There is so much going on in Cannes this week. Beginning today, The 76th annual festival gets underway, featuring the likes of Spike Lee, Brie Larson, Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Douglas and so many more. This also marks the 5th anniversary of the French Riviera Film Festival, a fabulous short film festival founded by Gotham Chatham and Nicole Muj. During the global celebration of film, Reel 360 News will spotlight some of the talented filmmakers, like Chadwick Pelletier, who have descended upon Cannes.
Chadwick 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.
What’s your origin story?
I was born and raised in Colorado to a Canadian immigrant. One of five kids, I spent my formative years in Steamboat Springs where I grew up as a competitive downhill ski racer and graduated high school. I later went on to attend Colorado University, Boulder before transferring to Harvard where I graduated with a concentration in psychology. Prior to my career in the entertainment industry, I had my eyes set on the Olympic stage, as both a ski racer and martial artist.
How did you get into the film industry?
I loved the idea of acting — specifically in action films as a martial artist. At the time (late 90s), I was working as a senior black belt instructor at a Taekwondo school in Denver but would break away as often as I could to catch the next Van Damme film and get lost in it all. You may laugh or shoot a crooked grin, but that guy had a crazy influence on my life at that time.
I knew nothing about Hollywood or the business of filmmaking, I only knew how it [cinema] made me feel and that was enough to inspire a move to Los Angeles. My inciting incident, however, happened when I was driving to Boulder from Fort Collins with a friend on a dark and winding road when the taillights of the car in front of us vanished off a cliff.
I won’t go into the details, only say we arrived on the scene for their final moments. I know this is more than you asked for with this question, but it was a pivotal point in my life that put an emphasis and new perspective on how short this ride really is — ultimately thrusting me into this beautiful and complex journey to chase my dream. It was a quiet drive back to Boulder after EMS arrived and we gave our statements; the silence was later broken when my buddy dropped me off at my apartment and said … You gotta go… Although he was probably just talking about me getting out of his truck, I think we both knew what he meant. A week later I packed my bags for Hollywood.
Who were your mentors?
I wish I had mentors, but if I’m being honest, I never did. Not the one-on-one, take me under your wing, or I’ve been where you’ve got to go kind of anyway, but I’m still young(ish) and have a lot to learn, so I’ll keep the door open. I do work hard to surround myself with smart, business-minded, creative professionals, which has helped shape my career, but I’m still looking for that special mentorship.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Industry-wise I would point to DaVinci International Film Festival. Although I didn’t set out to be a film festival owner per se, and my primary focus and passion remains as a filmmaker, this platform has become such a beautiful part of my journey — a birth child of high-level brand development and entertainment industry experience. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding. Our first year we came out as a Top 100 Best Reviewed festival out of nearly 8000 worldwide. We survived the COVID years, and even came out on top with our new venue home at The Grove in Los Angeles. Although I have been blessed with some success as a filmmaker, DaVinci has next-leveled a long-term contribution to the film industry and has become a cherished legacy venture for our family.
What drives you in your work?
It’s tough to avoid cliché here, so I will say optimizing my highest potential. Humbly, I am a creative visionary who seeks (hunts) to find fulfillment in all that I do. Ultimately, it’s a steadfastness to provide for my family that keeps me burning the midnight oil or candle, or whatever dim light shines on strategy to a desired end. But selfishly, I am still wanting to satisfy that nine year old boy who sat in a theater watching E.T. all those years ago, and wanting to be a part of that world. Now — 40 years later — the passion is still very much alive in wanting to re-produce that feeling for others with my work as a writer-director in film, as well as by way of the DaVinci platform.
Chadwick, what is the biggest challenge for you in your industry today?
Finding the right people. Anecdotally: I’m tempted to start a new production company called Fireman Productions because of the number of fires I have to put out daily with my businesses. Maybe Dragon Slayer Productions is a better fit — ha. I joke, but challenges are part and parcel in Hollywood, and if you’re not willing to be raked over the coals in this business, you should start looking for an exit strategy. It’s not for everyone, and that’s putting it lightly. I know this is true for many independents, but as a writer-director with nearly three decades in this business, it’s still tricky to get people to look at my pitch decks, read scripts, talk financing, talent attachments, and a hundred other things to inch forward — even with successful past performance.
And with DaVinci, it’s a whole business with a million moving parts. From NGO Board organization and management to financing, sponsors, qualifying films, event production, you name it, it’s being juggled. But I have all good problems and I’m not complaining; I’m blessed, it just gets a little heavy at times. The biggest challenge, if I were to pinpoint, is finding the right people to support the vision.
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous person you would like to attend each
Coffee: Taylor Sheridan
Lunch: Darren Aronofsky
Happy Hour: Mark Wahlberg
What do you hope to achieve during Cannes Film Festival this year?
After WGA-ATA I had a number of feature and TV projects land back on my desk, and would love to meet creative producers, showrunners, agent/managers, and other industry professionals who are looking for strong new voices. I will also be at Cannes representing DaVinci International Film Festival as the Founder & CEO, and look to build amazing strategic partnerships and connect with potential sponsors for our sixth edition, October 20-22, 2023.
Tell us about your latest project.
Along with the production of DIFF ’23, I have a couple film projects in the works, including a short fan film that we are looking to showcase at DaVinci this year, as well as a proof of concept/teaser for a feature I had in development pre-pandemic. In parallel with these, I’m in rewrites on another feature script and working to get my current slate in front of the right people.
How can we follow you on Social Media?
Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1