Tag Archives: Nebraska Coast Connection

HPFS: Support of family and community helps 1980 Grad succeed in the film industry.

HOLDREGE PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOUNDATION                                                      Giving Back to Education

HHS Alumni Recognition Feature!
Todd Nelson – Class of 1980

Support of family and community helps 1980 Grad succeed in the film industry.

By Kristine Jacobson

     “You can take the guy out of Nebraska, but can’t take the Nebraska out of the guy.” Those are the words of 1980 Holdrege graduate Todd Nelson who moved to the west coast after graduating from college to pursue a career in the film industry.

Todd Nelson

Nelson has appeared in a movie, worked behind the scenes on famous shows like “Golden Girls,” produced award-winning documentaries, started his own film production company and worked as a special projects executive for Disney.

He is well-known for starting The Nebraska Coast Connection, which is a social and networking group of Nebraska natives in the entertainment industry in California.

     “Funny that I came all the way out here to the coast and still had to bring some hometown Nebraska with me,” Nelson said. He started the group 23 years ago and is proud that it “continues to give back to people starting out in the entertainment business and provides us all out here a regular dose of fellow Nebraskans.”They call it their “Home Sweet Home in Hollywood.”

 

Early Years

Nelson’s Hollywood career started with a supporting cast of family and friends in Holdrege. “Everyone in my family was completely supportive of this kid who always wanted to ‘put on a show,’ and no way would I be doing what I do today without their constant encouragement,” Nelson said.

His parents, Bill and Patty Nelson, owned Patty’s Hallmark in downtown Holdrege. Prior to that, his father was vice president at First Security Bank, and his mother was a surgical nurse.

Nelson recalls his father helping him make a short animated film with army men and a toy fire truck when he was only 3 or 4 years old. “I was hooked and often made movies with his 8mm film camera, or put on backyard carnivals or puppet shows,” Nelson said. “My family got used to me charging admission for shows in the basement at every opportunity.”

When Nelson was 12, he cast his entire extended family in his version of “Superman.” His dad played the leading actor, and his mom helped with costume design, including sewing blue tights and a cape with a big ‘S’ emblem. “My dad was a great sport to do this, but we had to shoot his scenes coming out of the phone booth early in the morning so no one would see him in such a get-up,” Nelson recalled.

     In addition to his family, Nelson said his small-town upbringing and community support helped him succeed. “Growing up in a small town gave me a sense that I could handle anything,” he said. “In those days, us kids just rode our bikes all over town, played (or in my case, put on plays), showed up for dinner when it got dark, and our parents trusted us to make good decisions and to look after each other. Starting life that way is very freeing and builds both confidence and character.

     “I’m very grateful that I can find a way to make a good living doing basically what I discovered I love to do most – make-believe — as a kid in Holdrege.”

 

High School Years

In high school, Nelson continued to refine his passion and enjoyed being drum major of the band (which won a gold medal in an international competition in Hawaii), editor of the yearbook and school newspaper, president of the Thespians theater club, acting in the fall play, and participating in district and state speech and drama competitions and other local plays.

For two summers in high school, he and fellow Thespians created a traveling lunch theater for elementary school kids called The Peanut Butter Theater. “We produced the shows, built the sets and costumes, did our own advertising, even made sack lunches for the children,” Nelson said. “There’s nothing like the mesmerizing attention of kids experiencing the magic of live theatre for the first time.”

     Then, he and his cousin, Craig Halvorson, performed in magic shows around the Midwest with their act called, The Magicteers. The show earned a spot on NTV for a few years. “We had live doves, elaborate illusions that we built ourselves (Sawing-in Half, Metamorphosis), and white disco suits like from Saturday Night Fever,” Nelson said. “I definitely honed my skills in producing and directing and performing in those hundreds of live performances and dozens of TV shows, and that gave me a huge head start at UNL and later in Hollywood.”

 

Role Models

Nelson said HHS journalism teacher Shirley Sandfort and band teacher Randy Nelson inspired him during his high school days, and he is grateful to community member Ellen Misko for her encouragement in his film career. “She was one of the leading reasons Holdrege had first class entertainment like the Community Concerts, theatre, and arts events,” he said.

     He often visited her house down the street after school for lessons on poetry, drama, writing, and a “view of the wider world.” “She cast me in my first play when I was five, and we often performed together in Prairie Players productions, even after I moved away,” Nelson said. “She was a class act, and a great support to a kid with bigger aspirations than a small town offered.”

 

College Years

Nelson attended college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in theatre and broadcast journalism. While at UNL, he performed in stage productions and began producing shows for NETV. He earned money to pay for college with a job as a TV news reporter for KETV’s Lincoln bureau.

During his junior year in college, Nelson earned a spot in the movie “Terms of Endearment,” which was being filmed in Lincoln at the time.

     “I heard Director James Brooks was looking for ‘Norman Rockwell’ types, so I had a friend take some photos of me that matched a Rockwell painting exactly,” Nelson said. “I got the part!” Although his lines didn’t make it into the final movie, he can be seen eating behind John Lithgow and Debra Winger during a scene filmed at Kay’s Restaurant in Lincoln.

 

Hollywood

     Nelson graduated from UNL in 1984 and drove to Hollywood the day after his final exam to start an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences internship with the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”

 

     “That gave me a great foot-in-the door that led to my next several jobs in TV and film at all the networks and most of the big studios,” he said. He worked as an assistant on “The Golden Girls” in its first season, and then worked for the show’s director Paul Bogart for several more years. He enjoyed working with one of the show’s stars, Betty White.

     Todd’s other work includes five years as a special projects executive at Disney, producer of promos for Fox Television and producer at CBS television.

A documentary he created in 2000, “Surviving Friendly Fire: The Making of a Street Kids Theater Project,” has been honored in more than 50 festivals around the world.

He also created a documentary in the mid-1980s called “Haiti’s Helping Hands,” about a Holdrege medical missionary team. His mother served on the Haitian medical missions with Dr. Stuart Embury for about 15 years. Nelson traveled with the group one summer to make the film, which helped raise money for further missions and to fund a school and a wing to the hospital in Haiti.

Nelson founded the Nebraska Coast Connection in 1992. The group meets monthly for Hollywood Salons, which are gatherings that often feature guest speakers or educational topics.

Nelson said it was difficult to move to the coast and not know anyone. “I just decided that was not going to happen to anyone else,” he said. “I wanted to give them friends they can count on to give them real advice.” Several Holdrege natives participate in the group, including 1991 graduate Ryan Quincy, who grew up in the same house that Nelson did on Hancock Street in Holdrege.

     “It’s really kind of remarkable that a small town like Holdrege has so many successes in the entertainment industry,” he said. At one time there were six or more Holdrege natives in the NCC. According to the group’s website, the Nebraska Coast Connection is “people connecting and working and dreaming together. Pioneering a new way-a Nebraska style-of making Hollywood a little more neighborly. A little more kind. A little more like home.”

     Recent famous members include “Nebraska” director Alexander Payne and Kearney native Jon Bokencamp, a writer-producer-director for the new NBC series, “The Blacklist.”

Alexander Payne & Todd Nelson at NebraskaScreening Paramount

In a January 2014 issue of “The Reader,” Bokencamp said Nelson’s “love for Nebraska runs deep, and he’s found a way to channel that love into a really positive networking group with the Nebraska Coast Connection. NCC is a warm, energetic, and creative environment. Todd just wants to see people succeed.”

Payne said in the same article, “I enjoy the group. We have a shared sensibility, a shared sense of humor, shared childhood references. And Todd is a forceful personality. He’s the most benevolent, charismatic cult leader one could imagine.”

In 1998, Nelson began working for CBS Television, a job he still holds today. Later, he started his own company, Braska Films, which produces promos for CBS Studios International. Braska Films employs two full-time employees besides Nelson and hires more employees seasonally, usually from Nebraska. “Why would I ever need to look outside that group (the Nebraska Coast Connection),” Nelson said. “I know how hard-working and reliable Nebraskans are.”

     Over the years, Nelson has brought in 10 Nebraskans to either work for Braska Films or CBS, including Kearney’s Bokencamp.

     Nelson married yoga/meditation instructor Marion Tango in 2005, and their son, Jack, was born in 2006. They now live in Pasadena. His future plans include hopefully directing and producing two feature films, which are both in the script-writing stage. He is working with Alexander Payne on one of the movies.

     Nelson said the support of family and community has helped him succeed in the film industry. “You know everyone in a small town, and everyone knows you,” Nelson said. “I always felt supported in exploring, being curious, and following my dreams that I attribute to the adventurous pioneering people who were our ancestors – coming from far-off lands to begin again. And, to create a better world than the one left behind.

     “I had to leave to do what I do now in Hollywood, but there’s nothing like a small-town childhood,” Nelson said. “Holdrege is a great place to be from.”

     To read more about the NCC, visit the web site at nebraskacoast.com.

About Us
The mission of the HPS Foundation is to support and enhance the educational efforts of students and teachers of Holdrege Public Schools by providing funding for innovative and challenging programs, learning experiences, and activities.
 
Holdrege Public Schools Foundation
505 14th Ave, PO Box 2002
Holdrege, Nebraska 68949
Holdrege Public Schools Foundation
(308) 995-8663

 

 

Aug 12th starts NCC Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA Salons with Costumer Wendy Chuck

The August Salon kicks off our NEBRASKA series, with the first of several months of collaborators from Alexander Payne’s new Paramount movie, opening in November.  Mr. Payne himself will be our guest in September.

Wendy Chuck has costumed ELECTION, ABOUT SCHMIDT, SIDEWAYS, and DESCENDENTS, so she has a long history of being one of Alexander Payne’s “A” List. She’ll be at the Salon in August to tell us about their latest film project, NEBRASKA, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte.

An Australian native, Wendy has amassed an impressive list of film, theatre and ballet credits around the world, among them the features TWILIGHT, THE RING TWO, BAD SANTA, and VARSITY BLUES. She has also worked with Jane Campion on her features PORTRAIT OF A LADY, THE PIANO and TWO FRIENDS, and won many awards in the US and Australia.We rarely have had the opportunity at a Salon to host a costume designer of her caliber, and learn about this important collaboration with Nebraska’s top director. Don’t miss the chance to hear her tales of costuming Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Neill, Billy Bob Thornton, Dermot Mulroney and so many more.


“THROUGH THESE GATES” PREMIERE SAT, AUG 10 in ORANGE COUNTY

This 90-minute documentary by Ryan Tweedy details the passion behind being a Husker fan.

OC Tavern Grill & Sports Bar
2369 S. El Camino Real in San Clemente, CA

Two showings: Noon & 3pm.  Ryan will be available for a Q&A after both screenings. Tickets $10. Watch the trailer here

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Tonight is NCC SALON with Jim Crotty & his new doc

TONIGHT: Monday, July 8th, 2013
Hollywood Salon
Special Guest:  Jim Crotty, Documentary Filmmaker

Tonight’s Hollywood Salon will give you a sneak peek at several brand new powerful documentaries…

First up, Forbes Education Columnist James Marshall Crotty will unveil his witty and insightful short documentary, MASTER DEBATERS, plus a sneak peek at CROTTY’S KIDS, his just-completed, and deeply inspiring, feature doc about mentorship and debate as antidotes to the U.S. dropout epidemic.

Afterwards, please join Jim for a discussion about the power of debate and documentary to change the world.

CROTTY’S KIDS follows six urban debaters from the South Bronx and their unlikely coach (Crotty himself). Told with humor and suspense, the film follows this unlikely team of debaters as they evolve from content-light amateurs to critical thinking heavyweights.

Omaha-native Jim Crotty is an acclaimed writer and media entrepreneur, best known as cofounder, editor, and publisher of Monk: the Mobile Magazine. He is the author of several books, including “How To Talk American,” “The USA Phrasebook,” and co-author with Michael Lane of “Mad Monks on the Road,” “The Mad Monks’ Guide to New York City,” and “The Mad Monks’ Guide to California.”

Also tonight, Kathleen Carr will show the trailer for her doc, THIS IS JIM, about the grass roots campaign of a man running for Governor in the California Recall Election.

Hope to see you tonight at the Culver.
Salons are a great way to network, catch up with old friends and new ones, and have a taste of home in Hollywood.

Nebraska Coast Connection
presents The Hollywood Salon
at The Culver Hotel in Culver City.

Where Glamorous Nebraska
Meets Down-Home Hollywood.

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Toni4bThe May Hollywood Salon hosts a special guest who has written and produced a ton of television, creating and writing for some of the most endearing characters and culture-shifting stories on TV.

Louisiana native Toni Graphia began her television career working as a researcher on the critically acclaimed Vietnam drama China Beach, where she received her first break as a writer.

She’s gone on to write over 85 episodes of quality TV drama on shows such as Battlestar Galactica (named by Time Magazine as one of TV’s Top 5 Dramas), HBO’s Carnivale, Roswell, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, JJ Abram’s Alcatraz, and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s also sold and written 17 pilots for networks including NBC, CBS, FOX,
USA
and Lifetime.

She’s been honored with a Writer’s Guild nomination, an AFI Award for Television Excellence, and the prestigious Peabody Award. Toni is also a Founder/Executive Board member of the League Of Hollywood Women Writers. Career highlights include writing and producing a CBS pilot starring Andie McDowell, directed by Mike Newell, and developing an NBC pilot with author Anne Rice. Graphia has also taught writing at USC, UCLA, UCSB and Emerson College.

You won’t want to miss hearing Toni’s stories of working with some of the best
in the business.

Hope to see you Monday, May 13th at the Culver.

Tonight: NCC SALON with Writer/Producer Toni Graphia

Monday, May 13th, 2013
Hollywood Salon
Special Guest:  Toni Graphia, TV Writer/Producer

Tonight’s May Hollywood Salon hosts a prolific television writer/producer with an impressive list of credits…

Our special guest this month has written and produced a ton of television, creating and writing for some of the most endearing characters and culture-shifting stories on TV.Louisiana native Toni Graphia began her television career working as a researcher on the critically acclaimed Vietnam drama China Beach, where she received her first break as a writer.

She’s gone on to write over 85 episodes of quality TV drama on shows such as Battlestar Galactica (named by Time Magazine as one of TV’s Top 5 Dramas), HBO’s Carnivale, Roswell, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, JJ Abram’s Alcatraz, and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s also sold and written 17 pilots for networks including NBC, CBS, FOX, USA and Lifetime.

She’s been honored with a Writer’s Guild nomination, an AFI Award for Television Excellence, and the prestigious Peabody Award. Toni is also a Founder/Executive Board member of the League Of Hollywood Women Writers. Career highlights include writing and producing a CBS pilot starring Andie McDowell, directed by Mike Newell, and developing an NBC pilot with author Anne Rice. Graphia has also taught writing at USC, UCLA, UCSB and Emerson College.

You won’t want to miss hearing Toni’s stories of working with some of the best in the business.

Hope to see you TONIGHT Monday, May 13th at the Culver.
Salons are a great way to network, catch up with old friends and new ones, and have a taste of home in Hollywood.

Nebraska Coast Connection
presents The Hollywood Salon
at The Culver Hotel in Culver City.

Where Glamorous Nebraska
Meets Down-Home Hollywood.

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Monday, April 8th, 2013
Hollywood Salon
Special Guest:  Jim Hanna, working actor

April’s Salon will bring back one of our favorite faces from tv, commercials and film. He is one of the best examples of “Working Actor” in Hollywood…

JIM HANNA is a Lincoln boy who made it big. You know his handsome mug from countless commercials (Cox, Hertz, US Postal Service, Fidelity, Burger King and Esurance, to name only a few).

You’ve seen his acting chops on television and movies. Everything from LIE TO ME, ALIAS and CSI to HOT IN CLEVELAND, NCIS:LA, PARKS & RECREATION and WAR OF THE WORLDS.

In between gigs he’s on stages around LA, winning awards like the LA Drama Critics Award for Best Lead Performance for his role in EQUUS in 2010.

This guy truly does it all.

He got his BFA at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his MFA at USC before splashing into Hollywood in the late 1990s, and he has not stopped working. You want to know how to make it in the business of show? Jim could write the book.

Come see Jim Hanna’s work at the next Salon and hear how he does it. You won’t learn the secrets of success from a sweeter, smarter, funnier guy.

The Hardest Working Actor in Hollywood will be our guest at the Salon on April 8th. Don’t miss it.

And for a special bonus, Jim just might show some of his infamous and hilarious cat videos…one of them was picked recently by TOSH.0 as their Internet Video of the Week!

Hope to see you Monday, April 8th at the Culver.

Salons are a great way to network, catch up with old friends and new ones, and have a taste of home in Hollywood.

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Monday’s Salon: NASA Scientist, Meteorites, Space Shuttle and more…

Monday, March 11th, 2013
Hollywood Salon
Special Guest:  Space Scientist Dr Randii Wessen from JPL

Monday night’s Salon is going to be really unique…DR RANDII WESSEN from the Jet Propulsion Lab will give us a rundown on the future of US Space Exploration.  

We’ve had stars with their Oscars and Emmys at the Salon, but have you ever held a real meteorite?  How about a piece of the Space Shuttle or a rare glass map of the Universe?  You’ll have your chance tomorrow night…

Also, DEIDRE BACKS will also be on hand to give us the latest news from the set of ALEXANDER PAYNE’S “NEBRASKA” now in post production.

Dr. Wessen is a space science engineer who works with the stars.  And planets.  And galaxies.

During his 20 years with the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he’s worked on the most important missions of our times – the Mars Rovers, Odyssey, Cassini, Galileo and Voyager — that have explored Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and continue to reach beyond our solar system.

He consults for the National Academy of Sciences as part of their science and entertainment exchange, with the goal to put writers, directors and producers in contact with world class scientists and engineers.  Many film producers and studios (Disney, Marvel, Bruckheimer, Zucker, Mann and many more) use his expertise to make their projects more scientifically accurate.Randii co-authored the book “Neptune: the Planet, Rings and Satellites” and was the recipient of NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to the Voyager 2 Neptune Encounter. He also has six NASA Group Achievement Awards and is a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society.He is the first Salon guest we’ve ever had who has his own asteroid:  Asteroid 31664 (Randiiwessen) is named in his honor!

Come to this Salon and meet a true interplanetary pioneer who is not only infinitely entertaining but can help you make your next project really…Far Out.

Hope to see you Monday, March 11th at the Culver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salons are a great way to network, catch up with old friends and new ones, and have a taste of home in Hollywood.

Where Glamorous Nebraska
Meets Down-Home Hollywood.

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Holiday Party Dec 10th with Special Guest, Marg Helgenberger!

COUNTDOWN – JUST 10 DAYS UNTIL
THE BIG HOLIDAY PARTY!

Got your Tickets Yet?

The NCC Hollywood Salon
Holiday Party 2012

It’s the Annual Nebraska Coast Connection Christmas Party…
Monday, December 10th at the Culver Hotel – 7pm
with our Special Guest:  Marg Helgenberger!PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS IN THE NEXT 3 DAYS
AND GET 3 TIMES THE RAFFLE TICKETS.
PURCHASE YOUR HOLIDAY TICKET BY NEXT FRIDAY
AND RECEIVE 2 TIMES THE RAFFLE TICKETS.

You heard it right.  The one and only Marg Helgenberger will be joining us at the Hollywood Salon Holiday Party 2012 on Monday, December 10th at the Culver Hotel.
An Emmy, a People’s Choice Award, a star on the Walk of Fame.  Twelve years on America’s #1 hit show, CSI.  But acclaimed actress Marg Helgenberger is just a small-town Nebraska girl at heart. And she’ll be celebrating with us in style at the Coast Connection on Monday, December 10th!
Fantastic food and drink in the sexy Mezzanine Lounge at the Culver. Live music. All your glamorous NCC friends in holiday spirits. Super raffle prizes, special guests, Santa, and much much more.
We all know there is no place like Nebraska, and there is no party like the Nebraska Coast Connection Holiday Party.

Tickets are required for our annual extravaganza. Buy yours in advance and save $10 over the day-of-party ticket prices.  Need more help?…ask about volunteering at the party in exchange for discounts on admission.  (And if Santa’s been good to you this year, we even have a way for you to donate a little extra to help our hard-working volunteers attend).

Tickets on sale now…
Eventbrite - NCC Hollywood Salon Holiday Party 2012

It’s holiday time at your Home Sweet Home in Hollywood…
See you there!

Date

Monday, December 10th, 2012
from 7:00 PM11:30 PM

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