Derek Nicoletto on Stowe Story Labs, Black Coffee, and Finding Your People

by | Feb 10, 2022

Here at ProPath, we love to celebrate success and shine a light on screenwriting competitions and labs that are actually helpful. This is why we reached out to our very own Derek Nicoletto, whose work ethic and dedication create lightning on the page, to talk about his experiences with one of his favorite competitions, Stowe Story Labs. Here’s Derek on Stowe and his screenwriting journey in his own words. 

How Did You Discover Screenwriting?

After an 8-year career as a lawyer, I attended Atlantic’s Acting Conservatory here in Manhattan. Although I love acting, I found I loved writing more. Through Marissa Crisafulli, a producer at 20th Century Fox, I got an audition to act in the Table Read My Screenplay Park City. The winning pilot was CLEAN SLATE by Josh Sorokach. Josh and I are still friends to this day. I was fascinated by the whole screenwriting scene. The director of that table read, Katherine Griffin, hired me to act in Paris in a short film called LE BALLON BLEU. There, Katherine and her husband Jon Bachmann entertained my epiphany about screenwriting. They referred me to my mentor, ProPath’s Tim Albaugh and after completing the UCLA PPT, I continued with ProPath. So you can see, my self-discovery had little to do with “self.” It was links of people helping a fellow artist thrive.

What Was Your Favorite Part of the Stowe Story Lab?

I’ve done the Narrative Lab, the Writers’ Retreat in Palm Springs, and now, the Feature Lab with David Pope. What’s hilarious is that I’ve done Stowe three times but have never been to Vermont. In Narrative Lab, my favorite part was the friends that I made, like the incredible Anderson (Drew) Boyd. Read something of Drew’s – he’s seriously a genius and the nicest guy on the face of the planet. At the Palm Springs retreat, my favorite part was the mentors. I completely rewrote my pilot ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE there, which now serves as my sample. David Pope is magic. In his Feature Lab, I’m currently writing a dramedy feature loosely based on my Indiana University experience called LITTLE 5. I want to explore the cost of fitting in with the crowd. When we were living larger than life, did we make ourselves small?

What Was the Best Advice You Gleaned from Your Experience?

Stowe is fantastic in that they care more about your unique story than polish or experience. If you have a story to share, please apply. You are in safe, encouraging hands. They accepted me with THE HOMESTUDY,  my first feature, where I explored my experience as an adoptive parent who went through a breakup smack dab during the social worker visits.

Roughly How Many Projects Have You Worked On, and Do You Prefer Features or TV?

I have three features: THE HOMESTUDY, A TENT ON JUPITER (optioned), RALPH. I am currently writing LITTLE 5. My pilot ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE is Tim’s favorite. Currently, I’m working on another pilot in his 10-week class, a comedy called OUT OF WHACK about a codependent chiropractor trying to make her family’s wellness collective survive in a failing Indiana strip mall. Everything I write is about humorous family drama and almost always wraps trauma in humor. My personal aesthetic is that if we don’t laugh at our trauma, we’re screwed.

How Has Working with Tim Changed or Improved Your Writing Process?

I couldn’t even begin to list the ways he’s improved me as a writer. But a tool I will never stop using is looking at things super macro before I go micro. I love the process of starting with two words for every project and until I commit to those two words, l cannot proceed. With RALPH, it’s “true love.” THE HOMESTUDY is “deserve parenthood.” ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE is “let go.” A TENT ON JUPITER is “break free,” and so on. In breaking story, sometimes the words change, and that’s ok, as long as the change stays true to my intention and I commit to it.

Do You Have a Go-To Screenwriting Snack or Drink?

Black coffee burnt to the point of sludge oozing down my throat.

What Makes You Excited to Crack Your Computer and Get Writing?

Someone telling me I can’t do something. I went to law school on a dare.

What’s Your Best Advice for Someone Just Setting Out On Their Screenwriting Journey?

Find your people and show up for them. Thank you for letting me show up for the ProPath family today!

We’re thrilled that Derek is part of the ProPath family and we can’t wait to see what he does next! And if you’re interested in getting in on the action at Stowe, the Stowe Story Labs applications are open through February 20th. Don’t miss your shot!

ProPath Screenwriting