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From Quest to the Big Screen: The Screenwriting Journey of Nick Shafir ’11 

Lessons learned and connections made at Dwight School fueled Nick Shafir’s journey to the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of his action-packed film, I.S.S.

“It played so well at Tribeca,” said Nick. “It was supernatural. I was very happy that the movie got a great reaction.” 

Nick had spent years as a screenwriter, pitching script after script, until finally, an idea he randomly had on a flight to Los Angeles came to life on one of the most important screens in the country. Nick’s script is a classic sci-fi thriller set on the International Space Station. The action follows what happens to a Russian and American crew when nuclear war breaks out on Earth between the two superpowers. 

As the applause roared through the Tribeca Film Festival theater, Nick knew I.S.S. was a success. Seeing his creation come to life also cemented his belief in the potential of screenwriting as a full-time career — a journey that started at Dwight, though he didn’t know it at the time. 

Nick started in Dwight’s Quest program in grade 9, and immediately began to form a connection with his Quest Teacher, Josh Kigel. Mr Kigel played a pivotal role in helping Nick with his dyslexia, but more importantly, provided the essential guidance that allowed Nick to flourish at Dwight and, after Dwight, as a screenwriter.

Mr. Kigel used Nick's interests, including his interest in movies, to encourage reading, which made a profound impact. "I read the screen adaptation of 30 Days of Night with him — a horror movie with Josh Hartnett about vampires that invade a town in Alaska. I used the thing that he was interested in to get him to read and that motivated him," Mr. Kigel said.

Feeling comfortable with Mr. Kigel in the Quest Program helped Nick flourish as a creative individual who experimented with different pursuits. This included being a member of the jazz ensemble and leading a band with fellow kids from Dwight. Creating video projects and reading books like Frankenstein and The Odyssey would prove to be the groundwork for his scriptwriting. But when he left Dwight, he didn’t have visions of becoming a Hollywood scriptwriter in his head.

“I always thought I would be a rock star!” Nick said.

After graduating from Dwight, Nick attended Skidmore College and majored in American Studies, though continued to fall in love with filmmaking. After graduating, he decided to give the film and television industry a try, starting as a production assistant. From there, he became more interested in the writing side of the industry, working as an intern in the Blue Bloods writing room, writing for a production and IP creation company, and more, while developing his ideas on the side.

He started writing scripts that went nowhere, but then, on a flight to yet another general meeting, inspiration struck.

“It was February 2020, and I was flying to Los Angeles for a meeting,” said Nick. “On my flight, I watched a Discovery Channel-type documentary about astronauts on the I.S.S., and it gave me the idea.”

His pitch was a hit, and before he knew it, the script was approved, picked up by LD Entertainment, and connected with noted director, Gabriela Cowperthwait. The next thing he knew, Nick was on set, watching the actors run through his script.

"It was truly unbelievable!” Nick said. “Seeing the actors use the harnesses while delivering the lines I wrote for them was like an out-of-body experience.”

So, in the end, Nick did become a rockstar of sorts — a rockstar scriptwriter whose most recent script found Hollywood success. After premiering at Tribeca, the movie was distributed nationwide by Bleecker Street in January 2024, showing in over 2,500 screens nationwide.

Nick remains humble after his most recent success. He knows that the industry is feast or famine for screenwriters. However, his recent move to Los Angeles certainly indicates that things are moving in the right direction. 

No matter what happens, he will continue to be supported by his former teacher, Mr. Kigel — whom he still speaks with regularly — and fueled by what he learned through the Quest Program.

We wish him the best of luck!

More about Dwight’s Quest Program can be found here.