Alex Hadden ’13 recognized at 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Alex Hadden ’13 was credited as an editor for the documentary “Giving Voice,” winner of the Festival Favorite Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Setting a goal isn’t just about believing in your dream or working hard to achieve it – it’s also about being specific. Alex Hadden ’13 understands this  well.

“I remember in my screenwriting class at Elon, the teacher made everybody in the room go around and say which Oscar they would like to win,” he says. “And everyone was saying directing or screenwriting, and I was the only one who said Best Feature Documentary.”

While he hasn’t been recognized by the Academy just yet, Hadden seems to be well on his way. One of his recent projects earned top honors at Sundance, the nation’s largest independent film festival hosted in Park City, Utah.

On Feb. 4, the Sundance Institute announced feature documentary “Giving Voice” as the winner of Sundance’s 2020 Festival Favorite Award. Hadden was one of three editors for the film, which finished first in an audience vote among 128 features screened across all categories at the festival. “I was kind of stunned when I found out,” says Hadden, who worked on the project for two years.

“Giving Voice” follows six high school students on their journeys through the August Wilson Monologue Competition, a nationwide contest for students to showcase powerful monologues on a national stage. The competition celebrates the life and work of renowned playwright August Wilson and offers the top contestants from each region the chance to perform in the national finals at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre in New York.

Hadden editing video on the set of “Giving Voice.” (Courtesy: Alex Hadden ’13)

The film garnered Hadden’s second appearance at a major film festival. In 2015, “BRAND: A Second Coming,” a documentary following the life and career of entertainer Russell Brand, premiered on the opening night of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Hadden contributed to that film as an associate producer, production assistant, videographer and assistant editor.

“I have always kind of dreamed of making documentaries,” Hadden says. “I think the value that documentaries hold in society is very great, and that’s why I do it.”

While he first realized his love of film in grade school, Hadden’s passion for documentary production came later. As an undergraduate at Elon, the media arts and entertainment major discovered elondocs, a yearlong program for students passionate about documentary film production led by Associate Professor of Cinema and Television Arts Nicole Triche. Hadden, who produced two significant documentaries while at Elon, says elondocs gave him the opportunities and the confidence to pursue his dream career.

That pursuit took Hadden to Los Angeles after graduation. That’s where he found the Elon alumni network, which he says was “immensely helpful” in his job search and in making his new city feel like home. But he knew it would take more than just connections to make it in Hollywood.

“Once you’re out in the working world and getting jobs, really make yourself indispensable to a project,” he says. “It’s about working just as hard or harder than everybody else you’re working with, making yourself an asset.”

Hadden continues to display that work ethic as he looks ahead to his next project and hopes to soon direct a documentary of his own.

As he pushes forward in his career, Hadden’s legacy lives on at Elon in the form of video editing suites named in his honor at McEwen Hall. The suites are the physical representation of the mark he left on campus. At the same time, Hadden says Elon left a mark on him as well, and he continues to carry the experiences he gained at his alma mater as he finds himself a step closer to reaching his ultimate goal.

“I think Elon laid a really great framework for me to go out into the world and approach those dreams,” he says.