Park City High graduate debuts feature film |

Park City High graduate debuts feature film

Actress Jillian Bell, who portrays the heroine Cheryl in Nick Scown's "Pretty Bad Actress," prepares to shoot a scene in a car. One of the challenges of the shoot was Bell couldn't drive a stick shift, which was the only type of car available for the scene.
Courtesy of Nick Scown

Park City High School graduate Patrick Scown’s debut feature film “Pretty Bad Actress,” a dark comedy, premiered Friday in Los Angeles. For information about Nick Scown and his film “Pretty Bad Actress,” visit

Filmmaker Nick Scown saw his longtime dream come true on Friday.

The Park City High School graduate’s debut feature film, “Pretty Bad Actress,” premiered in Los Angeles. The dark comedy, starring Heather McComb as a former child star with anger issues who has to save her career and life after being abducted, will also be available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Video and other digital platforms soon.

“It’s pretty amazing to have this happen,” Scown said during an interview on Tuesday. “When you start down any path you never know where it’s going to lead or if it will go anywhere. So it’s nice to make a film that people want to connect with and get it out into the world.”

“Pretty Bad Actress” is the culmination of 10 years of hard work, the filmmaker said.

These guys were akin to punk bands like the Sex Pistols, and not like those big bands like The Beatles…”Nick Scown,filmmaker andPark City High School graduate

“The story is something where different ideas all came together,” he said. “My mom read Star and National Enquirer and other tabloids. And I also grew up fascinated with child stars like Macaulay Culkin and watched them grow up.”

The combination of gossip news and celebrities percolated in Scown’s brain until a story took shape.

“I did a lot of research and writing and tried to put together an entertaining and exciting narrative,” he said. “Through the time I spent writing, I changed a few things.”

The first draft of the script’s plot was set in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, but Scown moved the action to L.A.

“I was also fortunate to have a great casting director, Emily Schweber, who was instrumental in helping me beef up the roles,” he said. “She added a little more backstory and arc to the character’s parts. So when we sent the script out, we had a great response.”

The only thing Scown required was to have a former child actor play the lead role of Gloria, Scown said, and he was delighted when Schweber cast McComb in that role.

McComb, who started acting when she was two, is known for her work in the 90s teen drama “Dawson’s Creek.”

“I wanted authenticity and someone who had perspective of the character, and Heather was able to add things to the character that I had never thought about,” he said.

The cast also features improv veteran Jillian Bell, known for appearing in a number of comedies including “22 Jump Street” and workplace sitcom “Workaholics.”

“Jillian was great because she picked out the idea that through this dark comedy, she’s the only one who is trying to do the right thing,” Scown said. “She realized that she was the hero who wanted to save Gloria, while the others just wanted to take advantage of her.”

Still, the cast, which includes Danny Woodburn and Amy Buckwald, did come up against some challenges during the shoot.

“One surprise was that Jillian didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, and the car we used in the film was mine, which, of course, was manual,” Scown laughed. “So we had to figure out how to shoot driving scenes.”

Those shots were accomplished by putting the car in neutral and having Bell ride the brakes as it rolled down a hill, Scown said.

“Also, there are really no basements in Los Angeles, so we had to find a garage that we could make look like a basement and edit the scenes so no one would notice,” he said.

Principal photography started in the winter of 2016 and wrapped up a few months ago.

“We did a cut of the film that we felt it was OK, but saw some things that needed to be fleshed out,” he said. “So we did some reshoots and added a couple of scenes. And I’m excited to share this film with people.”

Scown’s introduction to independent film came from growing up in Park City and seeing the bustle of the Sundance Film Festival.

“As a kid living there, some of us didn’t like Sundance because it was a time when all of these people in black leather jackets who didn’t know how to drive in the snow would come to town and smoke,” he said with another laugh. “I wasn’t a fan at first, but I had a great teacher, Chris Maddux, in high school. He ran the communications and media program and inspired us by showing how much fun we could have with storytelling.”

Maddux, who passed away in 2011 from cancer, helped establish the Miner Film Festival, and started the Park City High School television program.

“He gave his students a lot of rope so we could experiment and explore and enjoy storytelling,” said Scown, who came around on Sundance.

“I eventually went on to volunteer for the Sundance Institute labs for a couple of summers after that,” Scown said.

Scown’s filmmaking influences include directors with independent origins who embody the “do-it-yourself” philosophy — like Kevin Smith, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

“Robert Rodriguez and Christopher Nolan showed me that while you will never make ‘Jurassic Park,’ you could still shoot a film like ‘El Mariachi’ or ‘Memento’ with friends and tell stories in an economical way,” Scown said. “These guys were akin to punk bands like the Sex Pistols, and not like those big bands like The Beatles.”

Although “Pretty Bad Actress” is having its time in the spotlight, Scown is already working on a new project, a documentary called “Too Soon: The Comedy of 9/11” with his friend Julie Seabaugh, a comedy journalist and producer.

The film will commemorate the 30th anniversary of satirical newspaper The Onion.

“I think we’re going to do a segment about The Onion’s 9/11 issue, which made me laugh for the first time after the attacks,” Scown said.

The filmmaker said his future plans include both documentaries and features, which were inspired by a speech filmmaker Werner Herzog.

“He spoke when I was a film student at the University of Utah and hHe said, ‘You do whatever it is to make a movie,’” Scown said. “Filmmaking is all storytelling. And I want to give people something that addresses things they’ve never really thought about before. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a feature or a documentary.”


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