Arts and Entertainment

Freeland resident nominated for first screenplay ‘Nebraska’

Bob Nelson, a Freeland resident, wrote the screenplay for the film “Nebraska,” which was recently nominated for several awards, including individual awards for Nelson.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Bob Nelson, a Freeland resident, wrote the screenplay for the film “Nebraska,” which was recently nominated for several awards, including individual awards for Nelson.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

At first glance Bob Nelson might seem like a regular islander, working on his lawn or enjoying the scene at Ebey’s Prairie. But Nelson will step out of the shadows this year and into a tuxedo.

Nelson wrote the screenplay “Nebraska” and it’s been nominated for five Golden Globe awards, including best picture and best screenwriter.

It’s up against screenplays for “Her,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle.” The award show will take place Jan. 12.

The film and Nelson’s screenplay are also nominated for numerous awards, including six nominations from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, six nominations from Film Independent Spirit Awards, and two nominations for the film from the Screen Actors Guild. Nominees for the Academy Awards will announced on Jan. 16, 2014.

Nelson can still hardly believe it.

“It’s purely delusional,” he said.

Nelson moved to Freeland from Kent in 2005 after vacationing regularly in the area. He said he’s always loved the island and its community.

“The only bad part is we can’t come here on vacation anymore,” he said.

Nelson wrote the “Nebraska” screenplay 10 years ago after working on the TV show “Almost Live!” on KING-TV for a decade. The show featured a group of Seattle-based performers who wrote and acted in comedy skits.

“I was itching to try a drama; before this I wrote straight comedy,” he said. “Mixing the two appealed to me. To put something out there close to what I’d experienced, to see if people relate.”

For Nelson, the biggest challenge was writing the full-length screenplay. He had never written anything longer than 5 minutes before this, he said. He spent more than a year writing a story that held together for an hour and 45 minutes.

When Nelson began writing the screenplay, he said he wanted to see if it could get into a small film festival and then go straight to DVD.

“That was my highest hope,” he said.

For the screenplay to attract the attention of renowned American film director Alexander Payne, become a film and then be shown at national premieres never crossed his mind, he said.

The film, shot in black and white, follows a father on a journey to retrieve $1 million from a sweepstakes letter he received in the mail. The father, played by Bruce Dern, convinces his son, Will Forte, to accompany him on road trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim his winnings, meeting friends and family along the way. The film, directed by Payne, reflects on family relationships and life in the Midwest.

Nelson said he drew from memories of visiting family in Nebraska and was inspired by a story he heard on the news of a man traveling to claim his fortune.

“Our story is so simple, in a way that makes us lucky (when up against the other films),” Nelson said. “It’s a simple old-fashioned story.”

Telling these stories about regular people and making a profit is something Payne does well, Nelson said, and is a key reason for the film’s success.

Nelson also enjoyed being able to see the experience through the eyes of his mother, Jean Wilson. Wilson didn’t read the screenplay or see the film before the premiere, even though she is featured for a few seconds in a walk-on role.

Wilson said the film brought back memories of her family, including one moment in the film when two characters are discussing moving to a farm. Wilson said that was an actual event, where she and Nelson’s father discussed just such a move. She said to his father, “No way would I ever milk cows,” and Nelson picked up on that memory in the film.

“I never did have to milk cows,” she said.

Nelson also took her to the premiere of the film, which she described as “awesome.”

“I’m very proud of him and all that he’s accomplished in his life,” she said. “Hopefully there will be many more.”


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