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Daily Inspiration: Meet Haley Watson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Watson.

Hi Haley, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am the daughter of a vibrant Italian saleswomen and a deeply empathic social worker. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I don’t remember a day that I wasn’t outside. I happened to be the only girl on my block and spent most of my time following around my older brother, trying to keep up with the neighborhood elect group of pre-teen hell raisers.

The suburbs were a nice play place to grow-up. I never imagined myself being a filmmaker. I appreciated art and art-making but never considered is seriously as a career choice. When it came time to answer “what do you want to do when you grow up.” I made a very black and white plan to become a psychologist. That plan included leaving to study at the University of Washington in Seattle. The moment I turned 18, I got in my car and headed out from Chicago on I-90 toward the Pacific North West. Two Hundred miles outside of Seattle I ran out of gas . I would spend the next year in Richland, WA where my greatest pass time became floating in the Columbia River and trying to find a job. I was the purgatory of my grand plan.

I found myself working as a telemarketer, tech help, car dealership service advisor, late night news operator until one craigslist search lead me to apply to an ‘Assistant to a Producer’ position on feature film. I was skeptical. I met a producer at a public library, who I would spend the next six months with in pre-production on an independent feature film. Which would change the directory of my entire life.

When principal photography began, I met some of my friends. When the movie wrapped, I finally finished my drive to Seattle and kept working with those friends on movies while I completed a bachelor’s degree.

Upon graduating, I kept making films, but I wasn’t making what was in my minds eye. I needed to learn a lot more about filmmaking as a craft. I started camera assisting. In the process of trying to become a better filmmaker, I also became a pretty good focus puller I spent a lot of time with fellow crew learning about their craft. So that I could one day lead with understanding.

LA finally pulled me south from the PNW. and As soon as my feet were on the ground, I started working. My day job was focus pulling and my nights and weekend were cinematography and directing jobs. Two years flew by, but then COVID.

March 2020, what a time. In the middle of applying for unemployment, I got an email from a production company I had freelanced with asking me to organize some of their equipment. What was supposed to be a short-term stay turned into shooting some of my favorite documentary films. The pandemic made use of my knowledge of other departments. I spent a lot of time shooting entirely alone, as a way to adapt to the constraints of COVID. In the in between times of making those films, I organized camera equipment to create a small camera rental house opening sometime in 2022.

Right now, I’m juggling a few contracted and personal films. Most of all, I’m happy to be looking forward to the experiences I get to have each day.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I find myself very drawn to challenges.

I would equate my draw to challenges to a lot of time outside as a kid. There are great successes and there are low lows. I try to keep peace with myself no matter how things are landing, which at times is not easy. Most importantly, I try to do my best to take care of those who have buckled up on the ride with me.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I adapt myself to the work I’m doing to serve the story. I really love process and finding the right perspective. Whether I’m the director or cinematographer. And at times being the Director and DP at the same time. Walking into a film with a clean slate in my mind is important to me. My work takes on wide range of genre, tones and styles because of this. I hope the films I make reflect the protagonist/ storyteller above all.

Lately, I’ve been thrilled to see a short documentary I shot called THE BEAUTY PRESIDENT, that was released on LA Times studio make its way into the world recently. It’s a story about Terence Alan Smith who ran for president as his drag persona Joan Jett Blakk. I also associate produced and did second unit cinematography on THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL, which is a story about Lusia Harris, who was one of the greatest basketball players ever. The storytellers in these documentaries are truly inspiring and I was happy to be a part of elevating their story. Both of these films are up for Oscar nomination in the ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’ category.

I’ve also had the opportunity to step more into the directing role recently. I’m very happy to say I have a few commercial projects that will be released in early 2022. Recently I also pictured locked a short narrative film called GETAWAY. A one actor, no dialogue, thriller. I have a few short documentaries in pre and post production. I can’t say too much at the moment, but expect them to be out in late 2022/ Early 2023.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
I’m still very much a psychology nerd. I recently read a book called THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE about how mental health manifests itself in your physical body. I like reading psychology books, I think they give a lot of perspectives to be compassionate toward people and better understand what people around you might be going through. I recently also read a book called WHAT ARTIST DO. It’s short book on how artists have shifted the culture of what we view as art.

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Image Credits
Feature Image: Justin L. Williams Lauren Crew Max Magerkurth Whitney Skauge

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