reading we were having in LA with all the actors. Wes showed up despite what was going on with his diagnosis and let me tell you, all the actors that were there for the table reading, that all of a sudden became the greatest table reading of all time. All the actors were on and it was just fantastic. It was so great that Wes showed up and he took pictures with everyone. All during shooting, I sent him dailies so he could watch all the footage. We found out in July that the movie got into the Toronto International Film Festival, Wes sent us champagne, but unfortunately Wes passed away two weeks before the movie premiered. Though he didn't get to see it premiere, he had seen every version of the film prior to his passing.
DCP: I liked that at the end of your movie you dedicated the film to him.
NS: I'm glad that we were able to get that in because the film wouldn't have been made without him.
DCP: Going back to movies, have you always been interested in the horror genre?
NS: My mom is a huge horror fan and reads a lot of true crime. I grew up hearing all about John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy and all the things to look out for. I remember seeing "Halloween" at probably a really inappropriate age but its one of the most influential movies to me; however, the first horror movie I remember seeing is Night of the Living Dead with my parents.
DCP: What's the next type of movie you would like to do?
NS: I would love to stick with the horror/sci-fi genre and we have a couple of things getting ready to be finished. I have a ghost idea that I was thinking of doing, as well as writing a book about 80s metal.
DCP: And last but not least, what is your favorite horror movie?
NS: Of all time? If I had to pick one, my go-to is "The Shining."
DCP: Thank you so much Nick for spending time with me today and talking about "The Girl in the Photographs" and sharing your amazing stories of Wes Craven. To all the readers out there, I have had the pleasure of seeing "The Girl in the Photographs" and it's one of my top 5 best horror movies of 2015. Rumor is the movie will be out in April, so keep your eyes out for it and make sure you see it when its released. You will not be disappointed!
I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Nick Simon in Los Angeles a few months ago. Sitting inside a cafe and talking over breakfast, I got to know the director behind "The Girl in the Photograph." Nick Simon has been a writer and director since the early 2000's but his latest movie, "The Girl in the Photograph," garnered attention once Wes Craven was attached as a producer. Nick Simon is quiet but extremely nice and humble and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to learn more about Nick, his love of horror, and his relationship with Wes Craven.