By STEVE PFARRER
Years ago, when he signed up to take an online screenwriting class taught at Holyoke Community College, Nathan Graham Davis had no idea he might find himself eventually penning the script for a Hollywood thriller.
And Davis, who lives in Easthampton, wouldn’t have known the roundabout route he would take to reach that point — how he’d seem to be on the brink of success as a screenwriter, only to give up on the process for a number of years before suddenly finding himself back in the game.
“It’s been a long journey, but right now I’m just so grateful that I’ve had the chance to get to this point, and to get support from people in the business and from my family,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I’m really excited about the projects I’m working on.”
Those projects include work here in western Massachusetts as well as in Hollywood, he notes. For instance, he’ll be producing a film called “Urban Ed” by Valley filmmaker Wade Wofford, a drama based on a true story about high school students in Springfield who are suddenly forced to attend a different, struggling school.
Davis, who’s 38, grew up in Hatfield and graduated from Amherst Regional High School. He’s had a “day job” for years in the banking industry, but he’s been writing screenplays, short stories and other works on the side all along.
And in just the past few years, he’s made new connections in the film industry, gotten a new manager, and optioned a number of projects.
His first finished project is the screenplay he wrote for “Aftermath,” an action/thriller film that was shot in part on Boston’s Tobin Bridge and in some surrounding parts of the city; it’s due to be released this year.
Principal filming took place in 2022 on a set — a replica of a section of the bridge — constructed in a former naval air hangar in Weymouth known as The Hangout. Davis says it’s become a go-to spot for numerous movies in the last several years, including “Don’t Look Up,” “Patriot’s Day,” and the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters.”
“Aftermath,” directed by Patrick Lussier, is produced by Voltage Pictures, a Los Angeles company behind films such as “The Hurt Locker, “Dallas Buyers Club,” and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.”
Details about “Aftermath” have not yet been released, but the basic storyline follows a weary ex-Army ranger, Eric Daniels (played by Dylan Sprouse), who’s out for an afternoon drive with his younger sister and finds himself snarled in a hopeless traffic jam on the Tobin.
But this is no ordinary traffic jam. Daniels, his sister, and hundreds of other commuters — along with a high-profile prisoner (Dichen Lachman) — have become the hostages of heavily armed ex-military contractors who have taken control of the bridge.
As the terrorists’ leader (played by Mason Gooding) begins killing people, Daniels must rely on his military training and his instincts — and some unexpected help — to get his sister and others home safely.
The Daniels character “is basically a reluctant hero who’s tried to put his combat experiences behind him, but he’s forced back into action,” said Davis, who spent time on the film site last year. The movie, he added, “is kind of like ‘Die Hard’ on a bridge.”
The film has another local connection: Davis says Daniel Rios Jr., a Holyoke-based actor who’s been involved with regional theater and other projects for years, has a key role in “Aftermath.”
What’s especially amazing to Davis is that “Aftermath,” which he began thinking about after he was stuck in traffic one day on the Coolidge Bridge, generated interest in Hollywood back around 2012 before getting lost in the shuffle for several years.
But then came a turnaround beginning about three years ago, Davis says, and now he’s back on track to realizing his long-held dream of working in film. The prospects look good enough that he’s about to leave his day job, at TD Bank in Springfield, to focus full time on film.
“It’s not something I’m doing lightly,” said Davis, who is married and has two children, ages 12 and 10. “But we’re in good shape for me to do this for at least a year, and I have an offer to come back to the bank if I need to.”
Learning to write
Davis says the only formal training he’s had in film came from the online class he took in screenwriting, taught by veteran actor, playwright and theater director Roy Faudree of Northampton, when he was a student at HCC in the early 2000s.
“I learned enough to know that I really loved doing this,” he said.
He also worked for three years at the former Blockbuster Video in Northampton; he was already a big movie fan, he says, but the job allowed him to deepen his knowledge about movies.
In succeeding years, he says, he studied books about screenwriting and made connections online with a number of professional writers. Eventually, he noted, “I got my foot in the door, I got a manager, ‘Aftermath’ got optioned, I had meetings with Hollywood producers, and things seemed to be going well.”
But the vagaries of the movie business being what they are, that initial success didn’t last, he said, and a few years later he parted ways with his manager and put screenwriting behind him.
“I concentrated on my day job and my family,” he said, though he did other kinds of writing; he published a graphic novel, “Malice & Mistletoe,” whose illustrations were done by comic book artist Jack Purcell.
Then the wheel turned again, and a few years ago Davis found there was renewed interest in “Aftermath.” One fan was Jeff Belkin, a manager of screenwriters and directors. Davis signed with him, which has led to some of his other screenplays, including a fantasy epic set in medieval Norway, getting into initial rounds of production.
In the last few years, Davis also put together a long series of YouTube videos, called “Re-Entry,” on his website on which he hosted Zoom-based discussions with writers and filmmakers to talk about his efforts about getting back into the screenwriting business.
They all begin with an amusing image: Davis sitting in front of his computer and a blank pad of paper, struggling to write something and then banging his head on his keyboard. But in fact, Davis says these online conversations made him a better writer.
Meanwhile, he’s excited by the idea of now being able to spend more time working in different capacities on film projects in western Massachusetts.
As one example, he serves as treasurer for the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative, which he says is looking to build a studio in the Berkshires “which will open up many additional opportunities” for filmmakers, as he noted in a follow-up email.
He’s also hoping to put his experience working in banking to work on the financial side of some of these projects. As he writes on his website, “I enjoy finding ways to get stuff made.”
Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead on screenwriting. “It’s a really exciting time for me,” he said.
Steve Pfarrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.