Author Archives: Bryan McClure

THE READER: Nebraska’s Hollywood Connection

The ReaderDreamers from Nebraska, as from everywhere else, have flocked to Hollywood since the motion picture industrys start. Softening the harsh realities of making it in Tinsel Towns dog-eat-dog world, where who you know is often more vital than what you know, is the mission behind the Nebraska Coast Connection. This networking alliance of natives already established in Hollywood or aspiring to be is the brainchild of Todd Nelson, a Holdrege son who’s been in Hollywood since 1984. A former Disney executive, his company Braska Films produces international promos for CBS… Click here to read the full article in The Reader.

LA TIMES: Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ shows state’s deep roots in Hollywood

By Richard Verrier
November 20, 2013, 5:30 a.m.

Director Alexander Payne was greeted like a hometown hero Saturday night — more than 1,500 miles from his native Omaha.

Nearly 300 actors, writers, producers, crew members and students crammed into the Sherry Lansing Theatre on the Paramount Studios lot for a Q&A and screening of Payne’s newly released “Nebraska.”

The Oscar-winning writer and director of “The Descendants,”“Sideways” and “Election” was the guest speaker at the event, organized by the Nebraska Coast Connection, an unusual support group of Nebraskans who work in the film and TV industry.

The black-and-white film, with its depiction of small-town life in the Cornhusker State, is a point of pride for the group, which includes more than 1,000 people. In the movie, Bruce Dern plays an aging and acerbic man who travels across the Midwest with his son to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize.

“This movie has such a resonance for us because so many of us grew up in small towns,” said Todd Nelson, the group’s founder and a freelance television producer for CBS. “I’m so proud that [Payne] has introduced Nebraska to the world in a way that isn’t just football and Bruce Springsteen,” who made a best-selling album named after the state.

Billing itself as the “Nebraska mafia of Hollywood,” the Nebraska Coast Connection hosts monthly panel discussions with prominent Nebraskans, who come to talk about their work and offer advice to aspiring writers, directors and actors.

The meetings are typically held at the historic Culver Hotel in the old offices of Culver City founder Harry Culver — born in Milford, Neb.

The state’s roots in Hollywood run deep.

“We have Harold Lloyd, Montgomery Cliff, Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda, Dick Cavett — we’re a proud bunch,” Payne said.

Payne has been a longtime supporter of the Connection, coaxing cast and crew members from his films to be guest speakers and help Nebraska newcomers find careers and make contacts.

“I’m sure other states have some organizations, but I bet none of them are as large and well organized as the Nebraska Coast Connection,” Payne said. “It feels like being home.”

Nelson, a University of Nebraska graduate, launched the first Hollywood salon in 1995 with the help of the University of Nebraska Foundation, initially as a way to help his fellow home-staters network.

“Every job I had I would meet other Nebraskans, and none of them knew each other,” said Nelson, whose company Braska Films makes promos for CBS Studios International. “I thought if we could just band together, there must be 20 or 30 of us. Our first event, we had 200 people.”

The group’s network includes such high-profile figures as Marg Helgenberger, star of CBS’ “CSI” and “Intelligence”; Nick D’Agosto of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”; Tim Schlattmann, writer and producer of Showtime’s “Dexter”; and Jon Bokenkamp, writer and creator of NBC’s “The Blacklist.”

Bokenkamp, who was a guest of the group last month, said the Nebraska Coast Connection gave an early boost to his career. He was fresh out of film school at USC and parking cars for a living when he met Nelson at one of the group’s events. The two hailed from the small city of Kearney, Neb., and quickly became friends.

Nelson encouraged Bokenkamp to enter a screenwriting contest, which he won, launching his career.

“That would have never happened had I not bumped into Todd and got to know him through this group,” Bokenkamp said. “It’s people from home who get you and understand what it’s like to be in a place like Nebraska, but also what it’s like to leave a place like Nebraska and explore the entertainment industry, which can be a very scary thing.”

Bokenkamp’s fellow Kearney native, Schlattmann, was a guest in fall 2011.

“So much of show business is networking, so when you have a group that has a common bond, it’s fantastic,” Schlattmann said. “I’ve certainly recommended people for casting that I’ve met through Connection and keep people in mind for future projects.”

Original Article at,0,653882.story#axzz2lCXi9Yfl

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Curated by Jackson Street Booksellers | Sponsored by Mutual of Omaha


Thursday, October 17 – Thursday, October 24, 2013

Opening Night Premiere & Post-Party with the Filmmakers: Thursday, October 17, 7:30pm.

The purpose of our Local Filmmakers Showcase, now in its fourth year, is to celebrate and screen the extraordinary work created right here in our region. This year’s program, a wonderful snapshot of the exciting work being done in our area, does just that.

This year’s program was thoughtfully curated by the staff of Jackson Street Booksellers (Carl Ashford, Sara Adkisson Joyner, and Amanda Lynch). The 98-minute program features 6 films by 7 filmmakers, including some returning to the showcase (Pat Clark, Kelly Rush, Ryle Smith) and others making their Film Streams debuts (Sally Nelson Barrett, Joseph Knapp, Jerry Johnston, Pat Aylward). The range of this year’s selections is remarkable. Our jury picked a documentary on education, a non-narrative experimental film, a comedic celebration of auteurism and chess, a sci-fi mind-bender, a biography of an outsider artist, and a war documentary. The breadth and talent of our film scene will be on full display. See links below for details about each film.

Jackson Street Booksellers is celebrating twenty years in business. In The New York Times, author, host of the Peabody-winning Studio 360, and Film Streams Advisory Board Member Kurt Andersen proclaimed Jackson Street Booksellers his “all-time favorite used-book store in America.”

A special premiere screening will take place on Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m., with a post-party with the filmmakers immediately following.

More info at


Originally from Scribner and Hooper, Nebraska, George Henry Dern was on the NU football team, ran businesses, became a state senator, Governor of Utah twice, and was the Secretary of War for President Roosevelt, too.  His wife was also a Nebraskan, from Fremont.

Their grandson?  Actor Bruce Dern.  Their great-grandaughter?  Laura Dern.

The film “Nebraska” — starring Bruce Dern — shot in Hooper, and was headquartered in Fremont, in 2012.

This photo shows Bruce at the Cannes premiere of “Nebraska” proudly showing off his Nebraska granddad to Todd Nelson of the Nebraska Coast Connection. Todd attended the premiere with his old friend director Alexander Payne, and after chatting with Bruce in Cannes, invited him to guest at the Nebraska Coast Connection’s Hollywood Salon. He said he’d love to do it.

From the website HuskerMax….

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Sept. 8, 1872 – Aug. 27, 1936

George Dern was born in 1872 on a farm near Scribner, northwest of Fremont, to German immigrant parents. After attending public schools in Hooper and graduating at age 16 from Fremont Normal College, he worked loading lumber and shoveling wheat into freight cars – building brawn as he earned money to attend the University of Nebraska. He enrolled at NU in 1893, and the newcomer was an immediate success on the football team.

Newspaper accounts show he started every game in 1893 at right guard. In a late-November preview of the season finale against Iowa, the Omaha Bee said this about him:



“Dern will play right guard. He is a very light man for that position, but he has met nobody yet who has overmatched him. Dern is a new man, but he plays like a veteran, and by many he is called the best man in the eleven.”

Outside of football, meanwhile, he took in a broad spectrum of college life. He joined the university cadet corps (led by Lt. John J. Pershing, the future World War I general) and played alto horn in the cadet band. He was one of the earliest members of the NU chapter of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, and he traveled to Europe with a university group during the summer of 1894.

And yet, he later expressed this lament:



“Football is too all-absorbing. During the season we had no time to think of anything else but the winning of the pennant. … I am heartily in favor of college football, if not carried to such an extreme.”

When fall of 1894 arrived, Dern moved to right tackle. He also became team captain, but not without controversy. The players had elected George Flippin, Nebraska’s African-American halfback, but coach Frank Crawford voided the selection, saying, “It takes a man with brains to be a captain.” (It also takes brains to be a doctor. Read more about the remarkable Flippin here.)

The season again saw Dern start every game, and he scored a touchdown on a short run against the Omaha YMCA in early November. But it was his game against Iowa on Thanksgiving that stood out. His long touchdown gallop on Nebraska’s third offensive play of the second half helped turn an 8-0 halftime lead into a 36-0 final. The Lincoln Evening News described the run:



“Captain Dern made sixty-five yards around [Otis] Whipple’s end and planted the ball behind the porte. [Wilmer] Wilson accompanied him on his triumphant journey down the field, knocking down Hawkeye men as the small boy knocketh down the late fall apple with the little shinny cane.”

A tackle toting the ball? It wasn’t unusual back then, when the sport was a closer cousin to rugby. Dern – listed at 170 pounds, lighter than halfback Flippin by 20 pounds – actually had several carries that day, many for healthy gains. On the TD run, the Omaha Bee wrote, Dern “got away with the ball” thanks to “a succession of neat tricks” by end Frank Wiggins and guard Albin Jones.

Nebraska had one more contest to play, but the frolic against Iowa would be Dern’s last game. By the time his teammates were slogging through a Christmas Day rematch against the Omaha YMCA, George Dern was going places.

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Sept. 8, 1872 – Aug. 27, 1936

After the Dern family moved to Utah in December 1894, George seemed to find success at every turn. His father had acquired a financial stake in a mining company, and George began work there as a bookkeeper.

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As a Cabinet member, Dern occasionally rubbed elbows with the era’s cultural icons. Click on these images for video of him with Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh.

By age 29, he was running the place.

He became known as an adept manager and innovator, helping to develop a process for recovering silver from low-grade ore. Other business interests beckoned, and he would hold executive positions in the banking and power industries.

In his early 40s, he took the plunge into politics. He won election to the state Senate in 1914 and 1918 and displayed a reformist streak, winning enactment of Utah’s first workmen’s compensation law, among other things. Then came successful runs for governor in 1924 and 1928. As the state’s chief executive, he steered Utah toward reliance on the income tax and away from property taxes.

How did this Democrat and Congregationalist get along so well in a Republican and Mormon state? The Times of London said this:

lindbergh_1933 (5K)“Dern’s success in life was the result of his own ability and perseverance. He possessed charm and good humour, with a gift for efficient administration. Politically he was a man of progressive rather than merely party ideas.”

The New York Times noted that he “did not let his wealth prejudice his legislative views, and he sponsored legislation which was opposed to his own interests.”

When the Boulder Dam project sparked water disputes among western states and the federal government, Dern led efforts to resolve the issues, raising his national profile. His peers elected him chairman of the National Governors’ Conference. It was in that post that Dern became friends with his New York counterpart, Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1933, the new president tapped Dern as his Secretary of War.

As Dern’s biography in the Utah History Encyclopedia notes, “Although matters of national defense were of secondary importance to domestic concerns during these first years of the New Deal, Dern managed to enlarge and motorize the army.” In a few years, that would come in very handy for the nation.

Dern’s own defenses, meanwhile, were taking a beating, starting with a severe case of influenza while he was still governor. Flu attacks became recurrent and took a dreadful toll on the once-robust outdoorsman. On July 13, 1936, weakened by kidney trouble, Dern entered the hospital for the final time. Death came 6½ weeks later, just short of his 64th birthday.

Dern was survived by his wife, Lottie (a Fremont native), two daughters and three sons. There was also a grandson, not yet three months old. That infant is 75 years old now, and you’re probably familiar with some of his work.

George Dern Bruce Dern Laura Dern


Born  1872 – 1936 – 1967

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Hollywood is where the Dern name lives on most prominently today. George’s grandson Bruce Dern is still going strong after half a century in television and film. Bruce’s daughter Laura Dern chose the same career, and both have Oscar nominations to their credit. Bruce’s role in the recently concluded HBO series “Big Love” prompted him to learn more about his grandfather’s Utah days. George died before Bruce was born, so they never met. Bruce was unaware of the Nebraska connection until brought to his attention by HuskerMax.

Toni4bThe May Hollywood Salon hosts a special guest who has written and produced a ton of television, creating and writing for some of the most endearing characters and culture-shifting stories on TV.

Louisiana native Toni Graphia began her television career working as a researcher on the critically acclaimed Vietnam drama China Beach, where she received her first break as a writer.

She’s gone on to write over 85 episodes of quality TV drama on shows such as Battlestar Galactica (named by Time Magazine as one of TV’s Top 5 Dramas), HBO’s Carnivale, Roswell, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, JJ Abram’s Alcatraz, and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s also sold and written 17 pilots for networks including NBC, CBS, FOX,
and Lifetime.

She’s been honored with a Writer’s Guild nomination, an AFI Award for Television Excellence, and the prestigious Peabody Award. Toni is also a Founder/Executive Board member of the League Of Hollywood Women Writers. Career highlights include writing and producing a CBS pilot starring Andie McDowell, directed by Mike Newell, and developing an NBC pilot with author Anne Rice. Graphia has also taught writing at USC, UCLA, UCSB and Emerson College.

You won’t want to miss hearing Toni’s stories of working with some of the best
in the business.

Hope to see you Monday, May 13th at the Culver.

V.P. of Human Resources at Paramount Pictures Jim White – old

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Hollywood Salon on October 11th welcomes Jim White, not only the VP of Human Resources at Paramount Pictures, but an inspiring author and entrepreneur…

Jim White grew up in Carter Lake, Iowa, just across the way from Omaha. His career path took him to live & work in 22 countries, and companies like Blockbuster and Universal Music Group before his current position as Vice President of Human Resources at Paramount Studios.
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Author/Actor Harley Jane Kozak

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Our Salon guest tonight is not only one of the best mystery writers around, but she also was the on-screen wife of Rick Moranis, sister of Steve Martin, and ex-wife of Billy Crystal.

Before she re-invented herself as an author, and won a slew of Best Mystery Awards, she starred in some big classic movies for Directors Ron Howard, Rob Reiner, Frank Marshall and Producer Steven Spielberg.
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Feature Film Director Michael Hofacre

Monday, August 9, 2010

How often do you have the chance to meet someone on the filmmaking team of such directors as Milos Forman, Michael Mann, Danny DeVito and Jodie Foster?

At tonight’s Hollywood Salon, you can.

Did you know there was a Nebraskan on the editing staff for THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN, TALLADEGA NIGHTS, STEP BROTHERS, and THE BEAVER (the new film directed by Jodie Foster, starring Mel Gibson)?

You will meet him at tonight’s Salon also. Along with a talented theatre director, a Shakespearean trained actor and very nice guy from Omaha.  (OK, he’s the same guy).

The August Hollywood Salon will introduce you to feature editor Michael Hofacre.  See for details on Mike’s long-overdue return to the Salon tonight.

And for those of you who were wondering when we’d see Holly & Raider back at a Salon…tonight’s the night!  This Nebraska couple is one of our sweetheart stories — they married after meeting at a Salon.  And they’re about to move back to Nebraska together, so come help us give them a proper NCC send-off tonight!