When Trey Haley wrecked his car, it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to him.
He had just arrived in Los Angeles after studying radio-television-film at UNT from 1994 to 1995.
Instead of moping about the accident, a friend convinced him to work on a music video -- and it provided the connections he needed to pave his career as a filmmaker. He has directed the movies Always a Bridesmaid, Influence and Throwback Holiday, and the BET+ TV show The Family Business, starring Ernie Hudson. He is also president of his company Tri Destined Studios.
He credits his optimism for getting him through the competitive field of filmmaking.
"The No. 1 thing I tell people is to stay positive," he says. "Sometimes what you think is a bad or traumatic moment in your life is setting you up for the big thing."
The Arlington native always had a knack for the arts. In high school, he played the trombone and keyboard. He often critiqued his acting friends' scripts. And he was good at editing, staying up late to cut movies on the computer.
"You realize how much you love this stuff," he says. "I didn't care what time it was."
He came to UNT, where he devoured classes on the history of filmmaking and even psychology. As a cable programmer for Sammons Cable Company, he filmed and edited local events on quick deadlines.
Then a family member had a room available in Los Angeles -- and Haley knew it was his chance to move from his apartment on Eagle Drive and make Hollywood his home.
"I am proud to have attended the University of North Texas," he says. "Being there is what fueled me more so to come out here."
He was working for a pager company when he got into the car accident. A friend convinced him to work as an extra on the music video.
"If I played the pity party, I might not have gone to that video," he says.
Haley ended up meeting the director, who gave him advice on breaking into the business. Then Haley got a job the next week on another video.
He then took on a job as a courier, delivering scripts to studios so he could learn their inner workings. A staffer at TNT gave him a list of internships, which landed Haley an internship at Revelations Entertainment, Morgan Freeman's company. He learned everything from reading scripts to post-development.
One day, he was at the copier when he heard that voice.
"Is Morgan here for real?" he thought.
Another intern told him it was the Oscar-winning actor. Haley introduced himself and shook hands with Freeman.
That evening, Haley took a stroll on Santa Monica beach and thought, "I think you're moving in the right direction."
And he was. His first theatrical release was The Man in 3B.
"I said, 'Action.' Oh my god. I'm actually shooting on a studio lot. This is really happening?"
The Family Business has become a top-rated TV show for BET+. It was six episodes into shooting its second season when the coronavirus pandemic forced production to shut down. After the lockdown ended, the cast and crew were put into a bubble -- and tested three times a week -- to finish filming the season.
Haley has more goals for his career. He founded the production company Tri Destined in 1998 with his business partner, ND Brown Jones, who serves as CEO/partner. As president/partner, Haley oversees the company's in-house production service division and develops collaborations.
Haley wants Tri Destined to have its own facilities and to direct a superhero/adventure movie.
"All of our projects come from an independent spirit," Haley says. "We empower people of all colors."
And that kind of environment is essential to staying motivated in a tough business.
"The people you're around are key," he says. "It's important to have people who will push you. It is so many 'no's. The 'no's will lead you to the 'yes.' You just want the one yes to lead you to the next door. But the truth is you got to put in the work and timing is everything. Be ready so you don't have to get ready."