We have been saying Milwaukee is home to many great, talented film makers. Well, it's time to meet another. Chad Halvorsen is a multi talented film maker both behind and in front of the camera. I first saw his work in "Hi, Neighbor" at the 17th Annual Milwaukee Short Film Festival. Being one of my favorite shorts of the series, I had to know more about the man behind the wacky neighbor Gordon.
Q) Are you a true Wisconsinite? Were you born and bred here in the Cream City?
A) Oh yeah, totally. Kenosha born and raised. I was accepted to UW-Milwaukee, so I moved up here in 2002. After my Freshmen year, I moved home for the summer. Going back to a midnight curfew and having an immaculate room didn't sit well with me. So since 2003, I've called Milwaukee my home.
Q) You seem to be the "funny guy" of the group. Were you the class clown growing up?
A) I wish. Maybe within my circle of friends, but honestly, I opened up more when I got to college. High School was a nightmare, as it was for most of us. I wasn't popular, not that I wanted to be, but I couldn't be myself.
I've always had a sense of humor though, especially as I grew older. As time passes, you start to see that life isn't all puppies and unicorns. It can be a swift kick to the balls at any moment. Having a sense of humor softens the blow.
Q) Tell us a little bit about how you got started in films?
A) Truly it would be my job at the movie theater. I worked at the Cinemark theater in Kenosha for about four years. That influenced my decision to switch from Criminal Justice to Film/TV Production my first day of college. I went to one Criminal Justice class and was like "nope." I went to my department counselor and she asked me what else I was interested in. I said "well I work at a movie theater and dig films." She told me UW-Milwaukee had a top rated film school.
Ever since then, it's all I've wanted to do. I've worked at agencies, been a freelancer, anything to get me on set or in the editing bay.
Q) You do a lot behind the scenes, director, producer, writer, etc. Do you prefer to be in front of the camera or behind it?
A) Depends on the day. Honestly I've always wanted to act, even before I was interested in TV/Film. When you look at the big picture though, you have a better chance of landing a production job than an acting gig. That's the hard truth. Plus, I don't Chris Pratt-like features and there's enough Jonah Hill's in the world... so room for an actor like me is scarce.
That being said, I love production, especially producing. You get to make creative decisions, bring together kick ass crews, and most importantly get to say "I'm a producer." Which unfortunately doesn't exclude me from cleaning my house every Saturday with my wife.
Q) So far, all I have seen are comedies. Are you interested in other genres beyond comedy?
A) Like Sci-fi/Comedy? ;)
I've produced commercials, music videos, corporate stuff, you name it. I think with Firmament though, the creative team we have (writers, actors, producers) just seems to click with comedy. As our careers progress, I think the opportunity to do something more dramatic will present itself. There are ideas we're sitting on, it's just not the right time.
As far as personal tastes, if the premise is cool or stars Bruce Campbell, I'll watch it.
Q) Hi, Neighbor was a huge hit for you. We picked it for our own Twisted Dreams Film Festival, how did that story come about and, was it a difficult shoot?
A) I wasn't involved in the writing process, but this was one of the first times in Firmament history that I was solely an actor. Normally when we do these 48/72 hour festivals, my primary objective is post production. I normally get a cameo or small role, but nothing that keeps me on set for too long.
Shooting was about as complicated as it normally is for a 72 hour festival. We usually write a packed script with a lot of visuals, so time is always an issue, but we normally pull through.
My biggest contribution, along with other cast/crew suggestions, was all the different ways Gordon was killed... Which was harder than you'd think. My favorite was crushing the garage on my head.
Q) You recently filmed a commercial for Doritos and their Super Bowl competition. The story was hilarious and very unique. How did that all come together?
A) Cory Kaseman (kick ass sound op) posted a question a few months back about why we never submitted to the competition. We've garnered a lot of praise at festivals, so the question was valid. I kept that idea in the back of my head... Fast forward to last month.
I had a few conversations with T.C. De Witt (writer/director) and he thought it was a great idea. So we spent some time brain dumping ideas all over each other (phrasing) and finally TC said "zombies are popular right now." Originally I didn't like the idea of zombies, but it stuck. Not that I hate Zombies, but they are popular... too popular in my opinion. But you give the audience what it wants, especially in advertising.
We went through a couple drafts (with some help from Kris Schulz) and finally came to the version we shot. I like it. It's has some George Romero and Edgar Wright sprinkled in. None of it would have happened though without the cast and crew.
Q) Where do you see the future for Milwaukee film makers going? Many people don't realize we have a lot of great films made right here.
A) This city has a ton of talent. There's so many good filmmakers here. Not only are they good, but they're genuine and a blast to work with.
The problem is, there's no incentive for bigger productions to come here. There's a lot of states out there that have great film incentives. Look at The Walking Dead, production is in Georgia and there's a big incentive to keep it there. Tax Breaks, studios love them. It creates jobs, stimulates the local economy, and other stuff politicians like to brag about in an election year.
Wisconsin had incentives for a hot minute, unfortunately, it was rushed and not fleshed out, so they were dumped after a year. We never stood a chance.
Hollywood likes a deal. Local governments like jobs. Without taking a stance here, liberals traditionally love the arts more, but they don't control our state government. Conservatives love bringing in outside money, so if you can show them that the incentives would work, they would probably sign off. It does work... Ask Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida... the list goes on.
Q) I know you are a big gamer like myself so, as a gamer I have to ask, favorite console and favorite game?
A) I'll catch hell for this, but I love my Xbox One. Fallout 4 comes out soon so I'm pumped.
Best console ever... I'll say my original NES. It was the start of the console generation, my generation. I loved that thing. Favorite game for the system would be Megaman 2.
Favorite game of all time.... Like movies, the list changes daily, but Final Fantasy VII... That game gets me in the feels every time. When I write/work, the soundtrack plays in the background. Let's hope the reboot doesn't suck.
Q) What's next for Chad Halvorsen?
A) Honestly, I need a daytime job. I was laid off from my last Producer job months ago. I like working for agencies directly because it's a steady paycheck and I make more connections for personal projects. Freelancing at this time is too unpredictable, especially in this area as a producer. Agency work is great because you work with so many brands.
Currently I produce a weekly video game review show called 1 Minute Gamer. My dream would be to work/run a production house where we would produce shorts, features, video game content, whatever. YouTube is becoming more and more of a source for visual entertainment. I would love to ride that train. The technology is moving so fast and it's all very exciting.
For more of Chad's work, including his hilarious YouTube channel, check out the links below.
Chad Halvorsen's web page
Chad's One Minute Gamer YouTube series