A Closer Look At Bob Nelson, Screenwriter Of ‘Nebraska’ And (A Brief) Yankton Son

Screenwriter Bob Nelson, who was born in Yankton.

I’m a huge, HUGE fan of Alexander Payne, the Omaha native who has directed “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways” and “The Descendants.”

So I pretty much shouted out loud when news broke that he would be shooting his new film, tentatively titled “Nebraska,” in the Norfolk area.

Amidst all the news on the production, which will begin shooting soon, I discovered that Bob Nelson, who wrote the “Nebraska” screenplay, was born in Yankton. It was a great excuse to learn more about the film.

I tracked down Nelson who, it turns out, has had a lot more entertainment experience than just screenwriting. He is a very kind, humble guy who has a definite Midwestern demeanor despite having spent his life in the Seattle area.

Here is the beginning of the story I recently wrote about Nelson:

Bob Nelson is making inroads in Hollywood by having his first screenplay made into a film this fall, but he hasn’t forgotten Yankton.

Well, what little he remembers of it anyway. It turns out that Nelson, 56, of Whidbey Island, Wash., has only spent two days of his life in Yankton.

But if you read through his resume — combing through such facts that his “Nebraska” screenplay will be directed by Oscar-winning Omaha, Neb., native Alexander Payne or that he is working with comedian Chris Rock on the adaptation of the French film, “La Premiere Etoile” — you will find the following line: “Nelson was born in Yankton, South Dakota.”

His parents, Hartington, Neb., natives Jean (Walz) and George Nelson, had lived in Yankton from about 1952-56. When Nelson came into the world, his mother was living in Hartington as she prepared to join her husband in Washington. However, her doctor was in Yankton, so that is where Nelson was born. The only other time he was in Yankton was around the time his grandmother died in 1985.

“So that’s a total of two days in Yankton for me, and they were both good,” Nelson told the Press & Dakotan during a recent phone interview. “I understand I did cry a lot the first time, but it had nothing to do with Yankton itself.”

Nelson was raised in the Seattle area but visited his family in Hartington a handful of times while growing up. He has always held on to the fact that he was born in Yankton, he said.

“When you’re out here in Seattle and you say you were born in Yankton, S.D., it sounds kind of exotic,” Nelson stated. “I grew up with Yankton as my birthplace, and I’ve always really celebrated that. It does kind of create this strange tie, even though I was only there for one day.”

You can read the whole story here.

During the course of my research on Nelson, I had the pleasure of coming across his work with the Seattle sketch series “Almost Live.”

It’s definitely worth your time (Bob is the laid-back baseball announcer in the first clip):

I should mention that Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) was a regular on “Almost Live.”

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