Nicolas Billon

Writer

Theatre
Film & TV
Etcetera






About
Contact

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash.com

THEATRE

PLAYS
Butcher
Iceland
Greenland
The Measure of Love
The Elephant Song

ADAPTATIONS
Stevenson's Treasure Island
Aeschylus' Agamemnon
Brecht & Steflin's Rifles
Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

ETCETERA

OPERA LIBRETTI
Laporte (~2022)
A Torrent of Light (~2022)

RADIO DRAMA
Afghanada

SHORT FICTION
L'Orangerie

PLAYLETS
Faroe Islands
The Safe Word
Molière's The Sicilian

TRANSLATIONS
Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance
Chekhov's Three Sisters

ESSAYS
Humbug? Bah!
Performance and Activism
Play Rights for Playwrights

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash
Photo by Dahlia Katz

CODE

There is no meritocracy in a country that sells lottery tickets.

Drama, ~100 mins | Cast TBA

Teaming up once again with director Ravi Jain, CODE is in the early stages of development. We’re exploring ideas around artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, big data, and post-capitalism.


PRODUCTION ETA

Photo by Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash

THE NEIGHBOURS

There is no meritocracy in a country that sells lottery tickets.

Drama, ~80 mins | Cast 1w, 2m

The Neighbours examines how good people can be complicit in horrors and how a culture of silence poisons even the best intentions.


PRODUCTION HISTORY

2019[Theatre Office Natori]()Tokyo, JAPAN
Photo by Dahlia Katz

BUTCHER

If — if — you are who you say you are, you’d be dead.

Drama, 85 mins | Cast 1w, 3m

Who is the Butcher? At a police station a mysterious old man is found wearing a foreign military uniform and a Santa hat, with a meat hook dangling around his neck. As a lawyer, a police officer, and a translator struggle to unravel the truth, they uncover a past that won’t stay buried, and a decades-old quest for justice that must be served. Haunted by events a world away, no one is who they seem to be.


AWARDS

  • Best Production – 2018 Yomiuri Awards (Tokyo)

  • Best Production – 2016 Rideau Awards (Ottawa)

  • Best Production – 2016 Toronto Theatre Critics Award

  • Best New Play – 2015 Calgary Critics Award


PODCAST

An audio drama version of Butcher was created by PlayMe podcast and features the original Toronto cast.


REVIEWS

“Playwright Nicolas Billon goes from strength to strength in his writing, and Butcher is Billon at the top of his game. The characters are finely drawn. The story is gripping. There are so many beautifully drawn twists and turns in the story, each one set up with detailed care, it is very tempting to reveal some of them, but I won’t. Best to let your jaw drop on your own.” (Lynn Slotkin, The Slotkin Letter)
“Nicolas Billon’s explosive play Butcher, a thrilling, taut and harrowing 80 minutes of theatre [...] The show is very funny and extraordinarily dark in equal measure; there is light repartee and deep psychological anguish. [...] Therefore, what we have here is almost a twisted Die Hard (police at Christmas in an eventual hostage situation), but one that is both action movie and serious meditation on genocide and reparations, where you’re not nearly as sure where your sympathies lie.” (Ilana Lucas, Mooney on Theatre)
“Nicolas Billon’s brilliant, brutal play Butcher is a white-knuckle revenge tragedy. [...] Butcher is one of the most artfully constructed plays we’ve seen in a long time. (Martin Morrow, The Torontoist – ★★★★½/5 stars)
“Does Butcher do its subject matter justice? Once the adrenalin rush dies off, you may realize that Billon’s play has more depth and subtlety than it initially appears – and that the medium of the thriller is part of its message.” (J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe & Mail – ★★★★/4 stars)
“[Butcher is a] funny, horrifying, serpentine stage thriller. [It] unwinds with all the whiplash twists of a David Fincher film.” (Martin Morrow, CBC Arts)
“[The] plot builds into an extremely well-constructed thriller, with cinematic one-liners and whiplash-inducing plot twists. No sarcasm here: I can’t wait for the movie. [...] For a lack of a better word, it is thrilling.” (Carly Maga, Toronto Star – ★★★½/4 stars)
“Stupefying and unapologetic, it’s a live entertainment game changer.” (Toronto Stage)
Butcher is a devilishly clever piece of work […] Both its tact and its cruelty are precisely mirrored in Weyni Mengesha’s excruciatingly excellent production.” (Robert Cushman, National Post)
“True to its title, Nicolas Billon’s Butcher is a razor-sharp play that serves up some bloody good entertainment.” (Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine – ★★★★/5 stars)
“Initially funny, even relaxed, the play soon darkens as the tension ratchets up, sometimes to hold-your-breath proportions, as Billon’s clever plot explores issues of justice and vengeance, the aftermath of violence, and the always thorny matter of communication. [...] Butcher is a heck of a ride through the back room of the human meat department. (Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2018Theatre KingstonKingston, CANADA
2018The Curtain ClubRichmond Hill, CANADA
2018The CultchVancouver, CANADA
2018Persephone TheatreSaskatoon, CANADA
2017Grande Prairie Live TheatreGrande Prairie, CANADA
2017Theatre Office NatoriTokyo, JAPAN
2016Great Canadian Theatre CompanyOttawa, CANADA
2015Prairie Theatre ExchangeWinnipeg, CANADA
2015Centaur TheatreMontréal, CANADA
2015Why Not Theatre / The Theatre CentreToronto, CANADA
2015Cercle MolièreWinnipeg, CANADA
2015Signal EnsembleChicago, USA
2014Alberta Theatre ProjectsCalgary, CANADA
Photo by Lacey Creighton

ICELAND

There is no meritocracy in a country that sells lottery tickets.

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 2w, 1m

Set against the backdrop of the 2008 banking crisis, an Estonian master’s student turned escort, a capital-C capitalist real estate agent, and a recently-evicted devout Christian collide in an unexpected and tragic encounter.


AWARDS

  • 2013 Governor-General's Literary Award for Drama (Fault Lines)

  • Best New Play – 2013 SummerWorks Festival

  • NOW Audience Choice Award – 2013 SummerWorks Festival


PODCAST

An audio drama version of Iceland was created by PlayMe podcast and features the original cast.


REVIEWS

Billon is a masterful storyteller, drawing us into his characters’ lives via richly detailed monologues (plus a bit of dialogue to suggest past conversations), full of haunting imagery that echoes throughout the play.” (Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine – ★★★★★/5)
“A detailed and cleverly written script, performed and directed with real verve. This is an Iceland with lots of fire.” (Robert Crew, Toronto Star – ★★★★/4)
“Billon’s impressively crafted script will keep audiences rapt while they untangle the various layers and connections between the characters.” (Carly Maga, Torontoist - ★★★★½/5)
Iceland features the strongest storytelling from Billon yet – an intelligent, gripping tale that cleverly taps into the housing boom and bubble anxieties of Torontonians.” (J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe & Mail – ★★★½/4)
Iceland is a beautifully structured and extremely powerful play that haunts the mind. Billon is an original and exciting voice.” (Atom Egoyan)
All three characters are flawed and Billon is not offering us any solutions (easy or otherwise), but he presents a portrait of stark, cold reality with such clarity, yet full of contradiction and insight, that it is a fantastic launching pad for further thought and conversation. (Amanda Campbell, TWISI Blog)
“Billon’s characters are superbly drawn, their voices are distinct and human, and no detail is wasted as their stories eventually, ingeniously, intersect.” (Kathleen Oliver, Georgia Straight)
Iceland is ‘the perfect volcano’. It has exceptional writing, directing, acting and venue. [The play] is so good that the acclaim seems understated.” (George Perry, Mooney on Theatre)
“[Iceland] uses whittled down wry black comedy and irony to tighten its grip on an audience’s attention. It keeps its focus on the characters as palpable human beings, and therefore its themes of greed, sex, and despair function as moving tectonic plates that show fault lines in the characters’ psyches.” (Keith Garebian, Garebian on the Arts)
“Smart writing and complex dialogue takes us on a journey to a foreign expanse of the unknown where scene after scene delivers unexpected layers of complexity and intrigue.” (Angela Walcott, The Scene in TO)
“[Billon’s] skilfully wrought monologues delve into story and character, weaving the three narratives into a finely knit mesh.” (Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine – ★★★★/5)
Iceland is a tight, taut thriller that builds to a devastating crescendo. [It’s] a thrilling night of theatre, showcasing a writer who writes dialogue that stands toe to toe with the best and graced with excellent performances. A must.” (Kris Hallett, The Reviews Hub – ★★★★½/5)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2019Theatre CalgaryCalgary, CANADA
2017Theatre Office NatoriTokyo, JAPAN
2017Bristol Old Vic Theatre SchoolBristol, ENGLAND
2015Theatre Projects ManitobaWinnipeg, CANADA
2015Presentation House TheatreNorth Vancouver, CANADA
2014Magnetic North FestivalHalifax, CANADA
2014Studio 16Vancouver, CANADA
2014Centaur WildSide FestivalMontréal, CANADA
2013Factory TheatreToronto, CANADA
2012SummerWorks Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA

GREENLAND

Maybe the one thing we have in common is that we've no idea what the other one does for a living.

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 2w, 1m

Receding ice levels off the coast of Greenland have revealed that an area thought to be part of the mainland is actually a separate island. This discovery mirrors a growing rift between the island’s discoverer and his increasingly distant family, set adrift after a catastrophic loss.


AWARDS

  • 2013 Governor-General's Literary Award for Drama (Fault Lines)

  • Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting – 2011 NYC Fringe

  • Outstanding Production – 2009 SummerWorks Festival

  • NOW Audience Choice Award – 2009 SummerWorks Festival


REVIEWS

“Ice figures prominently in Greenland, Nicolas Billon’s quietly disarming drama from Canada about a family cracked apart by a fatal accident. […] The story unfolds as three subtly connected monologues, each detailed and conversational and beautifully performed.” (Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News)
“Billon has given his actors a wonderful script. The characters reveal their stories through three separate monologues, and each characters’ voice is thoroughly distinct.” (Kimberly Wadsworth, nytheatre.com)
“Nicolas Billon’s trio of monologues, thematically dealing with discovery and loss, blend a lesson in glaciology and the problems facing a family who try but don’t know how to stay together. Written with wonderful detail, the script gets a strong, nuanced production from director Ravi Jain and actors Andrew Musselman, Claire Calnan and Jajube Mandiela.” (Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine – ★★★★★/5)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2015Apollinaire Theatre CompanyBoston, USA
2014Vancouver Fringe FestivalVancouver, CANADA
2011 NYC Fringe/Bridge Theatre CompanyNew York City, USA
2009SummerWorks Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA

THE MEASURE OF LOVE

Age is the proof my life happened; but where is the warmth that is supposed to come with decades of work, friendship, love?

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 2w

Joan Sinclair receives an unexpected gift from her friend Mabel: a handwritten play and a theatre audience. The two women will re-enact their friendship from its beginning in high school to the event that led to a 40-year hiatus. But does Mabel’s depiction of the events accurately tell the story?


REVIEWS

“[The] writing is probing and fresh. […] The initial set-up of two women ‘acting up’ their lives onstage gives way to a very natural and moving encounter. From the artifice of theatre comes an emotional truth that renowned Montreal director Jean-Louis Roux handles with grace and charm.” (Kamal Al-Solaylee, The Globe & Mail)
“The most completely satisfying play so far at this summer’s festival is also one of the shortest, The Measure of Love, a new work by young playwright Nicolas Billon. [The play] brings laughter on top of tears.” (Martin F. Kohn, Detroit Free Press)
“[The Measure of Love] is a stunning accomplishment [...] Powerful, moody and rewarding. Who said there are no good roles for women anymore?” (Grania Litwin, Victoria Times Colonist)
“There are plays that have a real emotional impact on its audience — and when you see one, it stays with you for quite some time. The Measure of Love is one of these plays and it will most definitely stick with me for a very long time.” (Mike Vardy, Plank Magazine)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2018Victoria Fringe FestivalVictoria, CANADA
2010Greenhouse Theatre Center (reading)Chicago, USA
2008Victoria Fringe FestivalVictoria, CANADA
2005Stratford Festival of CanadaStratford, CANADA

THE ELEPHANT SONG

GREENBERG:Were you close to your mother?
MICHAEL:For about nine months. Then she gave birth.

Drama, 75 mins | Cast 1w, 2m

An eminent psychiatrist has vanished from his office. The last person to see him is Michael, a troubled patient obsessed with all things elephants. Dr Greenberg, the hospital director, is determined to interrogate Michael, despite the head nurse’s cryptic warnings. Michael speaks of elephants and opera — with the occasional hint of murder and foul play – and lures the hospital director into a devious trap.


REVIEWS

The Elephant Song is a dark, savagely funny three-hander about a mental patient, a psychiatrist and a nurse. Crisply written, it has echoes of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, or perhaps something by Harold Pinter.” (Michael Posner, The Globe & Mail)
The Elephant Song could be the start of a major career. It certainly shows an unusual poise and sense of theatricality and is an always-absorbing character study of Michael Aleen, a patient in a psychiatric hospital.” (Robert Crew, Toronto Star)
“[The Elephant Song‘s] rapid-fire dialogue escalates psychological tension in a style reminiscent of Edward Albee.” (Matt Radz, Montreal Gazette)
“Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon’s The Elephant Song is a 4 o’clock in the morning play: You wake up at 4 a.m. and everything makes sense.” (Martin F. Kohn, Detroit Free Press)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2019Nine Story TheatreSeoul, SOUTH KOREA
2017Redrum Teatro CompañíaGalicia, SPAIN
2017Theatre Office NatoriTokyo, JAPAN
2016Mountview Academy of Theatre ArtsLondon, ENGLAND
2016-17Nine Story TheatreSeoul, SOUTH KOREA
2015-16Dailes TeātrisRiga, LATVIA
2015Ali Poyrazoğlu TheatreIstanbul, TURKEY
2013–14Théâtre du Petit MontparnasseParis, FRANCE
2011Bakehouse Theatre CompanyAdelaide, AUSTRALIA
2010Théâtre MekaMontréal, CANADA
2009Crossing the Divide Festival (reading)London, ENGLAND
2008Workshop Theater Company (reading)New York City, USA
2008Beothuk Street PlayersSt-John’s, CANADA
2008hotINK International Festival (reading)New York City, USA
2007Cairns Little TheatreCairns, AUSTRALIA
2007InfinitheatreMontréal, CANADA
2005Théâtre d’Aujourd’huiMontréal, CANADA
2004Stratford Festival of CanadaStratford, CANADA
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Robert Louis Stevenson's

TREASURE ISLAND

Gold's not for you, Silver.

Family Drama, 120 mins | Cast 5w, 12m

When Jim Hawkins finds the map to a legendary treasure, he embarks on a perilous voyage to claim it. His journey leads him to uncover a pirate mutiny, a chance meeting with a marooned misfit, and ultimately to the discovery of what kind of person he wants to be in the world.

Adapted from the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson


REVIEWS

“Billon’s adaptation, true to the sensibility of the original, reveals a solid narrative momentum and a gift for peppering proceedings with the kind of big set-piece moments that children will adore.” (Jamie Portman, Capital Critics’ Circle)
“There are moments of surprise and delight in this [production.] Billon frames the play through the dreams of James (Barnet), whose father (Chioran) reads Treasure Island to him at night (as Cushman’s own father did to him as a child), which leads to a satisfying and moving conclusion.” (Carly Maga, Toronto Star – ★★★/4)
“[It] does so in such engaging fashion without ever losing sight of one of Stevenson’s central themes and lifelong agonizing personal passions – the integral link between fathers and sons. Nicolas Billon’s very fresh adaptation has all this and more – the search for buried treasure, plundering pirates and that familial bond, cleverly introduced in modern times, then enhanced through tales of fantasy.” (Geoff Dale, London Free Press)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2017Stratford FestivalStratford, CANADA
Photo by Robert Harding

Aeschylus'

AGAMEMNON

Ah yes. Peace. The religion of tyrants.

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 5w, 4m

After a ten year siege, the city of Troy finally lies in ruin. The Greek army, led by Agamemnon, scatters and returns home laden with the spoils of war. Meanwhile, Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra, awaits with murder in her heart — bitter still about the loss of her daughter Iphigenia and full of her own political ambitions. The opening chapter of Aeschylus’ Oresteia is reimagined as a visceral, contemporary fable.

Freely adapted from Agamemnon by Aeschylus


PODCAST

An audio drama version of Agamemnon was created by PlayMe podcast and features the original cast.


REVIEWS

“The gifted Nicolas Billon updates Agamemnon to today and vividly shows the effects of Agamemnon’s brutal decision regarding Iphigenia on his family. Billons’ dialogue is raw, brutal and glints with dazzling effect.” (Lynn Slotkin, Slotkin Letter)
“Playwright Nicolas Billon puts a clever 21st century spin on the famous Greek tragedy by updating the language, adding electronics and making the central characters into a family that could easily star in a TLC reality show (Trojan Explosion, perhaps?).” (Debbie Fein-Goldbach, NOW Toronto – ★★★★/5)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2016Next Stage Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA
Photo by Max B. Telzerow

Bertolt Brecht & Margarete Steffin's

RIFLES

I can’t teach children who believe two times two is five.

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 3w, 5m

In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Senora Carrar refuses to pick sides: her husband died in combat and she’s determined to keep her two sons alive and out of the conflict. But as Franco’s army marches towards their village, her resolve is challenged.

Adapted from Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar by Brecht and Steffin
Based on a literal translation by Nina Gerschack


REVIEWS

“Silence is as gripping as speech in this tense world, and the result is an emotionally raw, riveting show.” (Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine – ★★★★/5)
“Masterfully adapted by Governor General Award winner Nicolas Billon and given life by an excellent cast, the performance packs a powerful punch.” (Ryan West, Torontoist – ★★★★½/5)
“Moving, simple, theatrical and effective, Rifles truly is a must-see piece of work by very accomplished and thoughtful artists.” (Jason Booker, The Charlebois Post)
“Relevant, resonant and raw, Rifles is a must-see at this year’s festival.” (Lauren Gillett, Theatromania)
“Watching Kate Hennig in Nicolas Billon’s Rifles is like watching a gun, loaded and cocked, and waiting for the trigger to be pulled.” (Martin Morrow, The Grid – 8/10)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2014Next Stage Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA

Euripides'

IPHIGENIA AT AULIS

A clever tongue is hateful in a dishonourable man’s mouth.

Drama, 60 mins | Cast 5w, 4m

The Greek army, bound for Troy, is stalled at Aulis because the winds have died down. The Gods’ price for setting sail is the life of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, whom he calls to Aulis under the false pretense of marrying her to Achilles. Will Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter for his country?

Adapted from Ιφιγεvειœ εv Αùλíδι by Euripides
Based on a literal translation by Roger Beck


REVIEWS

“But rather then subverting and humanizing the characters in this ancient tale, Billon’s faithful version hews to Euripidean archetypes. Passion and desires are expressed through rhetoric, and fatalism is absolute.” (Steve Fisher, The Torontoist)
“Euripides’ tragedy about violence in wartime comes through with maximum power in Alan Dilworth’s clear, timeless production. Nicolas Billon and Roger Beck’s translation is direct and powerful[.]” (Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine – ★★★★/5)
“The oldest play on view this year, by two and a half millennia, is also, of those I’ve seen, the most exciting. […] The closing sections of this production are drainingly powerful, the real Athenian McCoy.” (Robert Cushman, National Post)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2013hotINK at the Lark Theatre (reading)New York City, USA
2010SummerWorks Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA
2010Canadian Stage Festival of Ideas & Creation (reading)Toronto, CANADA

STREET LEGAL

Co-Producer (Season 1)
Writer (Ep 104 – “Homecoming”)

One Hour Drama

A serialized legal drama about an upstart law firm embroiled in a class-action suit against a pharmaceutical company.

Broadcaster: CBC Television (2019)
Showrunner: Bruce M. Smith


EXCERPT (Ep 104)

X COMPANY

Story Editor (Season 3)
Writer (Ep 304 – “Promises”)

One Hour Drama

Set in World War II, X Company is a character-driven espionage drama that takes place in Europe and Camp X, the ultra-secret spy training facility located in Whitby, Ontario.

Broadcaster: CBC Television (2015-17)
Showrunners: Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern


AWARDS

  • TV Drama Nominee — 2018 WGC Screenwriting Awards (Ep 304)


SEASON 3 TRAILER

Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash

FURIES

This civilized language you insist on? No one speaks it anymore.

(In Development)
Drama, ~100 mins | TBA

At a police station a mysterious old man is found wearing a foreign military uniform and a Santa hat, with a meat hook dangling around his neck. As a lawyer, a police officer, and a translator struggle to unravel the truth, they uncover a past that won’t stay buried, and a decades-old quest for justice that must be served. Haunted by events a world away, no one is who they seem to be.

Furies is the film adaptation of my play Butcher.

Director: Andrew Cividino
Producer: Rhombus Media
Cast: TBA

ELEPHANT SONG

I just can't be picky about who loves me.

Drama, 110 mins | 2014

An eminent psychiatrist has vanished from his office. The last person to see him is Michael, a troubled patient obsessed with all things elephants. Dr Greenberg, the hospital director, is determined to interrogate Michael, despite the head nurse’s cryptic warnings. Michael speaks of elephants and opera — with the occasional hint of murder and foul play – and lures the hospital director into a devious trap.

Elephant Song is the film adaptation of my play of the same name.

Director: Charles Binamé
Producer: Richard Goudreau
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, Catherine Keener


AWARDS

  • Best Adapted Screenplay – 2015 Canadian Screen Awards

  • Best Movie/Mini-Series – 2015 WGC Screenwriting Awards

  • Best Screenplay – 2015 Festival du Film Policier de Liège


TRAILER


FILM FESTIVALS

2015 Boulder International Film Festival
2015 Riverrun International Film Festival
2015 FilmFest DC
2015 International Film Weekend — Würzburg
2015 Shuswap International Film Festival
2015 2morrow/Zavtra International Festival of Independent Films
2015 Göteborg Film Festival
2014 Hamptons International Film Festival
2014 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
2014 Edmonton International Film Festival
2014 Mumbai International Film Festival
2014 São Paulo International Film Festival
2014 Kolkata International Film Festival
2014 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival
2014 Vancouver International Film Festival
2014 Denver Film Festival
2014 Atlantic Film Festival (Opening Night Film)
2014 Toronto International Film Festival

HYPERLIGHT

Philip, I'm so sorry that you had to watch me die...

Science-Fiction, 17 mins | 2018

Two elite astronauts wake up in the abyss of space; they return to their stranded ship and discover the surprising reason behind their mission’s catastrophic failure.

Director: Nguyen-Anh Nguyen
Cast: Jeananne Goossen, Peter Shinkoda, Caroline Dhavernas


WATCH NOW

HOW TOMMY LEMENCHICK BECAME A GRADE 7 LEGEND

Tommy was going to be my first kiss. He just didn't know it yet.

Comedy, 12 mins | 2017

Ophelia recalls the events that led to her first kiss, at the age of 12, to a smelly boy with a knockout smile named Tommy Lemenchick.

Director: Bastien Alexandre
Cast: Charli Birdgenaw, Sam Ashe Arnold, Caroline Dhavernas


AWARDS

  • International Jury Award – 2017 Reggio Film Festival

  • Audience Jury Award – 2017 Reggio Film Festival

  • Official Selection – 2018 Tribeca Film Festival


WATCH NOW


FILM FESTIVALS

2017 Cannes Film Festival
2017 Giffoni International Film Festival
2017 Atlantic Film Festival
2017 Festival du Film de la Ville de Québec
2017 Festival du Film Canadien de Dieppe
2017 Carrousel du Film de Rimouski
2017 Reggio Film Festival
2017 Kerry International Film Festival
2017 Kuki International Film Festival
2017 Seoul International Youth Film Festival
2018 Victoria Film Festival
2018 IndieJúnior Allianz
2018 Rendez-Vous Québec Cinéma
2018 Landshut Short Film Festival
2018 Tribeca Film Festival

A KINDNESS

And there's a line-up now... Thanks.

Drama, 4 mins | 2012

A bouncer observes the fallout of an argument between a couple, and then performs an unexpected act of kindness.

Director: E. Jane Thompson
Cast: André Sills, Amy Rutherford, Brandon McGibbon


AWARDS

  • Best Drama – 2012 Couch Fest Film Festival


WATCH NOW


FILM FESTIVALS

2012 Couch Fest Film Festival
2012 Reykjavik International Film Festival

THE EXIT

And you must be the guy wearing my bathrobe.

Dramedy, 8 mins | 2010

The morning after a friend’s wedding, Peter and Samantha – living together but on a relationship hiatus – discover that each has brought home a lover.

Director: E. Jane Thompson
Cast:Caroline Cave, Gord Rand, Lyndie Greenwood, Colin Williams


AWARDS

  • Gold Remi (Rom Com, Short) – 2011 WorldFest Houston


WATCH NOW


FILM FESTIVALS

2012 NSI Online Short Film Fest
2012 BEFILM The Underground Film Festival
2012 WIFT Short Film Showcase
2011 @ St John’s International Women’s Film Festival
2011 @ Couch Fest Film Festival
2011 Calgary International Film Festival
2011 Palm Springs International ShortFest
2011 WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
2011 Victoria Film Festival
2010 Atlantic Film Festival

LAPORTE

Mais j'dis juste,
C't'un homme,
Un être humain.

Opera, ~75 mins | Cast TBA
André Ristic, Composer

Based on the events of Québec’s October Crisis of 1970, this new opera examines the kidnapping and murder of Minister Pierre Laporte by the FLQ.


PRODUCTION ETA

~2022SoundstreamsToronto, CANADA

A TORRENT OF LIGHT

You have played God
Before learning to be a man
And your hubris will cost you
Everything you love

Opera, ~90 mins | Cast TBA
Nicole Lizée, Composer

A re-imagining of Karel Čapek's R.U.R. (1920). The play introduced the word “robot” to the English language.


PRODUCTION ETA

~2022Tapestry New OperaToronto, CANADA

AFGHANADA

Guest Writer (Ep 49 & Ep 59)

Half Hour Radio Drama

Afghanada is CBC Radio’s hit radio drama series about 3 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

From CBC's website:
3 -1 Bravo is a Canadian Forces light infantry section fighting with NATO forces deep in the heart of the conflict. Every day, Sgt. Pat Kinsella, Private Dean Donaldson, and Private Lucas Manson, confront the chaos and violence of life "outside the wire."


The show aired from 2006 to 2011 on CBC Radio One.

Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

L'ORANGERIE

For the past 62 days, his aural landscape consisted of his own breathing amplified by the echo chamber of his respirator.

Short Story | ~2,400 words

A scavenger follows a woman through a post-apocalyptic Paris, ending at the Musée de L'Orangerie – where he has a unexpected encounter that changes his outlook.


PUBLICATION

On Spec

On Spec
Issue #112 (Winter 2019)

Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

FAROE ISLANDS

Seriously. Who is this empty, vapid cow I’m skyping with?

Drama, 30 mins | Cast 1w

A young woman’s idealism is challenged by the infamous whale hunt in the Faroe Islands.


AWARDS

  • 2013 Governor-General's Literary Award for Drama (Fault Lines)


PRODUCTION HISTORY

2013Rhubarb FestivalToronto, CANADA

THE SAFE WORD

But this idea that’s been peddled about, that your ‘true love’ is out there waiting for you? I want a refund on that dream.

Drama, 50 mins | Cast 2w, 2m

A young man’s foray into the turbulent world of love is complicated by his cynical, sharp-witted roommate and the gorgeous, enigmatic woman he meets online.


REVIEWS

“I like how Billon develops the story slowly and fleshes out the characters beautifully. He looks at relationships, people with baggage, loneliness, and he does it with humour and sensitivity.” (Lynn Slotkin, The Slotkin Letter)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2015UBC Theatre & Film 520 Studio SeriesVancouver, CANADA
2011SummerWorks Theatre FestivalToronto, CANADA
Illustration by Alexandra Iorgu

Molière's

THE SICILIAN

I would be quite happy were you not thought so beautiful, and I would be obliged if you ceased being so in the eyes of others.

Comedy, 45 mins | Cast 2w, 6m

Adraste and Isidore are madly in love, but so long as Isidore’s husband watches over her like a hawk, they cannot be together. Adraste and his trusty servant pull out all the stops to free Isidore from her husband’s clutches — but will it be enough?

Freely translated and adapted from Le Sicilien by Molière


REVIEWS

“An adaptation of one of Molière’s lesser-known comedies, The Sicilian is a model Fringe show: it’s short, well-acted, and has been put together with the kind of loving attention to detail – everything from the costumes to the programme layout to the (deliberately) out-of-tune music – that few other productions try to match. […] It’s a treat.” (Paul Isaacs, EYE Weekly – ★★★★★/5)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2009Toronto Fringe FestivalToronto, CANADA
Photo by Luce Tremblay-Gaudette

Marivaux's

THE GAME OF
LOVE AND CHANCE

Fate is so strange! Neither of these men is in his right place!

Comedy, 95 mins | Cast 2w, 4m

Silvia, a young and headstrong noble woman, is to be married to Dorante, whom she’s never met. Silvia switches places with her servant, in the hope that she’ll be able to observer the young man’s true character. But unbeknownst to her, Dorante has hatched the same plan! When sparks fly between the two “servants”, social norms are put to the test.

Translated from Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard by Pierre de Marivaux


REVIEWS

“Once in a while a modern adaptation of an old text comes along that is both fresh and classic, and Centaur Theatre’s production of The Game of Love and Chance manages to be just that. [Nicolas Billon] succeeds at maintaining the playful wit of Marivaux’s words while making the language modern and accessible (and of course, English).” (Chris Lane, The Charlebois Post)
“Nicolas Billon has done a masterful job translating and adapting the piece. The language is accessible enough to sound familiar but still theatrical enough that we know the piece has a long history.” (Sam Mooney, Mooney on Theatre)
“[Hilariously] exaggerated movements, inventive staging and a snappy new translation by Nicolas Billon keep this chestnut feeling dynamic.” (Jordan Bimm, NOW Magazine)
“Nicolas Billon’s translation/adaptation is a clever, succinct update of this 18th-century classic.” (Pat Donnelly, The Gazette)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2012Canadian Stage CompanyToronto, CANADA
2012Centaur TheatreMontréal, CANADA
Photo by Lorenzo Savoini

Chekhov's

THREE SISTERS

If they’re not going to serve us tea, then let’s philosophize.

Drama, 165 mins | Cast 6w, 9m

The Prozorovs — Olga, Masha, Irina and their brother Andrei — yearn to return to their native Moscow after more than a decade stuck in a Russian backwater. Their only friends are a handful of soldiers and officers from the local garrison, who spend their time philosophising about the meaning of life. As each Prozorov attempts (and fails) to find happiness through marriage, work, or love affairs, Moscow remains their last beacon of hope to finding the life they envision for themselves.

Translated from Tri Sestry by Anton Chekhov
Based on a literal translation by Yanna Meerzon


REVIEWS

“The complexities of feeling that percolate within and around this family are brilliantly captured. Nicolas Billon’s English version is exceptionally lucid.” (Robert Cushman, National Post)
“…Nicolas Billon’s new adaptation is thoroughly modern.” (Christopher Hoile, Eye Weekly)
Three Sisters [is] engagingly adapted by Nicolas Billon…” (Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine)
“A production filled with intelligence, invention and colour…” (Robert Crew, Toronto Star)

PRODUCTION HISTORY

2014University of WindsorWindsor, CANADA
2007Soulpepper Theatre CompanyToronto, CANADA
Illustration by Taryn Gee

HUMBUG? BAH!

The Enduring Legacy of A Christmas Carol

Essay | ~600 words

The cruellest month, with all due respect to T.S. Eliot, has always seemed to me to be December. The holidays take over and we are subjected to tedious Christmas parties and Secret Santas, Christmas Blend at Starbucks, dreadful new covers of classic Christmas songs, bad puns (“Yes, but we have more funukkah!”), and the inevitable essay arguing that Love Actually is a terrible movie.

It’s easy to be cynical about Christmas, and in fairness there are many good reasons to be (e.g. its commercialism). There are also some wonderful aspects to it. I would argue that A Christmas Carol, one of the the season’s staples, is also one of the world’s great works of literature.

By the time he was thirty, Charles Dickens was a household name in the English-speaking world. His reputation rested on a solid foundation of four novels, each published as a serial: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Old Curiosity Shop.

While working on his next novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens read a government report describing the conditions of child labour in Britain. He was particularly sensitive to the plight of children: he himself had been sent to work in a shoe polish factory where, as a twelve-year-old, he worked twelve-hour shifts. Dickens initially intended to respond to the report with a pamphlet, then later changed his mind and instead wrote A Christmas Carol. It was published on December 17, 1843.

The public’s response was swift and unequivocal. Reprints were ordered by Christmas eve. William Thackeray declared the book to be “a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it a personal kindness.” By February 1844, at least eight theatrical productions had seen the light of day. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page about adaptations of A Christmas Carol shows that our enthusiasm for the story hasn’t waned.

Why does A Christmas Carol consistently strike a chord with its audience? An inkling may be found in G.K. Chesterton’s assertion that the literary description of happiness as a state has been, by and large, a failure; he singles out Dickens’ Christmas tales as one of the few exceptions. “The beauty and the real blessing of [A Christmas Carol] lie in the great furnace of real happiness that glows through Scrooge and everything around him; that great furnace, the heart of Dickens.”

The ‘heart’ of Dickens permeates A Christmas Carol. During its composition, Dickens said that he “wept, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner.” When Scrooge’s nephew describes Christmas as “the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys,” we have a beautiful and perfect summation of both Dickens’ convictions as a humanist and his gift as a writer.

A Christmas Carol is a potent hymn to humanism, the hope of redemption, and the power of the imagination. It’s one of the earliest examples of time travel in fiction. It’s great storytelling.

But for me, what makes A Christmas Carol such an important work is that it is one of the most compelling memento mori in the canon of literature, a stunning meditation on mortality and the meaning of life that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. George Santayana put it most succinctly: “I think Dickens is one of the best friends mankind has ever had.”


PUBLICATION

Medium.com – December 2014

A modified version of this essay was used as the programme note for the 2007 production of A Christmas Carol at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre.


Creative Commons License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

PERFORMANCE & ACTIVISM

Essay | ~260 words

In plays, there is often a moment when one character turns to another (or several others), pauses, and says something along the lines of, “Did you know that…” followed by a fact or a statistic or a moral position. That’s the moment when I know I’m in trouble.

Because that’s when the play becomes about something. The drama mutates into edification, characters into mouthpieces, and monologues into sermons. That’s the moment when my seat becomes a pew.

I empathize with the writer’s impulse, guided as it often is by good intentions. But when these lead us down the road of didacticism or, worse still, demagoguery, we must be wary. Any attempt to substitute for the audience’s conscience ensures a work’s swift demise.

Perhaps a good first step is to encourage perspective over convictions, and trust that an audience will reach the same conclusions as the writer.

Thornton Wilder describes this with an eloquence that makes my heart ache: “If an author refrains from intruding his point of view, readers will be nettled, but will project into the text their own assumptions and turns of mind. If the work has vitality, it will, however slightly, alter those assumptions. I suspect all writers have some didactic intention. That starts the motor. Or let us say: many of the things we eat are cooked over a gas stove, but there is no taste of gas in the food.”

And, as shows like DV8’s “To Be Straight With You” or Victoria Theatre’s “Aalst” have shown, when that happens it results in powerhouse art.


PUBLICATION

Buddies in Bad Times Blog – February 2013


Creative Commons License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

PLAY RIGHTS FOR PLAYWRIGHTS

A Primer on Canadian Copyright Law

Essay | ~1,400 words

N.B.: This essay is from 2008; some of the information may no longer be accurate.

Copyright is like our daft cousin who’s nice enough but an utter bore. When we complain to our parents about spending time with said cousin, they respond, “But your daft cousin is family.”

So whatever your feelings about copyright, it’s essential for writers to have a grasp of the fundamentals – because copyright is family: it’s the butter that butters your bread, if you’ll pardon my mixed metaphors. So let’s activate the left side of our brains and jump right in.

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT?
Copyright is a legal concept that falls under the Intellectual Property (IP) umbrella. IP also covers patents, trade-marks, and a few other obscure things (e.g. integrated circuit topography). This is an important distinction, because IP and copyright are not synonyms.

Canadian copyright falls under Federal jurisdiction and is known as the Copyright Act. The simplest way to think of copyright is as a legal monopoly granted by the government to ensure that a creator can profit from his/her work. As its name implies, copyright protects someone’s creation from being “copied” without the creator’s consent.

Of course, what “copy” means today is vastly different from what it meant 300 years ago, when copyright was formulated as a response to the proliferation of printing presses in England. Many of today’s legal headaches surrounding copyright stem from the definition of this word, both as a verb and a noun.

WHAT CAN I COPYRIGHT?
One of the key concepts about copyright is that it applies only to the expression of an idea. If anyone’s ever said to you, “You can’t copyright ideas,” they’re right.

So what constitutes an expression? You’re on solid ground if your work meets the following three criteria: originality, fixation, and nationality.

Originality is the most elusive of the three criterion because it’s not explicitly defined. Common sense points us in the right direction: the work must originate from the author and can’t be the copy of another work, and it must be the result of a creative effort in which the author uses skill, judgment, and labour. An original play would qualify, as would an adaptation and/or translation of another work.

Fixation doesn’t refer to an unhealthy obsession with your own work, but to the idea that your work must be “fixed” in a tangible form. For playwrights, this boils down to a manuscript. Reciting your play from memory to your neighbour is an impressive feat, but until you write it down it can’t be copyrighted.

Nationality refers to the creator: he/she must be a citizen of a treaty country, such as Canada, in order to benefit from copyright protection.

HOW DO I REGISTER MY COPYRIGHT?
Here’s the good news: it’s not necessary. As long as your work meets the criteria enumerated above, your work is automatically copyrighted; you don’t need to register it or even put the © symbol anywhere.

You’ve probably heard of the “poor person’s copyright” (i.e. mailing yourself a copy of your script) as a way of safeguarding your work. Trouble is, it doesn’t have much, if any, legal clout. If you do want to make your copyright “official”, you can register your work through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Registration costs $65 by mail or $50 via their website.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES COPYRIGHT PROTECT?
Copyright offers two-fold protection for creators: economic rights and moral rights.

Economic rights are the ones we usually associate with copyright: the right to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, translate, and adapt your work. It’s your prerogative to authorize, assign, or license any of these rights – and almost always in exchange for remuneration, hence their name. Playwrights, for example, license a theatre to perform their work for a set number of performances in exchange for an advance and/or a percentage of the box office returns.

Economic rights are distinct and exclusive. The former means that each right is distinct from one another and as such can be dealt separately (you can sell translation rights to one person and adaptation rights to another person). Exclusive refers to the fact that you (and only you) can decide what to do with each right.

Moral rights work slightly differently. They can be divided into three: the rights of integrity, attribution, and association.

The right of integrity protects works from being distorted in ways that would harm the author’s reputation. Say a producer took your Ibsenesque drama and turned it into a bedroom farce. You might have grounds to stop the production because it impedes on your right of integrity.

The right of attribution means that you can decide how your work is credited. If you want to use a pen name, for example, or publish anonymously, this is the clause that gives you that right.

Finally, the right of association means you can control what product, service, cause, or institution is associated with your work.

With the exception of the right of attribution, moral rights aren’t clear-cut: you have to prove that your reputation suffered as a result of changes that were made or associations created with your work.

However, unlike economic rights, moral rights cannot be transferred, assigned, or sold. So even if a producer buys every economic right to your work, the moral rights still belong to you. The only thing you can do is agree to waive your moral rights (i.e. refrain from enforcing them).

FAIR DEALING
There’s a provision in the Copyright Act called fair dealing, which is a set of limitations on a creator’s rights. There are five categories under which use of your work does not constitute infringement: research, private study, criticism, review, and news reporting. For example, fair dealing allows critics to use quotations from your play in their published review.

It’s important to note – and this is specific to Canadian copyright law – that use of copyrighted material is considered fair dealing only if it falls under one of the above five categories. This is why, incomprehensibly, parody isn’t considered fair dealing in Canada.

PUBLIC DOMAIN
Copyright has a fixed expiry date, after which a work falls into the public domain. In Canada, a work is copyrighted for the life of the author plus fifty years; in much of the rest of the world, the term is life of the author plus seventy years.

Works in the public domain effectively become public property, available for anyone to use as he/she sees fit. For artists, it’s an invaluable repository of source material and represents one of the most beneficial aspects of copyright law.

DIGITAL RIGHTS
People will often speak of digital/electronic rights as a separate category of copyright, but this isn’t the case: copyright covers your work regardless of the medium. In fact, digital rights refer more to DRM (Digital Rights Management), which are the mechanisms in place to enforce copyright on the Internet and devices like the iPod or Amazon’s Kindle. While DRM is a whole other kettle of fish and beyond the scope of this article, it’s worth mentioning because it’s one of the main points of contention of copyright reform, including Canada’s Bill C-61.

BILL C-61
Before the October 14 election, the Conservative government introduced Bill C-61, which sought to update the Copyright Act. The bill generated widespread criticism for not striking the right balance between creator rights and user rights, and many felt it was modelled on the controversial U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Bill C-61 died on the table when the election was called, but the Harper government promised to introduce the bill again if re-elected.

CREATIVE COMMONS
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization started by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. It provides copyright licences that creators can use to release specific economic rights (e.g. right of reproduction) while retaining others; think of it as a middle road between full copyright and the public domain. Though CC licences were originally created with music in mind, they have their applications for writers.

IN CONCLUSION…
I’ve only touched on the fundamentals of copyright, but I hope it’s enough to pique your interest. In a future issue of CanPlay, I’ll examine a number of playwright-pertinent aspects of copyright law and share a few contrarian views and ideas.

For those of you keen to learn more, the suggested books and websites below are good starting points. As for the rest of us, we can safely switch back to the right side of our brains.


PUBLICATION

CanPlay Magazine –Winter 2008 Issue


Creative Commons License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

abOUT N.B.

Nic writes for theatre, television, and film.

His work has been produced around the world. Nic adapted his first play, The Elephant Song, into a feature film starring Xavier Dolan, Bruce Greenwood, and Catherine Keener. His latest, Butcher, was mounted across Canada and is in development as a feature film.

A graduate of the CFC’s Prime Time TV program, Nic wrote for CBC’s WWII spy series X Company and on the reboot of Street Legal.

Nic’s work has garnered over a dozen awards, including a Governor-General’s Award for Drama, a Canadian Screen Award, and a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Theatre

(click on the cover to go to the publisher page)


PRESS

Nic and his work has been featured in major publications over the years, including The Globe and Mail and The National Post.

Below is a selection of articles and interviews (with links).

What On Earth is Going On?"...with the Erosion of Empathy?": Nic sits down with podcast host Ben Charland to discuss his play Butcher, the power of theatre, and the crucial role of empathy in our lives and society. (2018)
Toronto StarStage show’s cop shop is tops, says officer”: Toronto Police Inspector Chris Boddy goes to see Nic’s play, Butcher, and shares his opinion as a member of the TPS. (2017)
PlaybackPlayback’s 2016 5 to Watch”: Canada’s Film & TV trade magazine selects Nic as one of their “5 to Watch”, an annual list of industry people on the rise. (2016)
Globe & MailPlaywright Nicolas Billon‘s hate-hate relationship with Christmas”: J. Kelly Nestruck chats with Nic about Butcher and Christmas. (2015)
TorontoistCreating the World (and Language) of Butcher”: Nic chats with Trevor Abes about Lavinian, the invented language in Butcher. (2014)
Globe & MailCanadian film talent to watch out for at TIFF”: Nic is selected as one of 7 artists to look out for at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. (2014)
NOW MagazineHis Aim is True”: Glenn Sumi interviews Nic for NOW Magazine’s cover story. (2014)
Walrus BlogInterview with Natalie Zina Walschots: An interview with the Walrus about Fault Lines. (2013)
NOW MagazineTop 10 Theatre Artists of 2009”: Nic is chosen on NOW’s annual Top 10 list. (2009)
Globe & MailAll’s Well That Begins Well”: Michael Posner profiles Nic’s journey to the Stratford Festival. (2004)

Web Site Photo Credits

Photo credits

Unsplash.com Photos:
Typewriter by Florian Klauer
Theatre Seat by Peter Lewicki
Television Set by Ajeet Mestry
Moveable Type by Amador Loureiro
Old Man by Donald Teel
L’Orangerie Museum by Stijn te Strake
Pilot Whale by NOAA
Raised Fist by Clay Banks
Open Book Collage by Patrick Tomasso
Phone by Alexander Andrews

Other Photos:
Butcher by Dahlia Katz
Iceland by Lacey Creighton
Treasure Island by Cylla von Tiedemann
Agamemnon by Robert Harding
Rifles by Max B. Telzerow
The Game of Love and Chance by Luce Tremblay-Gaudette
Three Sisters by Lorenzo Savoini

Illustrations:
The Sicilian by Alexandra Iorgu
Humbug? Bah! by Taryn Gee

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

CONTACT

If you'd like to get in touch, please email me:

nicolas [at] nicolasbillon.com

You can sign up to my sporadic newsletter by using the form below.

For professional enquiries:

FILM & TV
Jeff Alpern
The Alpern Group
Los Angeles, CA
p: +1 (818) 528-1111
e: jalpern [at] alperngroup.com

THEATRE (except United States)
Ian Arnold
Catalyst TCM
Toronto, ON
p: +1 (416) 645-0935
e: ian [at] catalysttcm.com

THEATRE (United States)
Samara Harris
Robert Freedman Agency
New York, NY
p: +1 (212) 840-5760
e: samara [at] robertfreedmanagency.com


NEWSLETTER

Thank you

And have a great day!