Rising Star Chadwick Pelletier of DaVinci International Film Festival On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

An Interview With Elana Cohen

Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

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Go a mile deep and an inch wide with those you care about; not a mile wide and an inch deep. This is even more challenging today with social media but know your friends. I had hundreds of people in my life and they were solid acquaintances, but very few friends. Know these people ‘a mile deep’ and keep them close. That’s all I will say.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chadwick Pelletier.

Chadwick Pelletier is an award-winning American-Canadian screenwriter, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. As a WGA screenwriter, Chadwick has written, optioned, and sold film and TV content at the highest level in the industry. His work as a director and producer has earned him numerous awards, including the coveted Golden Eagle statue at San Diego International Film Festival (For Blood) and two Red Poppy Awards (She Will Be Loved).

In 2017, Chadwick founded the DaVinci International Film Festival, which hosts an annual event at AMC Theatres, The Grove in Los Angeles, and is ranked among the top best reviewed festival platforms in the world. Chadwick is also the owner and CEO at Veritas Film & Television with offices in Los Angeles, California and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Colorado; one of five kids and spent the majority of my formative years in Steamboat Springs where I went to high school and competed as a downhill ski racer. I later went on to attend Colorado University, Boulder before transferring to Harvard where I graduated with honors.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Two letters — E. T. I was eight years old when my life took on what many would call purpose or “calling.” Seriously. Having grown up without a TV and going to movies maybe once or twice a year, I was immediately pulled into the cinematic experience, and nothing else existed during that time. Well, maybe some popcorn. But I remember that day in 1982 as if it were yesterday: walking a long dirt road to a theater at the distant end with a white-knuckled grip on a couple bucks to catch a matinee that would have a cosmic pull on my life. It was a story about a boy and an alien, and I was dying to see it. That movie changed me in every way and I wanted more. E.T. set me on a 30-year journey in the business to write, direct, and produce compelling stories that would touch the human condition. In time, these experiences lead me to developing a platform for others to feel the same — as creators and viewers, and DaVinci International Film Festival was born.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Oh man, so many … Do I talk about the days as a Power Ranger or slinging hash at Jerry’s Famous Deli on a graveyard shift, or rubber-stamping “Requested Material” on manila envelopes with a lithograph and thin resume in the 90s to a casting director who was in fact not requesting the material?

I always wanted to be an actor, but in 2001 I was tired of waiting on Hollywood and wrote my first feature film. Why not? Write something great and put myself in it … that was the thought at least. So that summer I wrote three full-length features and was told my next step was to find a “Script Doctor,” and so I Craigslisted one and we met at a local coffee shop. I remember cutting him a check and sliding my script across the table with a slight, not-so-humble grin, thinking he was going to be blown away.

SUPER: 2 WEEKS LATER

I meet this so-called doctor at the coffee shop again, and he in-turn slid the script over with a certain grin, then said, ”Being a screenwriter isnt for everyone…” and walked away. I looked down a script that was dog-eared to death and probably weighed twice as much with all the red ink. It was a blood bath. And so, I was faced with a crossroads decision as I sat there staring at the crime scene — ante up, put another pot of coffee on, and learn the craft, or shelve it and get a day job. I learned the craft, and years later, after dozens of scripts, coaching, and reading all the books, I found some traction in the business with my work. In 2004, I optioned my first screenplay to a major studio and went on to write as a WGA screenwriter for A-list actors, directors, producers, executives, and production companies. I launched an indie arm of my company, Veritas Film & Television, called CoffeeRing Entertainment in honor of that crossroad decision.

Wherever you are Script Doctor, thank you. You lit an insatiable fire and I am extremely grateful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve learned my biggest lessons from being wrong about something or someone, none of which were funny per se, but if I’ve learned anything about this amazing, tortured, and beautiful business we are in, it is that no man is an island, and having people who know you and support you is everything. I’m not talking about building a network; I’m talking about finding your people.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

After WGA-ATA I had a number of projects land back on my desk — TV and feature films namely, so I’m working to get them back out there again, but I am always writing and currently working on a script that is taking me a bit outside of my comfort zone as a period drama, set during the Spanish Civil War. I’m also looking to go into production on a short format fan film that will showcase at DIFF this year — no spoilers! Come check it out, you won’t want to miss it.

Aside from film and TV, DaVinci International Film Festival is growing at a rapid pace and I’m just trying to keep up. We will be hosting our sixth edition at AMC The Grove in LA this year, OCT 20–22 with a lot of surprises and celebrity events!

And like any good entrepreneur, I have a few other irons in the fire, including an all-new Nashville, Tennessee brand, MuseqCity.com, and a couple NFT projects in the pattern.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I believe it’s important, if not critical, to represent different voices — voices that stand for and embody a variety of experience, culture, language, and conditioning. Diversity can offer new insight, creative solution, divergent thinking, and a through-line to what it means to be human and how we connect.

Our industry offers an influential platform to share these voices, which makes it all that more important to have more than one.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Be true to who you are and don’t take yourself too seriously.

We get to this town [Hollywood] and things change, at least it did for me. It became a competitive lifestyle overnight, and who we truly are often takes a backseat to who we think people need us to be to get the job or whatever. And we get lost in it all — ourselves. And this was back when people actually talked to each other and had eye contact — that’s 86’d from today’s menu, which isolates us even further. A creative needs to be super strong and strategic to navigation the business nowadays, and this is true above and below the line.

2 . It’s going to take time. Your overnight success may be 30 years …

I moved to LA in the late 90s to pursue a career as an actor. I was a competitive martial artist and thought I could be the next Van Damme; I took the classes, made my way into the BS parties, and even stood on random city street corners doing spin kicks. I remember at one point having a manager who said to me ‘…why don’t you climb the Hollywood sign and I will call the police. Think of the media and press you would get.’ Bottom line, it takes time. Hard work, persistence, patience, and being steadfast is the recipe. I’m still working toward my overnight success.

3 . Go a mile deep and an inch wide with those you care about; not a mile wide and an inch deep.

This is even more challenging today with social media but know your friends. I had hundreds of people in my life and they were solid acquaintances, but very few friends. Know these people ‘a mile deep’ and keep them close. That’s all I will say.

4 . Never compromise your values

Subjective of course — not everyone has a moral compass or knows how to read one. But if you are someone who stands by good values, then don’t let the business side of ‘showbiz’ compromise who you are. I’ve had many opportunities to compromise in this business when times were tough and Top Ramen was it, but I held fast, and I pride myself on that. In fact, not too long ago I could have really used the cash — DaVinci was not a cheap startup and times were tight. I had received a call from a producer with a writing project and a very, very nice paycheck. She said ‘… It’s a comedy about human trafficking …’ (Crickets; I wasn’t sure I heard her right.) I replied, ‘There is nothing funny about that. I’m sorry, I’m not your guy.’ And I passed on something that could have made my life comfortable for a minute. But you know what they say about comfort — it’s the enemy of progress. Stay tuned to your compass and [good] values, that’s my .02c.

5 . And don’t date a girl named Sky.

Beautiful, smart, but it’s a rabbit hole.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Do more than one thing and find the balance. Family, friends, travel, read a book, get a degree, start a company … Don’t put your entire self in an industry that could take or leave you in a split second and commoditizes everything in it. Be wise to the industry you are wanting to work in. Don’t lose sight of this being a BUSINESS first and foremost. Find fulfillment in other ventures, relationships, and opportunities to grow as a human — connect with love, pain, empathy, and conflict in new ways. Hollywood is not going anywhere. Don’t worry about age and try not to compare yourself (or your business) to others. You are writing your own story. This is your journey and the greatest and most valuable commodity you have is TIME. Don’t ‘wake up’ 20 years from now still chasing the brass ring with nothing to show. You are more than this business.

We are complex and beautiful creatures. Find your voice and a way to make it heard.

Bottom line: Work your ass off for what you love and where you want to be, but counterweight with unrelated endeavors and relationships to keep you tuned. And if you are a parent … AMT. Always Make Time. Those lives matter in such a big way.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

John 3:16

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have certainly been blessed with the support of many over the years, but it has really been those who told me I would never amount to anything in this business, who made me. I won’t name names, they know who they are. But I will say this about supporters coming in my life over the last few decades: we have our friends, those we socialize with and share war stories, but then we have our creative army and film family. Those people are torn from a different cloth and normally come around with performance — then stick around because they know you can deliver. This is why you’ll see a lot of directors working with the same producers or cinematographers, etc., they become ‘one’ with your vision and how you articulate your work as a filmmaker, as a creative.

But if I were to pick one, it would be my wife. She’s the only one who has read every one of my scripts, good or bad; supports my crazy ideas like … What do you think about launching an international film festival? And has given me the drive to thrive in this business with two children who are my raison d’être.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t know when/where I said this, but it rings true today: If you walk in the shadows of others, you’re bound to be a cold person. I think what this quote really means is that we are meant to lead and not follow as creatives and share our voices.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Spielberg. 100% with Lucas on his coattail. Spielberg’s films changed my life and set me on this beautiful journey all those years ago. He effectively took hold of me in 1981 and I haven’t looked back since. I don’t know how much I would actually eat at this private breakfast or lunch as I have so many questions, but ultimately one thing to say … thank you, sir.

I’d like to give a runner up, if I may, to Darren Aronofsky, whose work has inspired and continues to inspire me in new and exciting ways. I can’t wait to work with him someday.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/chadwickpelletier/ (Instagram)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/chadwickpelletier/ (LinkedIn)

https://chadwickpelletier.com/ (Official website)

https://veritas.tv/ (Production company)

https://davincifilmfestival.com/ (DaVinci International Film Festival)

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you!

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Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

Elana Cohen is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She covers entertainment and music