Alumni Profile: Nicolas Billon '95
In addition to talent and tenacity, it was happenstance that kickstarted Nicolas Billon’s career. Recognizing that his future wasn’t in the dot com business, where he had spent a couple of years following a short stint at Concordia University, Nicolas returned to what he liked to do most: write. He dusted off a 20-minute scene that he had written while at Concordia and expanded it into a one-act play.
Nicolas sent off his play to anyone and everyone he knew in the industry. It ended up in the hands of a film director, who was married to a theatre actor who, in turn, passed it on to the artistic director of the Stratford Festival. And with that, The Elephant Song found its way into the 2004 Stratford Festival program, followed by The Measure of Love, which was staged the next year.
This, Nicolas says, is one of the proudest moments of his career thus far. But he is quick to add that he hopes his greatest achievement has yet to be realized. “I try to learn from mistakes and failures and integrate those lessons into my next project,” he says. “I avoid falling into the trap of formulaic writing and work on improving something I may have tried in the past but didn’t quite get right.”
As is the case for most writers, Nicolas says that he gets his inspiration from one place: everywhere. And, he reads as much as he can, which provides access to many ideas and makes his job easier. But his job is not easy. Not by a longshot. Making a living as an artist can be challenging, and he admits that it is only in the past five years that he has reached a sustained level of comfort.
Nicolas was first introduced to theatre at LCC, and was an active member of the LCC Players throughout his school years. Defining himself as a terrible actor, he took to writing, and in grade 10 saw his work performed for the first time before an audience. “I have clear memories of those experiences,” he says. “There were a few teachers who were particularly encouraging. Mr. Seaman recognized my potential and I remember he made me promise to send him my first book when it was published.”
Nicolas also recalls the support he received from the school librarians. He shared two of his short stories with them and, on a subsequent visit to the library, was shown where they could be found in the card catalogue. “That was pretty cool,” he says.
Nicolas was recently invited back to LCC and, as a way to give back to the school, shared his insights, expertise and experience with the film and theatre classes.