Q&A with Chaz Hawkins ‘17, Screenwriter at Heroes and Villains Entertainment

Major(s): Theater Studies, Public Policy

In this interview, Chaz Hawkins ’17, screenwriter at Heroes and Villains Entertainment, shares his experience as a Duke student, discusses his transition into the film industry, and offers advice for students interested in pursuing careers in creative industries. Recently, his screenplay “The Sauce” was selected for this year’s The Black List, an annual survey of the “most-liked” motion picture screenplays that have not yet been produced.

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

DEMAN helped me land my first internship out in LA with Red Hour Films while I matriculated into graduate school in 2017. From there, I began to build a network that still sustains my Hollywood experience to this day.

Duke also made me uncomfortable. Quite often. Understanding and finding myself in that discomfort helps me navigate the Hollywood machine. In fact, in my discomfort at Duke, I found my love of writing and soaked up as much knowledge as I could before graduating. Also, running on the Track and Field team taught me to value diversity in both my lifestyle and the people I keep in my inner circle.

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

First and foremost, I went to graduate school and turned a passing fascination into a craft I could build my life on, so that assisted the transition. As for takeaways, stay uncomfortable. It means you’re growing. Also, get yourself five hobbies: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, one to keep you creative, one to build knowledge, and one to evolve your mindset. Makes life easy.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

I chased my passion. I’d always been someone who journaled and wrote privately to deal with the stress of school and sport. During my senior year, a Duke professor noticed I was more animated about that than any of my classes. I figured I should investigate that passion and turn it into a career. Movies became step one in my master plan to write anything and everything under the sun.

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

My favorite thing is that I’m surrounded by other creative minded people all day everyday. That makes every day interesting, to say the least. The most challenging thing would be keeping myself focused on any one story or idea. Sometimes it feels like my head’s in three or four different places at once. Sometimes it literally is.

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

One, journal. Seriously. Write out even the dumbest thoughts. You never know when they’ll come in handy. Two, never stop going on adventures. You can’t write about anything if you haven’t experienced anything. Three, keep your eyes open. Sometimes the best stories can be found in the worlds and lives existing parallel to your own.

Anything else to add?

Hopefully, y’all will see a movie of mine one day! I’ve got a couple pieces in the works, and having too much fun to stop writing and movie-making any time soon!

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