Nic writes for theatre, film, and television. His plays have been performed in multiple languages around the world.
His first play, The Elephant Song, was made into a feature film starring Xavier Dolan, Bruce Greenwood, and Catherine Keener, for which he won a Canadian Screen Award and a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award. His latest, Butcher, was produced across Canada and is in development as a feature film for Rhombus Media.
A 2016 graduate of the CFC’s Prime Time Television program, Nic recently wrote his first hour of TV drama for CBC’s X Company.
Nic has won over a dozen awards for his work, including the Governor-General’s Award for Drama.
Nicolas Billon grew up in Ottawa, Paris, and Montreal. His vocation as a writer first surfaced at the age of six, when he wrote stories on index cards, stapled them together, and sold them to his mother for a tidy profit. Four years later, he made his stage debut as the three of hearts in a junior school production of Alice in Wonderland.
Nicolas began writing short stories when he was twelve. His first “publication” came when one of the school librarians photocopied two of his stories and added them to the library collection. He now had his own entry in the card catalogue, a gesture that he’s never forgotten.
Throughout his teens, Nicolas produced a number of short stories (20% = pretty good) and poems (98% = appalling), and continued acting in school plays. He also developed an interest in computing, and taught himself to program HyperCard stacks. In 1995, he created an interactive periodic table of the elements, HyperElements, with his friend Anthony Brichieri-Colombi. Voted one of MacUser’s Top 30 Shareware Programs of 1996, it was used in a number of universities around the world.
Between 1997 and 2000, Nicolas attended university, worked in Montreal’s booming multimedia industry, and co-founded a community theatre company where he tried his hand at directing. Though all three activities were instructive, Nicolas concluded that none of them were for him, and he returned to writing.
His first play, The Elephant Song, began as an exercise for a university class. At the urging of his teacher and classmates, Nicolas re-worked it into a one-act play with the intention of producing it himself. Following a public reading in Montreal, however, he decided to send it to people he knew in the theatre and film business.
A copy made its way into the hands of Richard Monette, then artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In 2004, The Elephant Song opened at Stratford’s Studio Theatre. Nicolas was subsequently the first playwright to attend Stratford’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre (where he performed his most memorable role as The Bear in A Winter’s Tale).
In 2005, The Elephant Song returned to Montreal for its French-language premiere at the Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui under the direction of René Richard Cyr. That summer, Stratford produced Nicolas’s second play, The Measure of Love, after which he returned to the Birmingham Conservatory to work with friend and mentor Bernard Hopkins on The Duchess of Malfi.
From June 2006 to June 2008, Nicolas was the playwright of Soulpepper Theatre’s inaugural Academy. During his tenure, he adapted Chekhov’s Three Sisters for the 2007 production starring Megan Follows, and co-created BLiNK with the other Soulpepper Academy members for the 2008 Luminato Festival.
2009 proved to be a fruitful year for Nicolas. As a member of the Tarragon Playwrights Unit, he worked on a new play, Smuggling Buddha. At the Toronto Fringe Festival, his adaptation of Molière’s The Sicilian, directed by Lee Wilson, was a hit with audiences and critics alike.
In August, Nicolas premiered Greenland at the SummerWorks Theatre Festival. Directed by Ravi Jain, Greenland became the sleeper hit of the festival, garnering both the Audience Choice Award and the SummerWorks Outstanding Production Award. Toronto’s NOW Magazine voted Nicolas one of the top 10 Theatre Artists of 2009.
His first short film, The Exit, received funding from Bravo!FACT and shot in December 2009, directed by E. Jane Thompson. The Exit was an official selection at close to a dozen film festivals, including the Atlantic Film Festival, CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and the Palm Springs International Short Fest.
In February 2010, Greenland received a workshop and public reading at New York’s Bridge Theatre Company. Later that year, Nicolas adapted Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, which was produced at SummerWorks and directed by Alan Dilworth.
On the heels of the success of The Exit, Nicolas’s second short film, A Kindness, was funded and shot in 2011, working once again with E. Jane Thompson. In the same year, Nicolas’s new play, The Safe Word, premiered at the SummerWorks festival, and Greenland had its New York City premiere as part of the NYC Fringe, where it won an Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting.
In August 2012, Nicolas returned to the SummerWorks Theatre Festival with Iceland, a companion piece to Greenland. Working again with director Ravi Jain, Iceland would go on to garner both the Audience Choice and Best New Play awards. Subsequently, Toronto’s Factory Theatre picked up Iceland for its 2012/13 Season.
2013 began with a production of Faroe Islands at the Rhubarb Festival. That play, along with Greenland and Iceland, was published in March 2013 by Coach House Books. In September, The Elephant Song, opened in Paris at the Petit Montparnasse and ran for over 100 performances.
On November 13, the film adaptation of The Elephant Song began principal photography, with an all-star cast (Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, Carrie-Anne Moss, Catherine Keener) directed by Charles Binamé and produced by Richard Goudreau. That same day, Nicolas was announced as the laureate of the 2013 Governor-General’s Award for Drama for Fault Lines.
Finally, Nic got married on Christmas Eve to Aislinn Rose.
In January 2014, Nicolas’s adaptation of Brecht and Steffin’s Rifles opened at the Next Stage Theatre Festival, and he made the cover of Toronto’s NOW Magazine.
Elephant Song had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. It was also the opening film of the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.
Nicolas’s next play, Butcher, premiered in October at the Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary, where it was received with rave reviews from both critics and audience members alike.
The following month, Nicolas went to India where Iceland played to sold-out houses at the 2014 Tata LitLive Festival in Mumbai.
In the first half of 2015, Nicolas garnered a number of awards, including the 2015 Canadian Screen Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Elephant Song), the 2015 Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award — Movies & Mini-Series (Elephant Song), and the 2015 Calgary Theatre Critics Award for Best New Script (Butcher).
In September 2015, Nic joined the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time TV Program. Under the guidance of showrunner Avrum Jacobson, Nic and 5 other writers spent six months learning the ropes of writing for television.
After graduation, Nic joined the writing room of CBC’s X Company with showrunners Stephanie Morgenstern and Mark Ellis. He was a Story Editor for Season 3 and wrote “Promises“, the fourth episode of the season.
Nic’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island will premiere at the Stratford Festival in the summer of 2017.
NB's Timeline Bio
March 22, 1978 | Ottawa
Nic is born at the Riverside Hospital in Ottawa. He’s late and weighs close to twelve pounds. He owes his mother a lifetime of gratitude.
1978 — 1984 | Ottawa
Nic grows up with remarkably little drama in his life. A future career as a writer is unlikely at this juncture.
1984 — 1986 | Paris
Thankfully, Nic’s parents pick up and move to Paris. Too young to appreciate the cultural wonder of France’s capital, Nic’s mother tries to kickstart his creative habit by enrolling him in pottery class.
While not particularly good at it, certain themes begin to emerge that will begin to obsess Nic in later life.
To be continued...
Excited at the idea of creating a timeline as a bio, Nic hasn’t yet finished it. He’ll get to it.