Growing up in Memphis amidst many challenges, writer and director Chris O' Conner has a new lease on life.
After moving to LA seven years ago, he sold his first TV series, A La Carte, to AllBlk network which was executive produced by Meagan Good. He's currently working on a songwriting competition show with Grammy award winner Eric Bellinger. Chris has witnessed "nightmarish" encounters with poverty and violence but says that the arts literally saved his life.
Touring with his father's performing arts academy opened up the world to him, exposing him to places like Europe and Africa.
"I had a village that kept me grounded and kept me out of trouble for the most part when I was young," he told us in a relaxed, yet very open interview. When he wasn't in school, Chris was either performing or sharpening his skills as a filmmaker.
"I have a vivid imagination and I love putting it on screen," said Chris.
Things soon took a turn for the worse. After studying film and visual effects at college, Chris had plans to go to UCLA, but at 22, he was shot seven times during a robbery attempt. He couldn't walk or do much else without the support of loved ones. It was physically and emotionally traumatic. He admits being lost for a while. Art, filmmaking, spirituality and family got him through the tough times.
Chris believes that God saved him for a reason. Once
he had recovered from the ordeal, he founded Prodigi Arts.
"I built quite a name for myself thinking outside the box, just by being innovative and unique with creativity," he said.
Creating his own production company was a way for Chris to pave his own path to Hollywood. He seized the opportunity when PBS asked him to film a documentary about the Freedom Riders, based on the 1961 Alabama bus burnings and activists who challenged racial segregation at the time. Despite several hurdles like Covid-19, the film won three Emmy awards and is one of his proudest achievements to date.
Chris is honored to have worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, like Sterling K. Brown. He's connected one-on-one with legends like Keenen Ivory Wayans and Robert Townsend, and would also love to work with Jordan Peele, Guillermo Del Toro, Deon Taylor and Ava Duvernay to name a few.
"I had a chance to meet Keenen Ivory Wayans and Robert Townsend together. Robert Townsend taught me how to pitch my stories. It was unreal to be sitting in front of these legends. So I'm very grateful for that," said Chris. "It's been an amazing blessing and a dream come true for me, being able to learn from legends like that."
Chris O'Conner's story is one that reminds us to persist in going after our dreams because life is worth living, every second. He hopes to inspire others by sharing his journey.
"My story speaks to my determination to succeed in the midst of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and the power of creative and performing arts to transform lives. I feel blessed for the success I've had as a director and filmmaker that has beaten the odds," said Chris. Now that I've made it to Hollywood, I'm even getting back to my acting. I've been studying and taking classes. I have a manager and everything now. It's all very exciting. I feel very grateful for everything that is happening in my life, but most of all, I'm grateful to be alive."
— Follow Chris on Instagram: @christopheroconner. Photo by Photo by Luke Fontana.