We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Cardiff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I actually never knew I wanted to start a business as a Story Consultant and Script Doctor. I did know that I was a writer who loved collaborating with others. My business came as a result of the mindset to seize as many opportunities as possible and to travel down the paths that presented themselves to me. Five years ago, as I was poring over book after book on screenwriting and breaking down feature-film and pilot story structures to become a better writer, I frequently found myself being asked by friends and friends-of-friends to give feedback on their screenplays, stories, and sometimes their ideas. Before I knew it, I was doing everything from consulting to writing for new clients more than I was writing at my computer alone. And, having a background in theater, I really loved the collaboration. After naturally and organically heading down the path of story development, I was able to capitalize on that momentum by creating a business that fuels my love for writing, collaborating, and helping other writers bring their stories to their highest potential. I knew quitting my job to pursue starting my own business was a risk, but I stayed committed to the mindset of seizing opportunities and took it anyway. Thankfully, it’s worked out.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
There are tens of thousands of writers in Los Angeles, if not more, so if I’m being honest, I’ve had a lot of good luck in my career. That said, when I wasn’t finding the successes I wanted, I made a commitment to give myself a high quality education in screenwriting even though I couldn’t afford to get it traditionally. I read all the books, analyzed all the movies, and told people that I was a Screenwriter and a Story Consultant. Doing the work and putting it out into the world cleared a lot of paths for me to explore. But I can’t discount the luck. I’ve learned many lessons as I’ve forged my place in story development. First and foremost, and this goes for anyone, surround yourself with people that you trust and listen to what they have to say. Often those around us can see our path more clearly than we can see it ourselves. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for my friends and family pushing me to work harder, sharpen my skills, and prioritize my mental health. Some lessons more specific to writers: Read books on story and screenplay structure. Watch story analysis videos on YouTube. Break down your favorite movies and TV episodes onto notecards. Discover and identify the act-breaks, the character flaws, and the themes. All that work really does help, but don’t treat any of it as hard fact. Some will tell you there’s a formula to it all, but if Art had rules it would be a sport. And, for the love of God, listen to film scores. Nothing has taught me how to build tension like listening to Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, or the hundreds of other brilliant composers out there. The most important thing for me about my brand is to spread a sense of collaboration. Too much time writing is done alone. In our world today, too much time living is done alone. While I love going to movies, museums, or hiking by myself, that feeling of creating something with others is too good. Writing “The End” with another person there with you is just so much more satisfying.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Los Angeles is full of gems. A week with me would definitely start at The Getty Center. ((My mom loves having a glass of wine while overlooking the city when she visits.)) Every morning we’d stop by a different LA diner or café, starting with Alcove. We’d get at least one hike in, either Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park to be surrounded by mountains, or Runyon Canyon to look over all of Hollywood and beyond. Other stops would include The Magic Castle, Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, Venice Beach, Laugh Factory or UCB for comedy, and the Staples Center for a game, especially if the Bulls are in town. Speaking of Chicago, a Gino’s East recently opened up in Sherman Oaks for pizza fans. Down Riverside Dr is my favorite donut/breakfast burrito spot called “Classic Donuts Coffee and Croissants.” That’s where I met my friends Paul and Maria Dohi, both in their 90s, who I’ve been having breakfast with every Friday morning for nearly 4 years. No one tells stories like they do. I haven’t seen them in person since the shutdown, but we still talk on the phone almost every week. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Producer, Writer, and Director Enrico Natale, who connected me to my first client, and pushed me to do this as a career.