Published on September 30th, 2014 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


The Hype Magazine interviews HELL. A. creators Hunter Davis and Chris St. Pierre


HELL. A. is a unique look at life in LA from the perspective of the show producers/creators as they experience it. Hunter Davis and Chris St. Pierre bring a long history of working experience in television, film, production and editing for various shows and they joined together to in creating a visual presentation which will entertain on many different levels.

It is a curious thing to ask two people the exact same questions and compare their outlooks and perspectives, Hunter Davis and Chris St. Pierre sat down and gave The Hype Magazine their outlook on not only the creation of a show, but some background on what makes THEM the creative talents they are and how they have survived and grown within the industry. Getting time and insight from real industry professionals isn’t easy!

These cats are busy, busy and the last thing they probably wanted to do was let us take up their time with a bunch of questions but being who they are, they did and we are proud to bring you an insider’s look on creating and producing a show, from two subject matter experts…ENJOY!!!


Shortly after graduating with film degrees from Texas Christian University, Hunter and Chris packed their suitcases and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. Chris works in post production as a professional trailer editor and has edited hundreds of studio trailers for films such as Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, The Great Gatsby, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and many more. In the world of production, Hunter has overseen the location and management of over 200 professional film shoots including The Entourage, Modern Family, Children’s Hospital, Castle, NCIS: LA, and hundreds more.

In 2007, the duo formed their own production company called, Speck Productions. Since that time, Speck has produced a number of award winning productions such as their award winning documentary, Where My Heart Beats, which received international distribution and has been broadcast on national television throughout Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Their latest project, HELL. A., is a new comedy web series that follows three delusional friends from Cleveland who move to Los Angeles for a fresh start on life. Following the momentum of several festival screenings and an award winning trailer, HELL. A. will be making it’s International premiere in London at the Raindance Web Fest, the largest festival of it’s kind. (September 27th-29th)

Where are you guys from?

Hunter: I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. D-Town, baby. How bout them Cowboys?!”

Chris: I grew up in Houston, but I’ve lived in L.A. for almost ten years now. Go Rockets!

When did you realize you wanted to enter into the entertainment industry?

Hunter: As long as I can remember. I was addicted to movies by the time I was four years old. Soon after that I wanted to make my own. Action figures make incredible actors. So cooperative.

Chris: Early on as a child. I always loved TV and movies, starting with Star Wars as early as I can remember. I just love the art of entertainment as well as the excitement that comes with working on stuff everyone around the world is amped to see. I love telling stories and working with creative people. Honestly, a normal job to me just sounds boring.

Tell us a bit about Speck Productions.

Hunter: Chris and I formed Speck Productions back in 2007. We’ve accomplished a lot over the last seven years and I think a lot of our success is attributed to Speck being the perfect marriage between two contrasting personalities and talents. We complement each other really well and after years of working together Chris and I know exactly how to mesh our talents in order to produce the best product. And the product is always king. To be honest, I really think producing partners like Chris and myself (Speck Productions) with a background in writing, directing, producing, and editing are the next generation of filmmakers. It takes a team these days to independently produce quality content. Especially on a consistent level. I think Chris and I are good examples of a creative team that can create this type of content with the right combination of experience and resources…regardless of budget.

Chris: Speck Productions really began shortly after the two of us graduated from TCU. We both have filmmaking degrees, Hunter coming from a writing background and me from a post-production background. We were able to meet in the middle and accomplish a lot with a little.

Tell us about Hell. A. and how that came together?

Hunter: HELL. A. is loosely based on my early years living and struggling in Los Angeles. About two years ago I started compiling a lot of these stories and creating and developing the three main characters. Over time the beginnings of a comedy series started coming together. I also really wanted to do a show where the city of Los Angeles was an organic character in the story. Almost like the Portlandia concept, but not quite as much sketch and satire. I wanted it to be more of a real story with established characters and a progressive story line. Then I started looking around for similar shows, and although there are tons of shows based in LA, there were very few about characters starting from the bottom. “Living the reality” as we like to say. We both felt that’s an area of the city and the entertainment industry that needs to be explored. Young life in L.A. from the bottom up!

Chris: HELL. A. is a concept Hunter came up with that I then helped him produce/finance into a reality. We have been friends and co-producers for several years now, and it really just came about as the next big thing we’d try to work on. We had recently produced a documentary, Where My Heart Beats, and were looking to get back into the world of fiction again. Television is such an exciting medium today with more platforms for content than ever before. We thought it would be very exciting to pursue this idea about three young guys trying to make it in Los Angeles and the entertainment industry. It’s something both Hunter and I can identify with. Much of what you see in the show is based on our own experiences.

How did you decide on the cast for the show?

Hunter: We had always planned on casting commercial star, Steve Olson to the play the role of McQueeny. In fact, much of the character’s dialogue and actions were created and developed with Steve in mind. We’ve known Steve for a long time and have worked with him on several of our past projects. We knew him before he was big time! Steve is such an amazingly talented comedic actor, we knew right away he had to play the role of McQueeny. It was a perfect fit.

We decided on Roman Cataldo to play the role of Damon for a few different reasons. Roman is an accomplished stand-up comedian with little experience in the world of acting, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for with his spot on comedic sensibilities. He even helped co-write the pilot script. Roman’s also a longtime friend and a good looking guy, so that helped too. Don’t tell him I said that.

The casting of JP is an interesting story. Rob Hunter was actually not our first choice, at least not before the auditions. We held an open audition for the role, but we always had a certain actor in mind for the part that had done a lot of TV and was always our first choice…and then Rob walked in. Rob absolutely killed the audition. He knocked it out of the park. Then, right after the audition he went on to tell us that he’s from Cleveland and felt like he was living JP’s life…which in a lot of ways he really was! Right after the audition Chris, Roman, and I had a five minute meeting, decided to cast Rob on the spot, and the rest is history.

Chris: Steve Olson we landed on immediately. We have been friends with him for many years having worked on several various projects in the past. He’s extraordinarily talented and a funny, funny guy and has had a very successful commercial acting career. He was McQueeny from day one. Robert Hunter we casted after holding auditions for the role. He just nailed JP. He is JP. In fact, he’s even from Cleveland. Everything about Robert just fit, from his looks to his personality. Roman, who plays Damon, is a good friend of ours who we thought had the right look to play Damon. We’ve been very happy with everyone.

Is the show up for network consideration?

Hunter: I don’t know about network consideration, but we have been pretty lucky so far. We’ve been playing a string of great festivals and within a few weeks of seriously pitching HELL. A., we got the attention of Santa Monica based Hammer Entertainment. The Hammer guys loved the show and the concept and offered us a temporary option agreement. They are pretty much acting as our show runners for the time being and pitching the show to a variety of companies including major cable networks, online networks, distributors, and product sponsors. I don’t know if I’m at liberty to name the companies by name, but I can tell you so far the meetings have gone well. That being said, this is Los Angeles, so we take everything with a grain of salt out here. That’s what living in L.A. does to you. We’re all jaded!

Chris: Currently we are working with Dustin Willis and Paul Nero of Hammer Entertainment, who are shopping the show around to various networks. We are hopeful that together we’ll find a home for HELL. A. We’re also actively submitting to festivals around the country. The Raindance Web Fest (London) in September will be our biggest opportunity to date. Raindance is arguably the largest festival in the U.K. and a number of major online buyers and distributors will be there for the web fest. We’re honored just to be apart of it.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Hunter: For me, it’s a heavy combination of real life experiences, stories I see in the news, music, television and film. For HELL. A., a strong dose of inspiration comes from real life and living and struggling in this crazy city that we all love and hate.

Chris: Haha, the inspiration comes from just living in Los Angeles and wanting to share just how crazy, cool, wonderful, and messed up this place is. All the inspiration comes from living in Hollywood and working in entertainment, and trying to succeed at it.

What does show writing mean to you?

Hunter: Lately, my writing has been almost entirely focused on the television and webisode markets. I love the world of television and web series, but honestly, I feel most comfortable writing and working with features. That’s the area that I have the most background and experience in. Writing for TV and webisodes is something that is newer to me, but I’m learning more everyday and starting to really enjoy the process. Unfortunately, with the current feature market being so incredibly limited, television and the internet are really the only areas of tangible opportunity left out there for independent writers and filmmakers like myself.

Chris: It means being in control of your own vision and ideas. A very hard thing to do in Hollywood. It would be truly awesome to write/produce a show of our own.

What are some of your accomplishments as screen/television writer?

Hunter: Well…if you mean writing accomplishments on actual television, I guess I don’t really have any. As far as screenwriting awards go, I have several for scripts that will probably never be made. I’ve received writing awards for HELL. A., which is an online web series, but I don’t have any official accomplishments as a “television” writer. Chris and I produced an award winning documentary that aired on national television in over ten countries that I helped write and put together, but that probably doesn’t count. So I guess I’d have to say zero at the moment. Hopefully, that will change soon. Wait, do YouTube videos count?

Chris: I come from a post/editing background and have experience editing trailers, featurettes, and TV spots for the major studios like Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox. I do however, have a lot of interest in being involved in the writing and conceptualizing of future HELL. A. episodes.

What is the best perk of being a writer?

Hunter: Well, there aren’t many perks with the ladies I can tell you that much. I have a girlfriend now, but when I was single, I would never tell a girl that I was a writer. The directing/producing angle seems to have a much better effect. For me though, writing has always been a cathartic process. I’ve been writing seriously now since I was 13 years old. Whether it’s for television or for film, if I go several months without writing on a project I just don’t feel right. I’m not balanced. Like something’s missing. I’ve been doing it for so long now that I just don’t ever see myself not writing or working on something. I’ll be 80 years old still trying to write sketch videos for Funny or Die.

Chris: I suppose it’s having your ideas come to life. How can you top that?

On the business side, what are the major concerns and benchmarks when developing a production business and creating a slate of shows?

Hunter: Wow…that’s an intense question. I’m not sure I have time to get into all that now without boring everyone to death. We’ll have to have beers over happy hour someday and I can give you an in depth breakdown over nachos and wings. But in short, when it comes to developing a slate of shows, the budget and resources are a huge factor. When I say resources, that covers a lot of areas. Locations, talent, crew, post production, graphics, animation, legal, music, etc. I think it’s really important for any young filmmaker to both procure and assess a variety of resources before beginning any new project. (Whether for TV, film, or internet) Using ones resources to your advantage will really help an independent producer produce content that might be otherwise out of his/her budget range. With the right resources, you can make a $5,000 budget look like a $50,000 project. Regarding the slate of episodes for HELL. A., at this time we’re still developing the official series bible for season one. (The pilot was released in August.) Right now the bible is in webisode form and we have slated 10-12 episodes at about 10 minutes each. However, if HELL. A. were to get picked up on cable television, that whole model would most likely change. So it’s kind of up in the air now. In the interim, we have produced what we call HELL. A. “minisodes,” which are like little self-contained 1-2 minute episodes that are available to watch online. So if you’re online and tired of watching porn, check out “JP vs. Sponge Bob” and “McQueeny vs. The WeHo Parking Sign.” Now on YouTube!

Chris: I don’t know if there are major concerns per se at this stage, but I guess you are always concerned that you will get along with your partner. The two of us have certainly gone at it, but always with an attitude of what’s best for the project at hand. We don’t really get in each other’s way because we handle different facets and are both good at different things. It is very difficult at times to hold a full time job and operate Speck Productions like we would like. It’s a lot of work for two people and so we are very happy to be working with Hammer Entertainment, MKPR Firm, and anyone else who has helped us along the way. We also have a “one thing at time” mentality. Step 1, create a pilot and trailer with the ability to then show people the “idea & concept.” This is how we attracted Hammer to us, and now they are helping us promote it to networks and other avenues. I guess another concern is making sure that what you are creating is not only funny and entertaining, but marketable, something I have a lot experience with cutting trailers for various movies.

In the future where do you see yourself?

Hunter: If you’re talking 50 years, I’d hope to be living on a thriving moon colony. If that doesn’t pan out, hopefully on a warm beach somewhere in good health.

Chris: Happy, hopefully doing something that I love and being in control of my own schedule. Obviously producing HELL. A. on TV would be a great step in that direction!

What was the comedy series you followed and actually enjoyed?

Hunter: There are several throughout my life. Growing up there were always the classics like Seinfeld and the Simpsons. Back then, when there weren’t a gazillion cable channels to choose from that’s all you had. Then I remember watching Mr. Show with Bob & David on HBO when I was a senior in High School and thinking, wow…this is the future. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were so funny and so ahead of their time. Then back in the early 2000s there was an influx of great network comedies like The Office, Family Guy, and Third Rock. Those shows were a breath of fresh air for network programing back when networks were still king. Then in recent years, there’s been a variety of hilarious cable shows that have really pushed the bar for contemporary comedies and helped usher in a new era of Television that many are calling the second coming of the Golden Age of TV. Some of my favorites are Curb Your Enthusiasm, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Entourage, East Bound & Down, Portlandia, Silicon Valley, and many more. I have so many favorites.

Chris: Seinfeld will always and forever be the best comedy series ever. I also love Curb Your Enthusiasm and even old stuff like “I Love Lucy.” I’m a big fan of Family Guy as well.

Whats your favorite genre of books?

Hunter: Oh, man, well, I don’t really think I had a favorite genre. I kind of liked everything. At one point I was really into science fiction and socially conscious political thrillers. I was also really into comic books and Stephen King novels. Now that I think about it, I used to read all kinds of shit. What happened!? Now days I’m lucky to read the latest issue of Rolling Stone on a long flight. I know, I’m a horrible person.

Chris: Science Fiction. Big nerd secret, well not anymore I guess ha, but I’ve read probably 50 different Star Wars books. I like fantasy and adventure as well.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Hunter: Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Michael Crichton, Thomas Wolfe, and several others. I also have a long list of favorite screenwriters, who in my opinion, have been extremely underrated in the professional literary world, just as screenwriting as a craft has been for…well forever. It may sound like blasphemy, but in today’s world, writing the great American screenplay can be more difficult to achieve than writing the great American novel.

Chris: I can tell these are all “being a writer” questions haha, but I’m a big fan of Timothy Zahn and Tom Clancy.

What do you wish people would understand about writing for television?

Hunter: That it’s not easy. Honestly though, I feel people are really starting to appreciate the incredible writers and creators out there right now penning some of the best episodic television that audiences have ever seen. Writers like Vince Gilligan, Frank Darabont, and Terence Winter are on top of the world right now. From what I see, audiences are finally reciprocating the love, and it’s being reflected in the form of ground breaking ratings, industry awards, and social media domination. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a great time for television. Just look at the recent mega success of cable series like Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, Spartacus, Dexter, True Detective, Homeland, and tons more. And now online distributors like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are getting into the mix with their own slew of exclusive original programing like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The game is changing. Episodic binge watching is the new film experience. Original programing is king right now and audiences can’t get enough. Wow…that was a super long answer.

Chris: I guess that it’s a process, involving a lot of rewrites and opinions. You always have to be mindful of the episode at hand but also where the larger story is going in the future. Hunter can probably elaborate more on this. Right now we are not on television (but trying to be), so I’m sure we will see when that time comes.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a creative writer?

Hunter: If you’re trying to write and sell a TV show, don’t be that guy or girl who says, “I don’t watch TV.” That’s my biggest pet peeve. That’s like saying you want to be an astronaut, but you don’t like Space. Know your medium, know your craft, and for God’s sake, know your market!

Chris: Just start writing. Like anything else in Hollywood, nothing is easy, but you got to start somewhere.

Is there anything you would like our readers to know?

Hunter: Keep working at your craft, whatever it is. Put in the hours. Meet people, network. There’s a lot of luck involved in success, but putting yourself in the position to be lucky AND being prepared when that moment arrives is half the battle. And lastly, never give up. It sounds cliché, but if you don’t quit then you can never really fail. And in Hollywood persistence pays off. Oh, and sleep is overrated.

Chris: Just do what you love. Nothing is a sure shot but I’m the type of person that at least wants to say “Hey, I gave it my best shot. I tried.” Try to surround yourself with people who do things better than you. And always be genuine and nice to people. Nobody likes a phony.

Last but not least, HYPE wants to know…What has been your craziest moment in the entertainment business?…

Hunter: There have been many moments in both the entertainment business and just living in L.A. in general. I’ve had a drive-by bullet rip through my apartment wall. I’ve prevented an assault. I’ve seen two Charlie Chaplin’s violently attack each other with canes on Hollywood Blvd. I once chewed out Jerry O’Connell on set. I had to confront Howie Mandell in front of a crowd. I saw a parkour stunt man make a three and a half story jump onto a mall kiosk with no net and land without a scratch. I played Call of Duty in person with a mega Rockstar a few hours before his sold out show at the Bowl. (Sorry, circle of trust.) I’ve been involved in drag out fights between agents and celebrities over who’s name gets credited with the “And” or “With.” I’ve had agents tell me my script was going to star Ryan Reynolds and Jonah Hill only to pass on my project a week later. I’ve seen a Maximum model break a plate over her boyfriend’s head and then proceed to hurl a vibrator through a plate glass window. I could go on and on. It’s just life out here in Southern California. There’s never a dull day…and that’s why we love it.

Chris: LA is a definitely a crazy town. From bums asking your for $20 in Beverly Hills to a demented homeless lady doing a pole dance on the subway because she thinks she’s Ginger Rogers. We have to weed through these every day occurrences while navigating this city and I would be lying if I didn’t say that they serve as inspiration for great story ideas. On the job, as a PA, I was once was sent on a run to go get some special herbs for my boss from the master of a Hollywood Dojo. While getting a bagel downstairs in the office cafe, Richard Lewis asked me if this was the post office. One great moment I had, and I wouldn’t call this crazy, but truly awesome, was an endearing conversation with an old Hollywood starlet at what used to be the Red Rock on the Sunset Strip. She pointed to a picture up on the wall with her and Marilyn Monroe in it. She told me about her role in “Some Like It Hot” and how Jack Lemon was one of the best lovers of her life. You can’t make this stuff up! Some of my most hard to believe encounters include meeting George Lucas and Elton John. These type of things don’t happen anywhere else.

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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