Filmmakers Gregg Wilson '97 and Nick Leader '98 present at SHINE

Filmmakers Gregg Wilson '97 and Nick Leader '98 present at SHINE

James Bond producer Gregg Wilson ’97 and BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker Nick Leader ’98 returned to ASL to present to SHINE on Saturday, 12 March. This creative enrichment program, drawing middle school students from secondary schools all over London, helps teens gain confidence and leadership skills while pursuing a variety of activities—from rhythmic gymnastics to improv workshops—in an encouraging environment. Focusing on SHINE’s 2021-22 theme, “I am a leader,” Gregg and Nick were the most recent alums who volunteered to share their professional experiences as guest speakers during the SHINE workshops this year. Gregg is a feature film producer, most notably for No Time to Die, Quantum of Solace and other smash hits from the James Bond franchise. Nick is a documentary producer and director for numerous award-winning British shows, including Ambulance, 24 Hours in A&E and 999: What’s Your Emergency? As leaders in the film industry, Gregg and Nick captivated their audience with stories of creating visual effects with wind tunnels and skydiving stunts (Gregg), discovering like-minded, visual thinkers in the documentary world (Nick), and finding a way to fold passion, hard work and resilience into a meaningful career. We share some highlights from their SHINE Q+A.

Gregg Wilson and Nick Leader following their presentation in the Mellon Library

Gregg and Nick's senior headshots from 1997 and 1998, respectively. The two met at ASL and have been friends for 25 years!


Gregg and Nick were part of the HS Film Club, pictured here in 1996

Q: How do the roles of director and producer differ from each other in the film business?
Gregg: A producer needs to keep everyone together and on the same page. A director needs to fight for his or her vision to make the best film possible. It’s a balancing act, and there can be a lot of blow outs. For a big-scale production, the stakes feel high; everyone is passionate and working really hard. There are thousands of extras you need to manage in a location you only have for four hours, and you need to get the scene. It’s intense.

Q: What are the qualities that make a filmmaker successful?
Nick: You have to be able to get along with people. Teamwork is so important in creative industries, and people need to see you as someone who works well with others. You’re only as good as your reputation. The film business can be hard to break into, so you have to really want it. Being famous isn’t the right motivation for this work. 

Q: What’s the hardest part about the job?
Gregg: When there’s an accident on set. As the producer in charge, you can do all the risk assessments, but injuries can still happen.
Nick: Making documentaries involves working with vulnerable people, and telling their stories can often involve moral dilemmas where they can feel taken advantage of. The ethical things can be tricky to navigate.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?
Find a story to tell. With a smartphone and social media, you already have a way to make a film and a way to put it out there. People are interested in your world and what you have to say.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
Gregg: For the sake of nostalgia, I will have to say Pulp Fiction. Nick and I saw that together when we were 16, and we were blown away by it.
Nick: Yes, we saw Pulp Fiction in the cinema and as soon as it finished, we bought tickets for the next showing and sat and watched it again. For me, documentary is also about nostalgia. One of my favorite documentaries is Hoop Dreams, which was intended to be a short film about two teenagers scouted from an inner-city basketball court in Chicago to play for a suburban high school with an outstanding basketball program. The filmmakers ended up following these kids for eight years, and the 30-minute special became a critically acclaimed feature film.

Q: What project are you most proud of?
Gregg: I was the associate producer for a smaller film, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. That was emotionally satisfying. But I have loved all the films I have been a part of. I can say that I’ve made them better, and it’s hard to measure that. 

Gregg and Nick also got to catch up with fellow alum John Farmer '97, ASL's HS athletic director

Thank you, Gregg and Nick, for shining a light on the way you lead as storytellers for the lucky students of SHINE! A special thank you to SHINE coordinators and volunteers Rita Bediako (ASL 2003-present), Andrew McAllister (ASL 2018-present) and Sandy Mateus (ASL 2013-present) for supporting this incredible program.