If you ever get a moment to speak face to face to Los Angeles Film School alumnus Alec Nickel, you also might want to buy a lottery ticket on that same day. No, he’s not production snob who thumbs his nose at others. He’s simply been just unbelievably busy and you’d be THAT lucky to catch him for a chat. Since finishing from the Film program, Alec has flown coast to coast for gig after production gig that even Superman would get a stiff neck seeing him zoom around the country. Heck, given Alec’s unassuming and mild-mannered demeanor, were he born in Smallville instead of Wichita, Kansas, one might start to wonder if there were just a little Kryptonian DNA in his blood helping him power through his jet-setting production schedule. But as just a regular guy who’s not averse to hustling, Alec demonstrates that you don’t need to be a man of steel to show off just how super you can be.
Prior to graduating in April of 2014, Alec already began planting his seeds of success by applying and being selected for an internship with Adult Swim’s Comedy Bang Bang! pilot on IFC. Shortly after completing his last course, Alec also made the tough decision to move to New York, despite building a small network from the production work that he performed while in school in Los Angeles. Alec credits one of his early instructors at the school for inspiring him to head east, since he himself worked in the industry in New York before eventually moving out to Los Angeles to teach. Boldly taking a chance, Alec packed up his belongings with an open-ended ticket out east. After stopping in Washington, DC to cam op on a film called Breathe, he eventually made his way to New York, where he began scratching for work on features as a day-play 1st AC. Just when Alec was beginning to get his bearings in the Big Apple, the LAFS Career Development Department alerted him of an opportunity to crew on a Judd Nelson feature vehicle The Downside of Bliss as a 2nd AC. Without a second thought, Alec flew right back to LA and so impressed cinematographer Adrian Sierkowski, that Sierkowski brought him aboard his camera team for several projects afterward throughout LA and San Francisco.
Never one to get too comfortable resting on his laurels however, Alec sought to spread his wings a bit more, and made the tough decision to head back to New York where he was hired on as a 1st AC for the feature film The “Don’t Be Like Roy” Campaign. Given the wealth of experience Alec had accumulated to this point, you would figure that me might be choosier about the rates he was offered for various other production gigs. But Alec credits the fact that he has yet to get too big for his britches, for applying to a $50/day 1st AC job that he found on Craigslist that since then has played a monumental part in his professional growth. The Craigslist ad turned out to be a project for cinematographer Mike Farino, who started the popular Sh*tty Rigs Instagram account which infamously showcases the various lengths that industry workers go to with their equipment in order to obtain a particular shot. Farino has since brought Alec aboard a whole host of his recent projects including: PBS specials, a Redbull pilot starring Wu-Tang Clan member Gza, a Netflix special featuring comedian Aziz Ansari, and even a documentary project on Pablo Picasso’s artwork, spearheaded by none other than the legendary painter’s granddaughter Diana Picasso. Coincidentally, the Picasso project allowed Alec to network with a UPM who brought him aboard his current film, a feature starring Katie Holmes entitled All We Had. Once he wraps production on that project, it’s back to the road for Alec, who begins work on his next feature in mid-September, before taking on a commercial in Idaho and then another feature on Farino’s team in Chicago. Beyond that, Alec knows that union membership may be just around the corner for him – a just reward for his tireless hustle and bustle.
Though he realizes that his path was long, arduous, and perhaps not for everyone, Alec’s industriousness serves as a blue print for how current students can model their work ethic and networking skills. Per Alec’s words, “Students can’t be afraid to work for dirt cheap or even free – you could end up meeting a great contact who is doing a favor for a friend on a passion project or something like that.” Moreover, Alec believes that not taking risks might be the biggest risk of all, and counts his decision to move to New York, among the best that he’s made for his career. “The way I have seen the industry shift in a short amount of time and the amount of production taking place with new filmmakers in NY everyday, it’s amazing out here,” says Alec, who honestly believes that at this very moment “New York is a perfect place to break into the industry.” Given Alec’s body of work, we tend to agree…although we’re convinced that with his work ethic, he would have made it anywhere. Kudos to you Alec!