Checking in with Chris Hadley, an encouraging, selfless writer, who supports artists

This article is a real treat for me, as I personally have come to know Chris as a friend throughout the years. I first met Chris through another great friend of mine Ron Valderrama (CEO of Streamnow TV, an indie streaming platform) when I was helping to get the word out about a project I was in and without even second guessing it, Chris quickly agreed to review and write about the project.

Chris is one of those people that has the artists back “during” and “after” the review process and has always been someone I turn to when trying to spread the word about a project. He doesn’t know it (well maybe now he does) but Chris was someone who inspired me to start doing these highlight articles.

Since I began this journey of highlighting individuals in their respective fields, I can’t help but to feel a sense of gratitude knowing I helped to shine the light on those working hard and making things happen within their communities. It feels as if you gave a useful tool to help the individuals in their journey that will last forever. I’m sure Chris feels this same way. I asked Chris a series of questions below.

Chris Hadley and Renée Zellweger, taken at the 2017 Louisiana International Film Festival in Baton Rouge

Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from/grew up, what high school/college you attended, etc.

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 9, 1982, and I spent most of my life in St. Bernard Parish (or county) up until my family and I relocated to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. In mid-2007 we moved back to St. Bernard, and to our old house, which had been severely damaged during the storm and would later be rebuilt.

We spent four more years there, and during that time I attended Nunez Community College, where I studied screenwriting and video production. Not only did I get the opportunity to learn about both of those crafts, but I also got to play guitar and percussion in the school’s concert band, write for the school newspaper, meet great friends, and learn from some amazing teachers. To me, those were among the most formative years of my life.

What inspired you to get into writing? Early experiences worth sharing?

I’ve long been fascinated by the worlds of journalism and screenwriting. In the case of the former, I spent many years imagining what it would be like for me to be a TV/radio/print reporter. Up until I began writing for Snobby Robot (an online blog/magazine covering independently produced web series) and Film Score Monthly (a subscription magazine focusing on original music for movies, TV/streaming series and video games), I could never find the right opportunities for me to write on a freelance basis.

Thanks to Snobby Robot founder/editor Erik Urtz, Film Score Monthly editors Jim Lochner, Kristen Romanelli, Tim Curran, Jonathan and Al Kaplan and the great people who are part of its staff, I have found those opportunities and I will always be thankful to these brilliant writers for giving me the chance to contribute to their platforms.

Through them, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing incredibly talented web series creators and composers, and I am tremendously proud of the work I’ve done for their publications. I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing many great independent filmmakers for my own personal blog on Medium, and in 2019 I started The Viewfinder Podcast, which offers longer, in-depth chats with some brilliant actors, writers, directors and producers.

Meanwhile, my fascination with screenwriting grew out of a larger fascination with filmmaking. Like just about every other aspiring writer, I tried and frequently failed to break into the industry. In many cases, I didn’t get to where I needed to be because I didn’t put in the necessary time and study required to be successful in screenwriting. In recent years, though, I feel that I have done much better in that field.

I’ve gone on to write and produce my own scripts, beginning with my first web series: the cable news parody The Late, Late News. I’ve also written/co-written several short films for actor/writer/director Warren Mitchell for the New Orleans 48 Hour Film Project and the Four Points Film Project, plus several episodes of the ‘80s TV nostalgia vlog Stuck On The Telly for its creator/writer/producer Yarnel Nicolas (who I’ve also interviewed on my podcast).

I’ve finally hit upon the genre I feel most comfortable with - comedy - and that’s because I’ve spent a lot of time closely observing how humor works in sitcoms and movies as it relates to dialogue, action and character. I’ve achieved a better understanding of what it takes to make an effective joke, and I’ve also found that while getting the big punchline is important, so is crafting a strong set-up to that punchline.

Having a good sense of story helps too, and that’s another thing I keep in mind when I write scripts. I still need to read more, which helps, but watching how the script works in produced form on any movie or series episode is especially important because there are many things that are initially written in the original screenplay but are ultimately not implemented in the final product. The script is always the starting point for any project, and given the collaborative nature of filmmaking, changes are both inevitable and welcome.

Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.

By far, Hurricane Katrina was the biggest moment of adversity that my family and I have ever faced. We lost everything. We had to move to a new place. We literally had to start our lives all over again from nothing. Those days were the most uncertain for all of us, because we never knew when or if we would be able to come back home again. We were separated from loved ones. Every day was a struggle.

Yet, we all got through it and came out better for the experience. Living through Katrina and its aftermath taught me not just the importance of persevering during a difficult time, but also the value of family and the importance of life itself. You can replace things, but you can’t replace the people you love and care for. Thankfully, no one we knew passed away during the storm. We were fortunate in that regard, but we also know that so many others weren’t, and we mourn for those who did lose their lives in Katrina. May their memory always be honored.

What do you believe sets you apart from other writers?

Film and journalism are two of the biggest things I care about in my life, and it is truly an honor and a privilege to be able to do a job that lets me pursue both of those passions. My curiosity about how both of those professions work, and the ways that filmmakers and actors go about their creative processes, has always informed the way I do my job as a writer, and I feel that it makes me unique from most others.

I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve talked to over the years, and that knowledge will always be something I rely on as I continue my own journey in the creative world. In every article I write and every interview I do, my goals are twofold: to tell audiences about the great work and works of those I chat with, and to help audiences - and myself - gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for their creative efforts.

Do you have other interests or hobbies?

Besides movies, TV, web series and film scores, I’m a huge sports fan. My favorite teams are the New Orleans Saints (NFL), New Orleans Pelicans (NBA). LSU Tigers, Tulane Green Wave and the University of New Orleans Privateers. I support all of Louisiana’s college sports teams and I want them to do well. I enjoy cooking, as well, even though I can only make a few dishes - pizza, jambalaya (a popular, spicy Louisiana food that mixes rice with sausage and other ingredients like chicken and shrimp), yellow rice, chocolate chip cookies, chicken and fries, etc. I love music, too, especially film scores, plus melodic rock and pop.

Any projects you have out or are currently working on?

I am hoping to continue working on a narrative podcast concept I first developed late last year. It’s a soap opera parody called Hot Air, and it revolves around a power struggle between members of a wealthy family involved in the ceiling fan business. It’s like an absurd take on Succession with all the unbelievable tropes found in daytime soaps: people coming back from the dead, evil twins, amnesia, etc. but with the important issues of family, loyalty and power examined.

Aside from that, I’m working on more stories for Snobby Robot, Film Score Monthly and my indie film/web series blog on Medium. In addition, I’m working on getting additional interviews set up for The Viewfinder Podcast.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years, I plan to continue covering web series, film and film music. I look forward to interviewing more great actors and filmmakers, learning from their experiences, and bringing readers and listeners their perspective on the creative process. I also hope to draw more listeners to my podcast, possibly write another short film or web series, and maybe work with a few of the people whose work I’ve admired over the years. Who knows where this all goes, of course, but I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next.

What advice can you give in regard to individuals looking to enter your line of work?

Whether you’re a writer or a podcaster, your job is to communicate information in a clear and understandable manner. Convey that information accurately and effectively. Preparation is important, too. Research the people you’re about to talk to, and the projects you’re covering. Check out the movies/TV/web series/film scores you’ll be interviewing them about. That way, you can understand and appreciate what they do, how they do it, and how their process worked for each project.

Also, be a good listener. Give everyone you interview the space needed for them to talk openly about their work and themselves, and pay close attention to what they have to say. If you think of an interesting thing to bring up during that interview, be it something you know about their work or something they’ve said about it, don’t hesitate to mention it. Chances are that observation could make the interview even better, while giving readers and listeners something more to think about and to learn.

How can we follow along in your journey? YouTube? Social media? Sites?

You can follow me on Twitter @filmwritr4

Check out my Instagram @chrisjhadley

I’ve written several webisodes, including my own series (the cable news parody The Late, Late News) plus a few short films for the New Orleans 48 Hour Film Project and the Four Points Film Project. You can see these on YouTube:

Read my coverage of web series on Snobby Robot:

http://www.snobbyrobot.com

Check out my interviews w/film composers on Film Score Monthly (subscription required):

http://www.fsmonlinemag.com

My Medium blog features more great chats and articles:

https://chrishadley.medium.com/

Here’s the main hub for The Viewfinder Podcast, which you can hear on Stitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and many other platforms:

http://www.anchor.fm/chris-hadley

Here are the social media pages for my podcast, The Viewfinder Podcast:

Twitter: @ViewfinderPod

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheViewfinderPodcast

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