by John Bishop
“When I was at Lawrence, I was probably the only student in the musical who’d seen the previous ten years of musicals,” said Hollywood screenwriter Chris Hazzard ’03 when we met in his home in Studio City. “My dad did the show as well. So, I went to all of those.”
“Dad,” of course, is Peter Hazzard, long-time Lawrence Academy music teacher extraordinaire, now retired. However, far from being overshadowed by a legendary educator — a sincere worry for faculty children at some schools — thinking back over those years on the elm tree-shaded hillside, the younger Mr. Hazzard thinks it was a pretty great way to grow up.
“I always thought that high school kids were cool and knew about lots of stuff, and I was impressed with ‘The Work,'” he said, adding, “Everybody had full backpacks and big books and were talking about things I didn’t know about; in fact, it seemed like the goal was to be a smart high school student, playing sports and being in the plays and all that stuff.”
After matriculating at LA, Chris embraced “all that stuff” and then hit the real world with skills that he still employs every day. “A work ethic and the ability to handle a large workload, no question, are helpful,” he explained when asked what he brought with him from LA to New York University and the University of Southern California. “I had friends who had a hard time adjusting to how much work college was, and I think that LA was a great setup for that.”
Chris confided that his homework at Lawrence was a perfect introduction to long-haul Hollywood projects: “In ninth grade specifically, some of the nights of homework were the most I probably did in all of my educational career,” he stated with a smile and a shake of the head. “Whereas, for a lot of people, college was this new level, especially on projects that you had to really think about, or come up with an idea for and then build your project or your paper around that.
“I think those skill sets are directly relatable to a career in the film industry and specifically writing, for sure,” he noted. “Lawrence, in my mind, was very much about ‘The Work,’ you know? I think that to do well at LA, you just had to do ‘The Work.’ ‘The Work’ was celebrated, whether that was the poetry competition, the play, or athletics.”
“The Work,” for Chris, included SABA (“Students Against Boring Assemblies”), where a captive audience at Friday assemblies couldn’t ignore him and his friends as they took the stage. “We did that for all four years,” said Chris, who joined classmate Jared Mezzocchi ’03 to follow in the footsteps of alumni, including Myles Kane ’97, Michelle McAteer ’99, and Conor Maguire ’01.
“It’s probably generous to say that we wrote every sketch that we did in SABA, but we did a lot of thinking about whatever the big issue was at the time. We did sketches that people really liked, and we did some the people liked less,” he added. “That was, at the time, not exciting, but it was good to see that something can work, and the next thing you do might not work.” So, as a creative playground for Chris’ vocational playground, LA worked well.
“Take advantage of LA as a place to really explore,” he advised. “You can try lots of things … and use the community to get better at them. It’s an opportunity you seldom get elsewhere.”