U-High Midway

Senior creates sitcoms to tell stories, explore film passion

THAT%E2%80%99S+A+WRAP.+Nicholas+Merchant+rewatches+a+clip+of+a+previous+take+he+filmed+on+his+camera.+Through+his+films%2C+Nicholas+can+vividly+enhance+and+showcase+the+characters+in+his+imagination.
THAT’S A WRAP. Nicholas Merchant rewatches a clip of a previous take he filmed on his camera. Through his films, Nicholas can vividly enhance and showcase the characters in his imagination.

THAT’S A WRAP. Nicholas Merchant rewatches a clip of a previous take he filmed on his camera. Through his films, Nicholas can vividly enhance and showcase the characters in his imagination.

Lily Vag-Urminsky

Lily Vag-Urminsky

THAT’S A WRAP. Nicholas Merchant rewatches a clip of a previous take he filmed on his camera. Through his films, Nicholas can vividly enhance and showcase the characters in his imagination.

Iván Beck, Features Editor

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“I’m always looking out for something memorable,” Nicholas Merchant said, “even it’s just a single sentence or a pause that seemed funny. I write down these little observations.”

Nicholas has found an outlet for his filmmaking passion in the creation of sitcoms, including his current shows “High Schooled,” which he began filming in 2016, and “Bad Influences.” However, success with this style of film did not come naturally, but instead from many years of hard work, training, and strict film practices.

Nicholas’ interest in film was first piqued due to its style. He said he has always loved telling stories, and he learned that with film, he could show the characters he imagined, not just write about them.

While Nicholas didn’t cite any specific idols or mentors, he said he has gained a great deal of help from his Filmmaking teacher, Benjamin Jaffe. Nicholas said Mr. Jaffe has helped with brainstorming ideas, teaching techniques, giving project advice and sometimes even by loaning equipment.

Nicholas dedicates most effort to his sitcoms. For the production of new seasons of his shows, each of which have five episodes of about 20 minutes, Nicholas implements a strict process.

First, there is preparation, which usually takes a great deal of time.

“For a long running series, this prep work is really important,” Nicholas said, “because you have to build the world and discover who the characters are and how they interact.”

Nicholas explained that, for both “High Schooled” and “Bad Influences,” over a year was spent between development and the release of the pilot. Some of this time was due to resculpting of characters and the roles they had in the show.

Nicholas explained that as he worked with senior Jacob Beiser, who plays the lead role on “Bad Influences” he began to realize he could write the character to match Jacob’s sense of humor more adequately. “So we went back and inserted new lines into existing scenes to give his character a little more snark.” Nicholas said.

A challenge along the way was the logistics of planning a big scene. Nicholas would have to draw out maps that blocked out and staged where the characters were, and where the camera needed to be. Although it was difficult at first, these maps are now for Nicholas instinctual through practice.

Alyssa Russell, a senior, often acts in many episodes of Nicholas’ shows.

“He is a really talented filmmaker so he always has creative ideas on different shots and plot point,.”  Alyssa said, “He’s constantly working on a film project. I’m always hearing about different shoots and projects he’s taking on. He clearly loves what he does and is good at it.”

Nicholas’ careful and complex process is not without purpose.

“Especially since I create long running series, you have to make sure that you never fall into a routine,” Nicholas said. “As soon as you get comfortable doing something, it’s time to move on to something new, always improving.”

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Senior creates sitcoms to tell stories, explore film passion