By Diana Colson
Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office in partnership with Bradenton Area Film Commission, hosted their second “Six and a Mix” MultiEvent at Suncoast Technical College on May 9. Sarasota students and other attendees were inspired by high-powered speakers. The panel consisted of award winning Director and Producer, John David Cotes; Dr. James Schumacher and Joe Farrell, both Producers with Olive Productions, NYC; and Victor Young, Producer, Writer, Mentor, and Entrepreneur with Victor Young Productions. Challenging workshops were conducted by skilled instructors in a variety of professional offerings.
Jeanne Corcoran of SCFEO certainly pulled off a coup in bringing this stellar group to address film students at Suncoast Technical College. The speakers were all fascinating, with John David Coles emerging as the rock star because of his astonishing theatrical achievements.
John David Coles served as Executive Producer and Director of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. His recent directing credits include the Emmy Award winning Homeland, the Epix original series Berlin Station, 11/22/63 for Hulu, and Amazon’s Mad Dogs. Other credits include Bates Motel, Power, Damages, Justified, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and The West Wing. The list goes on forever, for the youthful John is definitely a big-time player!
He started making films at 17. Of his early years, he says: “I took a few steps, stumbled, and got up again.” He repeated that mantra three times, making sure his young audience got the point.
In the past 18 months, John has directed shows for Amazon, Who, Epic and Netflix, yet none of those platforms had even existed three years ago. “This is driven by changes in technology,” he says. “The big paradigms for thirty, sixty, or ninety minute shows are now disappearing. It’s a complicated landscape out there.
“I have been working for 30 years in this business, and my agents don’t have a clue as to where things are going creatively. There is almost no revenue today in features. They have replanted their flag in the world of TV. Take the OJ mini-series, for example—in 9 hours you can go deep into the character.”
Jeanne Corcoran asked John whether he prefers something that goes on for 9 hours, or prefers working on a series like House of Cards. Of Cards, he said, “I am creative director of the entire series. I am involved at the inception of the series, and see it re-imagined in the minds of different writers, and later in the minds of different directors. For me, with the limited mini-series—9 hours—you get to have this incredible palette. And then next year you do something new.”
With House of Cards John experienced complete creative freedom for the first two or three years before entrenched bureaucracy took over.
“It’s the Wild West out there,” says John describing the current situation. “New platforms start to establish their presence internationally.” Recent shows have been shot in Berlin, Toronto and Puerto Rico. Last year 44 TV series were shot in NYC.
Panel member Victor Young spoke of his experiences as a professional in the field. He launched his media and entertainment career in 1989 working at a local Fox affiliate in Tampa, Florida. After becoming a successful voice actor, Victor ventured off into the radio industry as an on-air personality and show producer. He earned credits as Producer, Executive Producer, Director and Writer. When asked about his work in TV and film, Victor replied: “The beautiful thing about TV is that you get to do it longer. However, feature films are fun. I don’t like to do anything too long. For now I do both. “
Victor went on to say, “Everything is shifting. You have to stay fluid until you can figure out where things are going to land. I keep a lot of balls up in the air. I work on a project-by-project basis…You have to work with people you enjoy. You have to have a team you can jam with.”
Dr. James Schumacher was another member of the panel. He is an award winning, board certified neurosurgeon with a practice in Sarasota, Florida, who is also a research associate with the Harvard Medical School Neuroregeneration Institute. In addition to his noted medical career, he is a film and television producer in partnership with Olive Productions out of New York City, whose other partners include Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi.
John David Coles is one of Dr. Schumacher’s personal friends. It was because of this tie that John came to be on this panel in Sarasota.
Panel Member Joe Farrell is also involved with Olive Productions out of New York City. A resident of Casey Key, this entrepreneur is active not only in film, but also in sports, science, Broadway and the creation of rum on a tiny island in the Bahamas of which he is part-owner. Joe also sits on a Harvard board dedicated to curing Alzheimer’s. His 16-year old daughter is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in film at Full Sail University.
The MultiEvent was titled “Six and a Mix”. In addition to presenting a fascinating panel of speakers, challenging workshops were conducted by Producers, Writers, Directors, Filmmakers, Screenwriters, Cinematographers, and Sitcom Creators. Also featured were Sound Effects, Horror/Creature Make Up, and Glamour/Beauty Make Up and Hair.
A special thanks to Bob Gray, Documentarian, Filmmaker, and Head of STC Digital Film Program for helping to bring this high-level film workshops to Sarasota students.