Giles Alderson welcomes writer-director Lauren Hadaway to chat about her brilliant feature debut, The Novice, and how her filmmaking goals became reality.

When writing, which Lauren is currently doing, she says that she gets completely absorbed. “I don’t think about anything else. When I’m in the shower, I’m thinking about what I’m writing. I’m writing all day.”

She rewrites the script after her initial ideas and then gets feedback from the producer, which spur new ideas for her. But, although she likes getting feedback from others, she’s never tried writing with anyone else.

“I don’t know if I’d like writing with people. I haven’t done it, but I need someone to bounce off.”

How She Writes

“Usually in three weeks, I just spit it all out on the page. And then discover the story and the characters along the way.”

For her, the real writing is rewriting. “I have moments where I stop and figure out what is the halfway point. I think in four acts, usually, and try and figure out those big points. But it’s constantly evolving. I can’t stand outlining things.”

I like free flow. You’ve got to have the magic. All of my best scenes I’ve ever written have come in a manic moment of writing. It just pops in your head, and you can’t get that if you’re obsessing over an outline.”

What Drove You Her to Filmmaking

Lauren had given up on writing and directing when she was a freshman. “I was hit with what we now call imposter syndrome.” During a class, she discovered sound and became obsessed with it.

After college, “I had an internship at a commercial radio house in Dallas and was trying to get an assistant sound job, because someone got pregnant and left.

I didn’t get it. And in hindsight, it’s the best thing that never happened to me. But at the time I was devastated. However, I had another internship that I had done in college, and this company did reality TV editing. They needed a new video editor, and so I went and worked there, which ended up being the best thing that accidentally happened.”

Working on TV, and getting the editing experience meant that when Lauren decided to move to LA, she already had the union hours that she needed.

“I rose up pretty quickly and then realized that this is the top. This is the most I’m going to do in Dallas. I had never even thought about moving to LA until a friend of mine, who is actually one of the producers on The Novice” suggested it.

Moving to LA

The first 6 months were spent moonlighting, researching, getting contacts and advice and calling people who she’d previously connected with.

“Everyone tells you the same thing, ‘call me when you get out here. And join the union. Not thinking one or both those things are likely to happen. But, I moved to LA and on my first day out there, I got into the union and literally, in the parking lot of the union buildings, I called up (Becky Sullivan from Soundelux) and said ‘guess what? I’m in the union. I’m in LA. How about that interview that you promised me?’ ”

She’d gravitated toward Soundelux because “there’s not a clear path for anything and I had no idea what I was doing or where to start. I set a goal to work on a Tarantino film, because he’s my favourite director, and I worked backwards. Who does the sound in his films? Where does he work? Who can I contact? There were two emails on their website. And one of those emails was Becky Sullivan who I emailed and then called. And she’s the one who got me in the door.”

The next few years were spent in ADR and dialogue and then also sound design.

How Sound Led to Writing/ Directing

“That ended up being a really great education because as I moved up the ranks, I actually did work with Tarantino. My first job as an ADR supervisor was on The Hateful Eight. And my first-ever recording session was with Quentin Tarantino to record the voiceover.”

Lauren claims that to be her ‘break’ because after that “I was getting hired on bigger projects, bigger roles, more time on the ADR stage, more time working directly with actors.

I got to be on the mix stage with directors, editors, producers. I got to hear about the problems, I got to see how the film changed from assembly down to whatever ended up in theatres, scenes that were cut, reworked and moved around.

And then being on the ADR stage, watching directors interact with actors; and a lot of time directors can’t be there so it was me working with the actor, having to get what the film needed.”

Because she didn’t know about cameras or lenses, she’d previously thought that she couldn’t be a director, “but then seeing the behind the scenes, and also realizing, the one thing I took away from my business degree is it’s not about being the best or the fastest or the cheapest. Marketing is about how you differentiate yourself from everybody else. I realized maybe this is good that I’m coming from this other world. I have a different point of view.”

It was November 2016, in a parking lot, that I said ‘I’m going to transition to writing and directing within five years. So five years one month later, The Novice came out.

You can listen to more here.

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