Creatives Offscript: Lex Halaby, Portal A


By Assemble

July 20, 2022

Lex Halaby is the Creative Director at Portal A, where he leads a team of writers, directors and designers to create content on the bleeding edge of innovation. With a passion for XR, he pushes the boundaries of VR, AR and MR to re-imagine what's possible. Learn about about his family's journey immigrating from Palestine, to becoming a professional film director, to leading creative for Portal A in this interview.

Find this episode on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Also available at Creatives Offscript.

Nate Watkin: Lex Halaby is the creative director at Portal A where he works extensively in XR, a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, to create content on the bleeding edge of innovation. With a background as a professional film director, he now leads Portal A’s in-house team of writers and directors to create memorable content and experiences such as YouTube’s Pokemon GO Fest with the Try Guys, Google’s YouTube Series with Bill Nye, and Snapchat’s Action Royale. Welcome to our show Lex.

Lex Halaby: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Nate Watkin: Awesome. So one of the great things about Creatives Offscript is we really get to hear all the various journeys about how people became successful, and every single journey is unique.

And so I'd love to start from the beginning and learn a little bit about your history.

I know that your parents were Palestinian refugees that fled to America. Would love to know how that impacted your upbringing and really maybe how that got you into the line of work that you're in today.

Lex Halaby: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I'm first generation. I was born in Berkeley, California. Middle of three boys.

And when you grow up with immigrant parents, you have one foot in each culture and you're constantly context switching, and I think that plays into creativity. I think you do that a lot in creativity.

And having grown up in that environment and with two brothers, it's a hotbed for creativity because there's just constant back and forth with my brothers and within the family. And it played into my identity early on, and certainly gave me an outsider lens to a lot of things, which through my career, I think I've found ways to bring that into my work, sometimes a bigger challenge than others. But I think it definitely informed a lot of my formative years when I started looking towards being in the creative field.

Nate Watkin: So I believe you went to film school at UCLA. Did you know you wanted to be a director at that point? How early did you decide on that?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. Pretty early on I knew I wanted to be in film.

I come from a family of tinkerers, in a lot of ways, and my grandfather was one of the early adopters of video. He used to come to family gatherings with one of those huge video cameras that had a side-mounted VCR to it.

And he got me interested in that very early on, and my parents were super supportive. And my brothers and I would make videos together, usually action series videos, sometimes comedy.

And we made, God knows how many, 50, 60 of these short films growing up. And all the neighborhood kids would play roles. Every single person on the block and neighborhood would be in them in different ways.

So I would say as I got into high school, I got more serious about it. Definitely wanted to stay in the UC system. UCLA had a great program and for me, it was a no brainer to try to make that happen.

So I went to UCLA. It's a two year program. It's the second half of your bachelors of your four years. You enter into the film program. So I did my general ed first, but applied. Thankfully, got in and it was off to the races. That was the plan from maybe the time I was seven, eight years old.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I hear that story from some other people that their earliest collaborators were their siblings and the kids in the neighborhood. Curious if any of those other kids you grew up with ended up continuing to collaborate with you throughout your career.

Lex Halaby: It's interesting, most of them have gone into other fields, but there was this moment as I got older and people's interests started to change, that I felt like my filmmaking group was falling apart.

One ended up going into being a programmer. My brother became an architect. Different fields. And I was trying to find a new tribe of creative people to bond with and have that creative energy.

So I would say once I came down to LA, I was trying to recreate that. And that's a lot of what film school actually gave me. Maybe less so the hands on side and more finding like-minded creatives that just wanted to make cool stuff and work together, and play every role that's needed to make it happen. So the big win for me is finding my tribe when I came down here.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Film school's great for that. Definitely something I missed out on in my career.

So coming out of film school, you then go on to be a freelance director for 17 years. I'd love to learn more about that experience. Was that by choice or necessity, and how was that freelancing career?

Lex Halaby: Yeah, when I came out of film school, I decided pretty early on that I wanted to do freelance.

In the very beginning, I was doing some post work for Showtime Networks and things like that, but I was always pursuing freelance directing on the side, and a couple years into it, I decided to just go full freelance.

It was not as hard of a decision as it would be now, let's say. I was very aware that I was living very inexpensively, an apartment with a lot of people and figured if I was ever going to do it, now would be the time because I could really put all my energy towards getting those jobs, and I had a very low cost of living.

I knew if I waited too long and started getting accustomed to a different lifestyle, that I would not be able to do it later in life.

So rather than trying to build towards it as a goal, I've just seen so many people fall into the trap of, "Oh, I'll go story produce for four or five years and then get to directing later, whatever."

A lot of times it never happens. You get ingrained with your work and your career.

So I said, "Look, I want to start my career the way I want to end it. I want to direct. I want to be working freelance."

So I took the plunge. Started in music videos mainly, which was a very creatively open brief for new directors, especially at the time, so it afforded me the opportunity to really come to creative concepts with my own voice, with a blank page.

We weren't working off scripts. You get a song. You brainstorm. Whatever makes you feel, whatever you think is going to be the best imagery to go with it, and you're up to the races. And there's very few filmmaking opportunities like that, so it felt like a really good place to start as a director.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And that sounds like you were going to make it at all costs type of decision. You weren't going to give yourself the fall back of having the 9:00 to 5:00. Just going to throw yourself out there and say, "I got to make it as a director or I'm just not going to have food to eat."

Lex Halaby: Yeah. That was definitely it. A little too hardcore, actually. I was so, so hungry and motivated.

I remember I paid quite a bit at the time, now you would never even have to buy this, but there was something called a Poll Star. Poll Star puts together names of all the managers and agents for all the recording artists. And you can buy it as a book that has direct contact to a lot of these people.

I splurged on that because I knew that I wanted to go and contact pretty much every person on this list and offer to show them or send them my reel, see if there were any opportunities to pitch on any of their up and coming artists.

And this was before I had any representation, so I was just hustling by just calling, and literally an Excel sheet of, "When was the last time I contacted that person? What did they say? Have I sent them a reel? How long ago did I send them a reel? Did I hear back? What budgets were they working with?" And just gathering all that information and building relationships that way, I would say.

Some managers were like, "How did this kid get my number, and why does he keep hitting me up?" But ultimately, that would pay off. They would be like, "Hey, I do have something for you actually. I have this new artist, if you're interested and want to take a swing at it."

So maybe hungry to a fault, but that felt like my path has just hit the pavement. And I knew I would put in the hours and treat it like a 9:00 to 5:00 job, even though it was freelance, just all day grinding. And that was how I got my start.

Nate Watkin: Nice. Speaking of music videos, this is a pet question, but I saw you early on directed a music video for Atmosphere. Definitely artists, I think, our generation grew up with. What was that like? What is Slug like in real life?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. Working with Atmosphere was great. That was maybe my second or third music video very early on, and I just remember thinking this was a really unique opportunity, something cool with a hip hop video, because super creative, Slug and Ant, super creative. And the work that they'd done for visuals for albums and other music videos always stood out to me.

So when I was pitching a concept to him, I was thinking, "We're not going to do performance. We're not going to do something that you'd maybe expect from an indie hip hop artist. Let's just go for it with the biggest swing I can, and see if they react to it."

So I pitched them this idea of a homeless man getting his 15 minutes of fame while Slug is going into a record shop to buy some records.

And it's a surreal music video. It's shot super high speed, as paparazzi are basically chasing him around town and super slow motion shots of him running and getting chased and ultimately, getting mugged and attacked by the paparazzi.

And that, looking at it now, that type of music video is much easier to shoot. The technology is here to shoot it digitally and with a Phantom or a whole other series of cameras. But at the time it was with the Photo-Sonics ActionMaster 500, so it's actually shooting film at 500 frames a second, which is very costly. You can't play it back. You can basically get one take of everything. So creatively, it required a lot of pre-vis and a lot of thinking through how we're going to execute everything and a lot of faith that it's going to be developed properly and look great.

And very happy with how that video came out, and it actually opened my doors to representation, and to a lot of record labels.

Nate Watkin: Amazing. What would you say was the hardest part of your career, biggest challenge that you had to overcome?

Lex Halaby: I think the hardest part for me was getting to work with artists that were aligned with my creative voice. I think early on, I was so hungry. I would take any job. I just wanted opportunities to get behind the camera, and regardless of the artist, find a way to do something new or creative with it.

But that's a double edged sword. You get the experience, but sometimes you start going down a path where you're directing in a genre of music that doesn't always align to your creative taste.

And for me, I did a lot of metal and hardcore stuff very early on.

That was a challenge, is trying to curve my career towards the types of artists in music that I found more inspirational and it took a long time and it took working with my reps and just pitching on a lot of projects where people would go, "Yeah. We love your idea, but you've done a bunch of this other hard rock stuff. How would you approach this?"

So I think that was probably the biggest challenge is finally getting to work with artists that spoke to me more.

Nate Watkin: Yeah, I would agree. I think that's one of the hardest things about the creative industry in general, is you really do just get pigeonholed with, "What have you done in the past? Do more of that."

Lex Halaby: Yeah, absolutely.

Nate Watkin: And so you mentioned that the Atmosphere music video helped you get management. What was the first big break in terms of getting a top management representation?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. So early on with Atmosphere, that showed at some festivals, actually. I think it was in some of these LA music festivals at the time. And a couple reps that were on panels at the festival, saw it, was in the audience and had reached out to me for representation, which nowadays is maybe not as important. It's very easy for people to see your work on social media or through other avenues, and be a fan and connect.

At the time, there was gate keeping from the label side. They would just work with representatives and rosters at production companies. So it was a little bit more structured. So that was a big step for me is just getting access to the labels at the commissioner level to get to know them, start to show them what I can do, and really start to build those relationships that would pay off down the line.

Nate Watkin: And what would you say was the biggest first win of your career in terms of a job you won or a piece of work you did where you felt, "Okay, I've made it. I am a top-tier director in this industry."

Lex Halaby: That's a tough one. I don't know if I've ever felt like I had that moment. Usually what would happen with me is anytime I'd book a big job, it took me many years to realize that I wouldn't celebrate the wins. I would be like, "This is great, but I want to be doing X."

And I never took that beat to be like, "I've arrived. I'm a working director."

I was always looking for the next thing, maybe to a fault. This has been a problem in my career throughout my life. I have many unopened bottles of champagne that were bought or given to me to celebrate something and I never got around to opening them because I'm just too focused on whatever job I just booked and making sure it goes well.

So I wouldn't say that there's any one given moment, but there are moments where I really felt like I was in my element and loving what I was doing, and feeling my creative voice was really aligned with my work.

And maybe surprisingly, it was on smaller projects, or maybe not surprisingly, but the smaller projects were the ones that really popped for me, and I was most proud of, and probably have done the best for me in the long run in terms of people recognizing the work that I do.

Nate Watkin: And nowadays you operate as a director and creative director. When did that transition start to happen where you began becoming a true creative director as well?

Lex Halaby: After I was working in music videos for a long time, I started doing more branded work that sometimes was in documentary, sometimes just straight commercials, or promos for VH1 and channels that had a very visual angle to them.

Once I had started doing more branded work and commercials, I realized that's a place I really loved, especially when it came to the more technical job.

I loved problem solving. I loved using new technology in interesting ways. I loved those risks, those first ever approaches to content, trying things that hadn't been done or seen before.

I think that was one of the main reasons why I started doing a lot of work in VR and XR, which started around 2013, 2014. I got my hands on an Oculus development kit, the first one available and made a homemade 360 camera and started stitching and shooting videos, and then later got it more into real time and volumetric video and AR.

And from that, I think that really made me realize part of this technical and problem solving itch in my brain that was getting scratched could really be valuable in a branded or agency base.

Surprisingly, there's not as big of a difference as I thought there'd be when I was transitioning from freelance directing to creative directing at Portal A, because it really is you're still in it from day one all the way through delivery, working on branded, and that creative part of your brain is still churning the entire time.

So it was something that seemed like a really natural fit for me for where I was in my career.

Nate Watkin: So after 17 years of freelance, you now landed at Portal A. You're leading a creative strategy team. How did you get connected with Portal A, and how did that role come about?

Lex Halaby: Yeah, I'd worked with Portal A as a director from the time the company was three people, essentially, in different directing capacities. They've now since grown to nearly 30 people.

But over the years, I, having worked with them and directed projects with them, just became very familiar with the company as they grew and everybody there. When directing, I was slotted into the company at a few levels because Portal A really, both works as a creative agency and a production company.

So when I was working as a director, I got to use the agency brain and the director brain, and really loved that. I love that about the company, that you can see a concept all the way through and not pass the baton at any point. You're owning it creatively.

So with COVID-19 and working from home, I started doing more creative development work and even remote directing with them and the broader team. And it just seemed like a really good fit. And just knowing that I loved everybody at the company and really enjoyed the projects I work with them made it a no-brainer when the opportunity came up to join the team as creative director and head of creative.

Nate Watkin: And now that you've seen both sides of the table, what would you say is your favorite thing about being independent, being a freelancer?

Lex Halaby: From the freelance side, there's a lot of great things about being a freelancer. I think one of them is being able to choose who you're working with, your team.

There's definitely a scramble. A lot of times you're coming in a little bit later in the process, depending on the type of project you're on. And being able to bring your team together is always exciting. You're working with different people a lot, and so that's something that is always fun in freelance.

If you don't like a client or you don't like somebody you're working with, you don't work with them again. You find ways around that. So being able to pick and choose your project really allows you to keep your voice intact.

I also think there's a real power to giving yourself the time to be creative between projects and being able to refill your creative gas tank, so to speak. Freelance allows for that and allows creativity to move at whatever pace you need it to.

You may come off a really challenging project, and need to recharge your battery and need more downtime, and you can do that. So you know when the next project comes around, you're ready to go and you're inspired, and you're your best creative self.

So I think that's a big part of it. I think that is where you really win on the creative side, is being able to move at the pace of your creativity and not force it on anyone else's timeline.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. That's a really good point.

And what would you say is your favorite thing about being in-house?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. Being in-house is great because you have a team.

If you love your team like I do, you develop a shorthand. You start learning about different people's creative voices and being able to really leverage that and manage that. There's a comradery that you build over time.

Whereas in freelance, yes, there's a benefit to being able to assemble your team and choose your team day to day. If you are with the right team, like I feel like I am at Portal A, you have that built in everyday, which is great.

From a personal side I have a five-month old baby, and working from home is big benefit to me. When I was freelance, I was traveling a lot and shooting all over the country and world. And being able to work from home and spend time with my family while doing that, has also been really valuable.

Nate Watkin: And speaking of team, Portal A has big in-house team, strategists, writers, designers, directors. Do you all produce everything in-house from start to finish?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. Portal A is really interesting in that we're involved very early on in the creative process when a client comes to us, from ideation to casting, all the way through production. Typically, we are doing the productions. So both agency and production company all the way through to delivery, we do in-house.

So like you said, we have a pretty broad team of creatives, and designers, and team talent, and producers, and almost every project, we fully do in house. I think that's very much the magic sauce of the company, is we don't just come in and pinch hit on one part of the process. We own the process from beginning to end.

Nate Watkin: And you mentioned a few times, I might be a bit of a rookie here, but what is XR exactly, by your definition?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. With the resurgence of virtual reality, the newest incarnation of it. There were a lot of Rs that came with VR. So there's VR, AR, MR, and XR is everything R. It's putting it all under one roof.

And when I say R the R stands for reality. So it's blended realities, mixed realities, augmented reality, virtual reality, but it's all immersive technology, more or less.

And that's a place that's a passion of mine and a place that did a lot of work, especially in the early days of the newer technologies was breaking into the forefront and working with brands a lot to bring their first VR, AR projects to light, because there was a huge knowledge gap when brands knew they wanted to do something in the space, but did not know even what it was or how to do it. So that's a lot of where I came in to both educate and also produce, direct those projects.

Nate Watkin: And why is it such a passion for you? What do you love about XR?

Lex Halaby: There's something from the very early days, even when people were talking about VR in the '90s, it always captures people's imagination.

I would say up until recently, it has basically been an imagined technology, and now we're starting to see what the technology can truly do. I think a lot of people, maybe with this newest advent of VR, this new generation of VR, may look at it and go, "That's a gimmick. That's come and gone."

But I liken it to very early on gaming consoles. You had arcades in the '70s and '80s, and they were really popular and you had an Atari. You had an Atari 800, an Atari, 2600.

And everybody would go, "Well, this isn't as good as the arcade."

Very few people would have it. It was expensive. It didn't really get mass adoption until later with the advent of Nintendo Entertainment System.

We're not quite there yet, but with the pace at which machine vision and machine learning is going, we're going to get there sooner than I think people think, and there's going to be a tipping point with the technology where suddenly, it just clicks and it makes sense, and you can have mass adoption.

Nate Watkin: And what does that look like to you? What does the future of XR look like?

Lex Halaby: There's a lot of different ways it can go. I think right now there's a battle for AR glasses that a lot of people have been vying for. A lot of top secret projects that are constantly being buzzed about.

The idea is to be able to overlay imagery tracked into your environment, through glasses in front of your eyes, which can either be really amazing in terms of being informational and helpful and providing new, interesting entertainment experiences, or it can be just straight dystopian horror show.

We're at the razor's edge of it, but my hope is that it can open up really interesting educational opportunities, communication opportunities, entertainment when it comes to storytelling. All of that I think can be baked into AR and VR.

I'm sure there, there will be also advertising and branding, and things that make its way into it, and we're just going to have to find a way to make sure that doesn't pollute the new overlay of reality, whether you call that the metaverse or something else. There's a lot of different words for it. But if we can keep that at bay, I think there's tremendous potential.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. It's going to be an exciting future ahead. So I just got a couple quick questions for you here. Just going to shoot these off, rapid fire.

What's the most influential book you've read or film you've seen?

Lex Halaby: The most influential movie I've seen was Back to the Future, because that really actually made me want to be a filmmaker. That just ticked so many boxes in my young mind that it made me just go, "This is what I want to do."

Nate Watkin: And was it the story of it, the production of it? What grabbed you about that film?

Lex Halaby: Back to the Future, it's this amazing intersection of science fiction, which I love, and action films, which I love, and comedy, which I love. It's just the perfect blend of probably three of the most inspirational types of films that I grew up with.

It's a movie where when you look at it in retrospect, is pretty bonkers. You have an old scientist hanging out with this high school kid who goes back in time and his mom falls in love with him.

And by modern standards, if you're talking about that movie, it seems like, "Okay, maybe it's some weird adult swim, animated thing. Maybe it's more like Rick and Morty or something."

But it wasn't that way. It was family entertainment at the time.

And when you look at it through a modern lens, it's still hugely entertaining, if not a little odd, but I love it for that and I pray that they never remake it. And Zemeckis said that he'll never allow it to be remade, but you never know what happens when multinational conglomerates buy up rights to things. So I really hope that is one that never gets touched.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. It's the definition of classic. Which one are you picking as the best number one, two, or three?

Lex Halaby: I think the best Back to the Future is the first one, mainly because just the fact that movie got made is pretty amazing.

It's an amazing screenplay. Almost every single line in the first 10 minutes of that movie pays off in the third act.

So when you look at it, having seen the movie, I don't know how many times, 50 times, you start seeing that, where every little line is a seed that's planted that comes back to fruition when Marty goes back in time and ultimately, pays off in the third act.

The screenplay is so tight. It's a master class. I'm surprised it doesn't get brought up as much in screenwriting classes or by writers, but it's a phenomenal screenplay.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I was always a fan of number two, but I think that was just because of the hover board.

Lex Halaby: Yeah. See, that was the thing. Actually, when I was a kid, number two, I probably would've said number two because I loved futuristic stuff when I was a kid, and I wanted a hover board more than anything. But as I got older, recognizing what the first one was doing, I really got to appreciate it.

And then the third one, again, it's a home run. It ticks all the boxes. You do start to see some of the formula emerge a bit more by three, so maybe there wasn't as much fresh storytelling, but the setting and the world, and again, a really tight script and amazing performances.

Michael J. Fox is such a physical comedian. He really brought that role to life.

Nate Watkin: And so what are you reading or watching these days?

Lex Halaby: Now that I have a small baby, it's hard to find time to watch much stuff or read much. If I read now, I will very quickly fall asleep, so I haven't really had as much time to do that.

But I will say the last book I read, shameless plug, was my mom recently had a book come out about three generations of Palestinian women in my family called In My Mother's Footsteps.

And reading that looking at my very young son has been an emotional experience because it really tracks my family lineage through letters written between my mom and her mom, as my mom traveled back to Palestine, to look for our ancestral home. That had a profound impact on me. Many tears shed. So, that was the last book I read just a couple months ago.

And then in terms of watching, I haven't really had time. I've been playing some video games here and there in my small little downtime, but nothing much in the watching space.

Nate Watkin: It sounds like a really powerful book.

Lex Halaby: Yeah. It's a book she'd been working on for a really long time and it's amazing to finally see it come to light, and it's been received really well, so I'm a very proud son.

Nate Watkin: That's great. So aside from XR and your newborn, what else are you really passionate about?

Lex Halaby: Let's see. I really love immersive theater. All the immersive arts. Obviously, anybody that's in the XR space should be in immersive theater, but I think that's a space that has been really hit hard by COVID, but I fully expect it to bounce back. People are really looking for experiences, not just purchasing digital goods.

Sure, we can have streaming services or whatever it may be, but actually physically going somewhere and experiencing something firsthand, there feels like there's more a premium on it than ever, and COVID has put a hiccup in that, but I feel like it's going to come back.

So, definitely passionate about immersive theater, and I'm really passionate about video games. That's an area of the interactive arts that I've always been interested in and loved, and been playing video games since I was very young.

And I know in their early days they were treated as something just for kids, but I think finally, it's come around to where people can really see the art behind them.

Indie games are bigger than ever. Access to them is easy and inexpensive, and development has gotten much less expensive. So you're seeing our tools in the space start to evolve one person teams, and that's really exciting.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Speaking of immersive theater, can you give me an example of that? What's the best immersive theater experience that you've seen?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. Immersive theater, a few of my favorites... There's obviously Sleep No More in New York, which put immersive theater on the global map, which is a fantastic multilevel experience. Tens if not hundreds of actors, hundreds of participants that can freely roam the space and follow actors, and it's loosely based on Hamlet. That's an amazing experience. Love that. It's in New York.

But out here in LA there's Blue Blade, which is a really great immersive theater series that's got a little bit of everything. It's got some sci-fi. It's got some Indiana Jones in there too. So, that's a fantastic one that I hope picks up, again, here in LA.

And then I had a very interesting immersive experience called Red Flags, which was a Fringe Fest winner, and Red Flags is immersive theater for one.

So the idea is it's just you and an actor on this experience together, and they are playing a character. You are yourself. You don't know where it's going, but the general concept is you go on a really bad first date. That's why it's called Red Flag.

So it starts with texting with the person, and there's some backstory and some weird stuff starting to come through. And you meet up in LA and she showed up late. And if there was some weird reasons why.

And as this date evolved, all these red flags started appearing and it became very interesting and awkward, and puts you on the spot in a lot of ways to participate and help tell the story of where this bad date is going.

And so that's an example of something that is pretty out there. And when I tell people that, they're like, "Wait, you paid to go on a bad date?" But it really is an experience you can't replicate in any other way.

Thankfully, my wife was cool with me going there. I asked her, "Can I pay to go on a date with somebody for this theater experience? Are you okay with that?" And she was like, "Yeah, go for it. That sounds weird, but I want to hear how it goes." So I did.

Nate Watkin: That's really crazy, actually, to think about. So it's a theater for one, essentially, and you're meeting up with this paid actor who is creating this performance for you.

Lex Halaby: Yeah. And it blurs the line between scripted and unscripted in that they are that same character with every person. They have the same backstory. But it's very smart in how it helps weave in your story into it.

There are questions in the conversation that come up that forces you to play along into the fiction of it, of how you met this person, and how you got their number and things like that, where you're sewing some of those seeds and it becomes a creative collaboration. And somebody who loves D&D and tabletop role playing games, that writing in real time is very exciting and very fun to do.

Nate Watkin: That's fascinating.

So last question. Looking back on your career now and all the success that you've had, what advice would you give to your 20 year-old self?

Lex Halaby: Yeah. If I were to go back in time and give my 20 year-old self advice, beyond telling myself to buy as much Bitcoin as I could, which I probably would tell my 20 year old self...

Nate Watkin: Back to the Future reference there.

Lex Halaby: Yeah. There you go.

It'd be like, "Whenever this comes about, just buy as much as you can."

I would say to keep writing, I think that's a really valuable skill. And there was a time in my life where I got so busy with directing that I didn't write as much. And to me, as I got older, I realized that to continue being a good director, you have to be able to write and you have to be able to look at storytelling, regardless of whether it's a branded series or a fully original series, or even a 32nd broadcast spot. It's all storytelling. And just understanding the connection between what's on the page and what's in front of our eyes is so valuable.

I went to UCLA for screenwriting and I made that choice early on of, "I know I can direct, and I know I will direct, but I want to take this time to learn the craft of writing and storytelling on the page."

And as I got older, I started to turn a little bit more towards the directing side and it's taken me a while to getting my writing chops back. So I would say just always write and keep writing, and never lose that so it never leaves your side.

Nate Watkin: It's a difficult thing to do. It's like lifting weights, right?

Lex Halaby: Absolutely. Yeah.

Once that muscle starts to atrophy, it's much harder to get it back and your writing muscles get sore. You start getting fatigue, or you might lose how your flow and your inspiration came about. And just making sure you understand how to tap into that and doing the work. That's the biggest thing, is set aside time. Sit down. That is your writing time. Doesn't matter if you write one word or you write 10 pages of a script, if you're sitting down every day and thinking on it, you're writing. It's really building that discipline into your life and maintaining that discipline is key.

Nate Watkin: Definitely. Well, thanks so much for joining us. Really excited to see what the future holds for you, especially in this immersive new world and really enjoyed our conversation.

Lex Halaby: Yeah. I really enjoyed it as well. Thank you so much for having me.

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