IFH 215: How to Become a Working Director without Film School with Cole Walliser

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I’ve always said that “film school” isn’t for everyone. There is so much noise and advertising telling filmmakers that you NEED to go to film school to be taken seriously. I disagree COMPLETELY and so does today’s guest! On the show today is director Cole Walliser. Here’s a bit on Cole’s amazing filmmaking journey so far.

Cole Walliser, born in Steveston, BC Canada and bred in Vancouver, now lives in Los Angeles doing most of the same things he did in his country of birth – playing guitar, drinking scotch and directing cool videos.

“I started with filming skateboarding at about 14. For some reason everyone kept handing me the camera. I guess I had a knack for getting cool shots. Music videos has been a natural progression.”

Once he decided to pursue directing as a career, he knew he had to be in Los Angeles to reach his full potential. In LA, Cole began shooting videos for professional dancer friends on a pro-bono basis when a dancer, returning the favor, asked him to be involved in some dance videos for Miley Cyrus.

These videos impacted the entertainment industry bigger than anyone could of imagined with everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Madonna to Ryan Seacrest reporting and commenting on the videos. These videos then led him to direct Miley’s 2008 Teen Choice Awards performance featuring LL Cool J.

In 2009 Cole was introduced to P!NK’s management, led by industry heavyweight Roger Davies. The meeting proved fateful, providing him with his next project directing the opening video for her Funhouse World Tour (originally slotted for Dave Meyers).

Cole continued working with P!nk on the record-breaking Australian tour where he gave fans a glimpse into P!nk’s life on tour with a 30-minute documentary “On Tour with P!nk”. His successive work on four new P!NK music videos (Please Don’t Leave Me, Funhouse, Leave Me Alone [I’m Lonely], Mean), along with the documentary, found their home in P!NK’s ‘Greatest Hits So Far’ DVD.

Enjoy my inspiring conversation with Cole Walliser.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now today's guest is Cole Walliser. Now, he has directed music videos, commercial high fashion spots, and done some crazy stuff and his work with some of the biggest stars in the world like Katy Perry, and pink. And he did all of this without going to film school. And that's what I really wanted to highlight in this episode. Cole went out and just hustled his way into a job and many jobs after that and learned along the way. And I just wanted to bring them on. So to show you guys that you don't have to be you don't have to go to film school to succeed in whatever you're trying to do it Everyone has different paths, some film school, some people like film school and is great for them other people's don't. It's just different options, but you don't have to go if you don't want to. So without any further ado, enjoy my conversation with directorCole Walliser. I'd like to welcome to the show Cole Walliser our man, thank you so much for being on the show.

Cole Walliser 3:29
Of course. Thank you for having me. I'm super stoked.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
You know, we've never had a commercial director, high fashion kind of guy on the show because we focus mostly on indie film, but I that's my roots, my roots come from commercials and, and music videos. And then that's how I kind of transitioned into independent filmmaking. And I still do those every once in a while as well. But there's a lot to be learned, especially in today's world about, you know, commercials and music videos and digital content and a lot of the stuff that you're doing, I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned. So I'm really excited to to get into it with you.

Cole Walliser 4:03
Cool. I'm super happy to share. I mean, I think that the landscape of filmmaking and content creation is changing rapidly, as we all know. So I'm happy to contribute to the plethora of information you're putting out there. This is great.

Alex Ferrari 4:15
Thanks, man. So you didn't go to film school? So how can you share how you became a world dominating director?

Cole Walliser 4:24
Well, I'm still on my way, but I appreciate the comment there. For me, you know, it started with I think a lot of people to this this kind of occurs this way like through skateboarding and snowboarding. So I used to skate spike Jones model spike. Exactly, totally. Yeah, the spike Jones route, you know what I mean? I don't little bit different route overall, but still the same sort of beginnings where it's like, we would just film each other skating and I kind of had a knack for people who just generally Hand me the camera more often than not like, Oh cool, you can get cool shots up or you know how to shoot this stuff. So I started kind of getting into it back then this is like in the 90s then learn how to edit VCR to VCR. And then I was like, Oh, let me try to tell like a story or let me try to shoot something and you know, and it just basically progressed and got like one little job like a tiny little thing and a tiny little thing and it just kind of like, worked my way up, essentially. And, uh, you you are based in LA So were you doing this all in LA? No, I'm from Vancouver, Canada originally. So that was a big that

Alex Ferrari 5:18
That's why you're so nice

Cole Walliser 5:21
I could be a part of it. Yeah, I try to perpetuate that stereotype for sure. Be friendly Canadian. But yeah, you know, I was in university or going to school. I have a degree in psychology and during my schooling I started you know, I bought a Mac I bought a dv x 100. A. Yeah. Yeah. Like that's that's my roots like mini DV 24. pl is amazing.

Alex Ferrari 5:43
Final Cut just like data ingested it beautifully. It's just so work. Yeah, well, don't get me started dv x. dv x 108 was the beast man, that was the beast of its day.

Cole Walliser 5:53
So you know, I really started getting into it during during college and you know, I would just do my school, but like, go home and shoot and edit. And then so in the midst of it all, I just decided I was like, Well, what don't want to do like, I enjoyed my degree, but like, what am I going to do with a psychology degree and I'm like, I really want to be a filmmaker. At that point, I was like, I got to go to LA. Because for me, you know, there wasn't, there was no avenues back then, for someone in Vancouver to direct. There was a big film industry up there. But it's like, it's crew. It's gaffer grip, you know, whatever. Right? Sure. So I was like, if I want to direct I gotta go to LA. So I got a lawyer and got the whole deal and made the jump. And that was 11 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
And yeah, and you just literally landed, it's like, okay, let's start making.

Cole Walliser 6:34
Yeah, basically. So the other part of my background is I used, I mean, I still dance, but I used to dance a lot I used to, you know, be boy breakdance. And like, do hip hop choreography. And so when I came out to LA, my group of friends were very much involved and still to this day, like very much involved in that world. And so for me, you know, being a video shooter and editor back then, dance, obviously, was the easiest slash coolest thing I could shoot. And so a lot of the stuff I did back then was involved in dance community. And that actually got me my first couple big brakes. And so, you know, for me, it's just like, it's, it's so it was, it was really helpful to have that because otherwise, it's like, it's just so easy to make cool. dances like you get people to just do some cool stuff. Like oh, my footage is awesome, you know, the easiest way Doug make some cool stuff. I'm at the top of my career for sure.

Alex Ferrari 7:28
Now you so so basically you were using it because a lot of there's so many people that come you know 11 years ago who showed up to LA and trying to be you know, trying to become a director, but you use what you had your resources you have available to you which was your talent as a as a dancer to kind of open up to get into that kind of subculture Yeah, and then start growing from there. So similarly to and I'll use spike Jones again as an example because I studied spike stuff back in the day in New York and he was just doing constantly doing these skateboard videos till someone found them in yeah in literally in a club they were watching some videos up and who shot that or that that skinny kid on the corner. Oh, wow. And then and then he started getting commercials and then from there yeah, it took off. But it was it's it's interesting because a lot of people always want to know how do you break in how do you break in and how long did it take you to get like that first gig after doing all those kind of cool videos

Cole Walliser 8:21
I mean, it started it wasn't I there's a moment that I attribute as sort of like my quote unquote big break because there was sort of like my first bigger job for like a major artists but like I had been sort of quote unquote working prior to that even within the dance me so one of my first jobs out in LA was like editing, dance like reels and choreography reels and shooting little dance numbers for dancer friends so those are like my first jobs you know what I mean? But it was just like a friend going out shooting a dance video in a park and cutting it together and like putting it on DVD because YouTube like wasn't even a thing back then. I mean, so those are like my first kind of little jobs and again, like you know, I started getting better and starting charging more but like my first brake job I would I just kind of this thing for Miley Cyrus so in 2008 she did these online dance battle videos were like two crews of like dancers one from the movie step up to and Miley Cyrus and her whole crew dancers like had these online dance videos. And so I was, I mean, the dance community, everybody's friends with each other. But I was better friends with Miley's choreographers. So these two women Allison Paul countrys Espinosa, I've been friends with them for years. So they're like, they're planning to do this dance video and they asked me to shoot it. So that was like, the first thing that I had with like a major artists because at that time 2008 like Miley was Hannah Montana, like, just taking over the world right here. So that was like a really cool thing for me to have something kind of like on, you know, out in public that people were talking about. And I met a bunch of celebrities and stuff through that, but it still was like, everybody kind of gets together and like shoot this little thing. From there. Alison went on to choreograph for pink for her 2009 funhouse tour. And she brought me on just Well, actually, I came for free. She wanted to get some footage of her working with with pink. So I just started hanging out one or two rehearsals and shooting some stuff. I'm at the tour director, I met her and they brought me on for like, a couple days BTS. in that mix, they needed the opening video for her tour directed, and Dave Meyers, who's a huge, huge, you know, music video, yeah, huge music video director, he does all her music videos, he was gonna do it. But they're like, time was short, they didn't have that much money and like, they needed something done. And so they, they just took a chance on me and asked me to put together a budget and see if I could do this little opening video for the tour for cheap. And I was of course, like, Oh, yeah, I'll do it, you know. So I feel like, that was like the first job that was like, you know, for major artists for like a more traditional platform, and that they really, like took a chance on me. So I sort of attribute that big break, to working with pink. No, would you? Would you also say,

Alex Ferrari 11:05
Would you also say that, because I talked a lot about on the show about you went to work for free. And you know, kind of stuff up my first big, you know, Job was because I worked for free for four months just hanging out? Because I had nothing else to do. Yeah. And then they finally just like, Hey, he's been here for four months, let's give him a job. So do you feel that your personality being nice being someone pleasant that you can sit within a room, which is also a very big, you know, factor in these jobs, as well as just offering yourself up your services up for free? Because you saw the value of doing that? Is that obviously one of the keys to getting your big break?

Cole Walliser 11:46
Absolutely. You know, if I wasn't willing to come shoot rehearsal for free, I would have never have gone down that path and never sort of working with pink. And like that turned into like eight or nine year working relationship across a number of albums across a number of different types of media with her, you know what I mean? So like, it was this huge, huge thing. And if I was like, had an attitude about it, like, and now you need to pay me to show up when people do and like I have that attitude sometimes too. You know what I mean? Right? Definitely. But But if I wasn't if I wasn't, if I didn't sort of like see the potential value of that and be okay with working for free, I would have never had this career path. And and so many subsequent things came from that moment, like my whole career sort of was based on that. Because from pink, I got Katy Perry. And then from both of them, I started doing CoverGirl and then CoverGirl, Pantene, and Alma and like, all this other stuff started from me going, Oh, yeah, I'll come shoot you for free for a day or two. Sure, why not? You don't I mean, like, just being willing to, to invest in that, I think is, is hugely valuable. But you have to be, you know, you can't work for free always. You got to know Phil's right. It's important to find that balance. And what you're touching on to like these other factors, like what, you know, when you first get into directing, it's like, I you know, my vision of it is like, oh, like, here's a guy that is really creative and has all these really cool ideas. And yes, it's a huge part of like, being a director especially in like the music video and like short form content world come up with cool ideas. But there's so much more to like, like you said, sitting into the room and like having a good meeting, or like, you know, being either good to work with or, or being good at communicating or just being like a good manager and team builder, like, those facets of directing are so much more valuable than I ever thought. And it took me a while to like be in that world and working as a director to really realize those lessons, you know,

Alex Ferrari 13:35
So from the moment you landed in LA to the moment you got that job with pink, working for free. How long was that? Well, I drove I don't know I wrote down No, not from the literally when you landed in LA, how long did it take in general? Like how many months? How many years? Before you got that thing

Cole Walliser 13:54
I paint was I guess three years, three years? Okay, I started in like 2006 and I started working for pink 2009 Miley was chosen a pink start in 2009.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
So and you were just doing any job you can get along?

Cole Walliser 14:10
Yeah, there's just a ton of dance stuff like editing, you know, choreography, real shooting dance numbers, you know, a couple little music videos, a ton of dancers that are trying to be artists, so we did music videos for them. And just just anything, anything I could shoot, I was down to shoot, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 14:24
So that the reason I'm asking is because I want to impress upon the audience that like it doesn't happen overnight. And before you even got to, to LA already had years of work that you were building up in Vancouver?

Cole Walliser 14:36
Absolutely. You know, I was shooting a ton of stuff in Vancouver. It wasn't like when I lead in LA it's like, oh, here now I'm here now and I'm gonna start shooting stuff. You know, it was it was yours. You know, just staying in Saturday night being like, Oh, I'd rather edit something then like go out and party and especially at like, 21 but I found magic. I found myself you know, I found myself wanting to stay in and wanting to just like create stuff on my computer rather than go be socials was more satisfying for me.

Alex Ferrari 15:05
Now, can you discuss a little bit about your work with digital content? Because I feel there's this is an area that a lot of filmmakers don't even know about. And it is a potential place where they could start working.

Cole Walliser 15:15
Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's growing exponentially. And it's really, I've been fortunate enough to sort of be in the mix. And even with some of these really big ad agencies, as the tides are sort of changing in this respect, right. So when I first started working for CoverGirl, which I think was, I don't even know the year 2010 or 11, I think there was just like Facebook, I mean, YouTube was a thing, but like, we make some content and like, okay, we're gonna put on Facebook, right.

Alex Ferrari 15:43
And Facebook was in Facebook in 2010 2011. Yet, it was still not the way it is. Yeah, it was growing, it was growing, MySpace was still all the rage.

Cole Walliser 15:50
Yeah, definitely. Right. We were like making content, you know, there was like, kind of some ways to put content out, but it was just that good to like, have behind the scenes were right. Sure. And it was very much like, you know, for a campaign, they would do a print ad, a broadcast ad. And then like, they'd have me or somebody, they're just shooting some behind scenes. That was like, the very first thing as time went on, like, as a few years started to pass, you know, they started to realize, and I started to realize that all of the eyes on their, like, from their demographic, we're not reading magazines, we're not watching TV, they were consuming almost all of their media, from digital content from social media, from Facebook, from Instagram, from YouTube. And so there was a moment where, you know, the ad agency pulled me and this other still photographer that does a lot of this stuff together, aside, and was like, Okay, here's the deal. We don't care about broadcast. We don't care about print, we only care about what you're doing, because what you guys do is what are our sort of demographic, you know, consumes? And we're like, oh, this is crazy. Like, you know, it's been, you know, the broadcast and print ads have been standard for decades. Yeah. And so now they're going like, we don't care about that we care about what you're doing. So the pressure was on. But then also, I was like, Well, can we get the budgets that you give out for the broadcast ads? So, but it was, it was interesting to see it grow. And you know, over time, they start giving us more more bigger budgets and like, more to do as far as digital content, because there's so many outlets in so many formats, and it can be annoying, but there's a huge market, because that's really how people, especially young people consume media these days.

Alex Ferrari 17:27
And what is exactly the digital content, just basically behind the scenes commercials for

Cole Walliser 17:33
Well, it you know, it originated as behind the scenes, but now we do like our own content. So, um, you know, it, it's hard, it's hard to put in a box, because it's really like any really anything. Yeah, thing. Yeah, it's, it's anything but like, there's really cool jobs. And even, you know, I got a job just recently, where I flew to Albuquerque to shoot like an Instagram story and make a little video from this, like, hot air balloon event. But I was like, This is awesome. Like, I get to go to this cool event show like, and the budget was like, not bad. Like, she didn't like worth my time. And, and granted, it was just like me and another guy, we hired a local guy to this small crew. But you know, we're there just to make a really cool Instagram story. And I was like, that was a revelation for me. And my Oh, companies are like putting money behind this content, they realize how valuable it is. Because it's such good target marketing. It's like everybody who follows that company is interested in that company. So if you're making good content, you're gonna engage them rather than the traditional media, you know, print ad, it's like, you know, only 10% looking at that printer is caring about what you're saying. So it's like, it's very low targeting, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 18:43
Right, right. It's more, it's getting away from the interview interruption, marketing, as opposed to more of a content marketing.

Cole Walliser 18:51
Yeah, but but you know, it could be short form, it could be anything from, you know, like an Instagram story video, or, you know, an edited piece or whatever. But the cool thing now what brands are doing, which I'm finding really exciting, is they're basically paying for cool ideas by just attaching their brand. So there's a lot there's a big market nowadays, where if you have a cool idea or a cool story, you want to tell you can basically go to any company or go to like a marketing company be like, Hey, I have this story about, you know, these like this homeless skateboarding crew. That's super cool. You know what I mean? Like, I want to go tell this story, you can partner with a brand the brands gonna give you money to tell that story and then they're gonna just use it, you know, as a thing that might go viral. So it's like, companies are now funding all these really unique stories that are short form anywhere from like three to five minutes.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
Yes, I kind of like what Casey Neistat does on YouTube. And those guys all those YouTubers do similar stuff like that. Where they go to it. Yeah, and they get sponsored by Samsung or Red Bull or something like that to go off and direct a short film basically.

Cole Walliser 19:53
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So there's there's just a, there's infinite amounts of opportunities and options. In the digital sphere right now that actually have money behind them,

Alex Ferrari 20:03
And it's growing exponentially, like you said.

Cole Walliser 20:07
Absolutely. Yeah. So it's an exciting area. And for me, you know, like when it started, I was not against it. But you know, like, growing up, I was watching broadcast commercials. I want to do broadcast commercials. Like, I don't want to do this, like digital stuff. Because at first, you know, nobody was doing anything cool on it, right? Sure. But now I'm like, oh, everybody's making cool stuff. And, and it's a great sort of ecosystem to be a part of,

Alex Ferrari 20:30
Yeah, it's like being a YouTuber in 2005. Not very sexy.

Cole Walliser 20:33
Yeah, no. But now it's like, yo, there's youtubers making a hun making cheese 100 400 grand a year off making YouTube videos. And I'm like, wait a sec,

Alex Ferrari 20:43
Some are making that a month. Yeah,

Cole Walliser 20:46
Yeah, the top one of the top ones are making millions but like, there's a huge population that people don't even know about. And they're making a couple 100 grand a year.

Alex Ferrari 20:54
That's what I find fascinating about the whole landscape is that there are people out there because before that, you know, there was three only only three channels you could watch. And there was only so many movies that that was it. That was all it was. And the stars were the stars even those Tom Cruise, it was Brad Pitt. And you know, these are the stars. But now you've got these little guys like on YouTube somewhere with 5 million followers. Yeah, pulling in like a male, two mil, three mil a month, or maybe a year. And and just like, Who the hell is this? The you know, it's all it's, it's kind of instead of trying to hit the broad market now everything's become much more niche. Would you agree with that?

Cole Walliser 21:29
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's like, you can find your lane, you know, anywhere and like build, build a brand and build an identity that you can then market it's, it's so crazy the power that it's there's so many good, like pros and cons with the way it's working right now. But the pros is like, you really can be in control of your own fate as a content creator. Man, there's people hold on, I gotta shut my window.

Alex Ferrari 21:57
On show. Yeah, lawn gardeners are out there. Um, yeah, you know, oh, well, no, I lost my train of thought. You were talking about content creators and making your own brand.

Cole Walliser 22:09
Yeah, there's just so much opportunity to like to, to find these niche markets. And I think that's like, what Netflix is doing really well, the, the world of like, network TV is so different. And like, it's so hard to, to successfully make content in that world. I had a TV show and development with NBC for a number of years. And just the revision, like the idea changes a million times from the, you know, from the original pitch. But in that process, I learned about how you know, their approach on making TV. And like, they basically because it's so expensive, and because they're putting so much behind it, they need everything they put on TV to be a hit. And that's why they cancel shows after three episodes, because if it's not a hit, they got to put something else in there, because it's just too expensive to do. Whereas you have Netflix might also also like NBC or networks, like it gets watered down, because they're trying they need like 3 million people to watch it. So it's like Brian never get to yes, super broad and like, everybody's just like ants, okay, you know, but like, you don't get to dive in any particular topic or niche, because they're trying to appeal to everybody.

Alex Ferrari 23:21
Well, same thing with movies.

Cole Walliser 23:23
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know what I mean? Whereas Netflix, it's like, it doesn't really cost them as much to put it on, they just, you know, push upload, right. And so but but their model is so different, where it's like, they'll pay for 10 shows, which is the cost of one network show, and maybe eight will be horrible, but two will like just pop. And so and then these two are such these like niche things that people love, it's a much better way to create good content to be in these niche niches. So it's like with your own branding, and with your own social media, your own content, you know, you look at it, you should look at that digital model, where it's like finding your own lane to create something that either isn't been hasn't been creative or have your own identity or like creating something that people can connect to. is is a far better way to try to then trying to appeal to everybody like the network's have historically been doing.

Alex Ferrari 24:16
Now when you work with when you were working with your first big star, like pink, let's say what was it like on your first day on the set?

Cole Walliser 24:25
Um, well okay, so with her, you know, I showed up at rehearsal, you know, I met met her and I knew some of the dancers and stuff already. So that was like a very nice, like, chill introduction, because it was just like me hanging out there doing the thing. But the first day on set, I was like, we shot at her house. And that was like, I was definitely nervous because it was just like such a big thing. And I'm like, oh man, like I'm making this video for like, it's going on tour for a year and a half and like 15,000 people gonna watch this like is the first thing of our show like it was on for sure. So definitely just nervous going in. But I feel like the actual day of it was fine. I just made sure I was super prepared as far as like, shots and what we needed and what the plan was right? Because I definitely don't want to be caught on set going, like, I don't know. Which happens sometimes. So I was just I was definitely nervous. But I, I think I probably over prepared just to make sure we never fell behind, or nobody was looking at me like, what should we do? And I didn't have an answer, right?

Alex Ferrari 25:29
This kid doesn't know what he's doing. Get out of here.

Cole Walliser 25:31
Yeah, exactly. That was my biggest fear. I was like, as long as I just get through the day and don't look like an idiot, I think I'm fine.

Alex Ferrari 25:37
Now, how do you deal with agency clients and talent on these high profile commercials that you do?

Cole Walliser 25:44
It's, it's tricky. And I will say that that's, I feel like, that is a huge part like that skill is a huge part of continuing to work in that arena. Because the you know, everybody, all those people have power. Right? So it's like, talent, talent ultimately has all the power, right? So talent doesn't want to do anything that's like they're not doing it, right client has power because they're paying for it. So you know, they'll say, Oh, this and that. And then agency has power, because it's like, they put that idea together. So hopefully, they're all in alignment, but often they're not. Right, and most of the time they're not. And so it takes a certain it's a very specific skill to like, you know, manage all these different personalities, but still get what you want to get in the Can you know what I mean? Because you're still there trying to do your best job to so often. For me, I've been fortunate to come in usually with the talent side, like, with CoverGirl, I came in with pink and like, with a pre existing relationship with Katie. So it's like, I can always kind of defer to being like, with them, you know, so, you know, I can always go Oh, okay, doesn't wanna do this. It's like, we can't do that, or whatever, you

Alex Ferrari 26:58
You're in, you're in the talent camp.

Cole Walliser 27:00
I'm on the talent camp. Yeah, yeah, I always I try to align myself in that way, because they ultimately have all the power, right. So that's one thing, but you know, there's been so many instances where you're on set, and you know, the creative director from the agency is wanting to do something, the clients wanting to do something, and you're just really trying to appease it and make your day and your schedule. I don't know if there's any, like, specific piece of advice, other than just got to do just being nice. And like, but there's there, you know, I think one lesson I've had is that, like, there's a limit, where I realized that I can't do what I set out to do. And I don't, I don't necessarily give up, but I'll sort of like, I know that like someone is like, going to over bare overbearingly force their opinion on the production. And I'll fight it for as long as I can. But there's sometimes a point where it's like, okay, like, we're just gonna do all these ideas that you want to do, because I can't even convince you otherwise. So that's not a fun position to be in, but it happens, you know, but most of the time, you can usually reason your way out of it, you can be collaborative, you're there also for a reason, you know what I mean? Like they hired you, to create something for you to bring your vision to it for you to like, materialize their original idea. So I think that's an important thing not to forget, you're not just there, as an employee, it's like you're there to contribute to. So it's really, it's really about a balance, knowing when to push back. And actually, here's a piece of advice, picking and choosing your battles. That's a huge thing. Because sometimes it there's things that are worth fighting for as far as like, what the creative director or whoever wants to do. And so sometimes it's really important to go, Okay, I'm gonna let you have this one, we're just gonna do that, because I know that we're gonna like butt heads later, and I'm gonna want to fight for that, whatever this thing is later. So picking and choosing your battles is super important, when to just sort of like, give in and when to really fight for what you believe in, I think is an important tactic to sort of putting your belt. It's

Alex Ferrari 28:56
it's kind of like the opposite Joe pitka. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don't take the job approach.

Cole Walliser 29:06
But I mean, if you can, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:10
Just for the audience to know who Joe pitka is, if you guys have not heard of Joe pika Joe pickers, that legendary commercial director has been around for probably thinking 50 years. It's been around forever. And he's worked on He can't even tell you what he's working on. He's He's and he's also director of a feature film called Space Jam. That he did back to space. Yeah, he. He directed Space Jam. Yeah, because it was my because it was Michael Jordan, and he did all the Michael Jordan commercials back in the day, and that's how they kind of put it all together. And Joe is legendarily the biggest one, let's say the, the biggest. He's, he's he's rough. He's a rough person to deal with. I've heard him I've heard of stories with him, you know, literally breaking a client's bones or agency's bones while playing basketball. Oh, wow. That was his favorite things like hey, you have a problem. Let's go play some basketball and That would be the end of the problem. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So he had multiple lawsuits against him. Yeah, but he was just one of those guys. That and like you said, if it I mean, I would never condone that, but but I guess if he could do it, I guess that's what that was his process.

Cole Walliser 30:28
The other the other thing that sort of comes to mind that's really important to like, understand, like, working in this industry is is when and where you have leverage, you know, and it's always, it's always this balance of like whether or not you have leverage. So for Joe, you know, having, you know, created this massive career, he almost inherently becomes like talent, you know, what I mean? Oh, this is Joe doing a commercial. So now he has like that talent leverage. So he throws a hissy fit. If he tells client to screw up. It's just like, it's talent. Now doing that, because he has that leverage, because he has that history.

Alex Ferrari 31:02
You know, I mean, it's like Michael Bay doing Victoria's Secret commercials. Like he's, he's as important as the models are.

Cole Walliser 31:08
Absolutely, absolutely. So like, whatever he says goes, and it's like, you can't really fight him on stuff, right? Because he has that leverage. And so I don't think the goal is to, like, have enough leverage. So you can be like an asshole, right? Like, understanding when and where you have leverage is really, really important to sort of assert, however you want to navigate the job or your career. Because without any leverage, it's like, it's really tough, you know, and even if you're just coming in as a job, like, and you're, you feel like they're everybody else's sort of like, at a higher place than you, you know, you still there's always an angle where you're like, oh, like, what am I bringing to the table? Like, how can I leverage my benefit to this production to sort of like, not get what I want, but make this a good experience or like, contribute in a meaningful way. And, you know, knowing knowing what you can and can't do by understanding your leverage, I think is really important.

Alex Ferrari 31:57
It's a great piece of advice. Actually, a lot of people don't understand leverage, and when and when you can apply it. And when you actually have it

Cole Walliser 32:04
It's, it's a tricky thing to understand. And I think for me, it's taken time, you know, over the years to really understand it. And that's the first that's honestly the first thing, whenever I go into any negotiation, or any sort of like, any discussion about collaborating, or whatever it's like, I mean, I guess most of the negotiations, I try to identify as fast as I can, what my leverage is, you know, to mean, like, why am I in that room? Why are they asking me to do something like and how, how do I benefit them? And how can I use that to sort of either if it's negotiating your deal, like, you know, how can I get the best deal because of my value in this in this project? You know what I mean? Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 32:41
Now, when, when you're working alongside artists, like ping Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, what is the collaborative process? Like?

Cole Walliser 32:49
You know, it varies. Sometimes it really surprises me, how much like free rein I have. So for some of them, it just depends on the job, obviously, you know, for like, when we're doing like CoverGirl stuff, you know, the agency is very specific with with the whole campaign and sharing need and, and very regimented. Yeah, exactly. Right. But you know, I did these four music videos for pink and 2010 or 11, that we're playing for this festival tour she was doing and the whole theme was like a freak show Carnival thing. So her management said, here's four songs, we want you to write treatments for general ideas, kind of, you know, it's like she's a circus ringleader and like, she's a bearded lady. And then she's a giant, like all these different freak show ideas for like these four music videos. So I went home, and I wrote out four different concepts for these four different music videos. And I sent them off to management into her, and I didn't hear anything. And I was like, their notes or like, you guys are, there's a good, and then I got a word like, Okay, good. We're just gonna, we're gonna shoot them. I was like, nothing like, No, no, no, it's no considerations. Just like, okay, wouldn't first like draft, you know, like, we're just gonna go shoot it. So that really surprised me. But at that point, you know, we had, we had a really good working relationship, and so they trusted me. So it but it varies from that, where it's like, you know, come up with some ideas, and we're just going to go do them to very, very detailed, specific things. So it really it really spans the whole the whole range, like sometimes people are cool, and sometimes there's, they're micromanaging what you're doing. So it doesn't it varies every time. Unfortunately, I can't I can't be more specific than that. Sure, of course.

Alex Ferrari 34:33
Now, what are some of the challenges of working alongside, you know, mega stars? Because I'm sure there are some.

Cole Walliser 34:40
Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, scheduling is the is the, the trickiest aspect because they're so busy. It's like, you know, your shoot can always get pushed, you know, last minute, you're like, you're there and they're like, oh, they're not coming because they have like, you know, this extra XYZ thing they got to do so scheduling is always an issue, and even if The day, you know, they're always like, you know, the crews doing 12 hours, but they're three hours in the chair. And then like, you know, they have a heart out at this time. So you're really only getting, you know, six hours with them, right? So scheduling is always like a tricky thing. But you know, usually, usually the, the process is pretty, like fun and cool. Like, most of the time, especially when I'm doing like tour stuff. I'm creating stuff for their tour. So they have like a vested interest to like, make it as best as they can, like, you know, this is this is for them. I think in the commercial world, it's best for them, if they're doing like a campaign for some company, if they're doing the campaign for that company, they're less invested in in doing everything that they can to make it the absolute best that they can. But when it's for their tour, I get like that super hard working that they're to the last minute version of them, because this is like for their tour. Right? Right. A prime example is when we were shooting the stuff for Katy Perry's California dreams tour, it was this monstrous thing. So basically, you know, I wrote and directed, I think maybe six or seven little short segment videos that played between all the acts of that concert that told a short story throughout the whole show. So the whole concert had a narrative. And these short films like interweave between all the acts to tell this little story. So we shot over three days on this stage. First day, it was like a built in pre light, and then we shot two days with her. The first day was 14 hours. The second day was like almost 17 hours. Yeah, like insane shoots. But you know, she was there to the last shot. And you know, we were like our 15, she went up to her greenroom, she grabbed a bunch of beers, brought them all down for the crew and just thanked everybody for being there, handed up beers. And then we got the last hour in. So like that kind of thing. I'm like, oh, like, you're really, you know, you're working just as hard as everybody else, you know. So that was really, that really impressed me and always sort of stayed with me, as far as you know, working with Katie on that.

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Now, what are your views on the ever changing landscape of filmmaking? technology?

Cole Walliser 37:05
I mean, that's a great question. I think that there's like, you know, like we touched on before, there's so many benefits. I mean, I think that there's some negatives, but there's so many more benefits that I think are so cool with what you can do today. It excites me, you know, like the idea that you can, you know, go shoot a feature edited on your laptop and put it out to the world is awesome like that. That literally was like there was gatekeepers, and you literally could not do that 10 years ago, right? So that's super exciting. And just like how, you know, technology is getting better and better, you can shoot better and better. I think the determining factor now is talent, not so much equipment, because before it was like equipment, if you had access, you know, to film cameras, like whether or not you were good, you were making something because no one else was making it because people were watching. Yeah, it was so itself. People watch it. Right. Right. So a, it's harder to get noticed, because everybody's making stuff. But you have that opportunity to like go make your own thing. And like, you know, the cream will rise to the top and like the best stuff will get seen. So I think that's really exciting. And even if your stuff doesn't get seen, just keep making things until you're better until it doesn't get seen. That's sort of like my approach

Alex Ferrari 38:17
Exactly what it was, like, just keeps Yeah, beep if you can't be good, be prolific. Yeah.

Cole Walliser 38:22
You know, and because I, you know, people ask me all the time, I want to start directing, I want to start doing this. I'm like, just go shoot stuff. Like, if you really want to direct you're gonna have a lifetime of making things. So don't be so precious about what you're doing or make something perfect, like, go make some garbage. And the next time make some little bit less garbage. Still, until it becomes good. I push that, that that concept all the time.

Alex Ferrari 38:46
Now, how do you achieve a work life balance, man, because you're constantly running around all over the world shooting these things? You know, what kind of advice you have to have that kind of work life balance, which I think all of us as filmmakers have a problem with, because we're not we're carnies. We're carnies. In general,

Cole Walliser 39:02
Of course. Yeah. I think that, that that's been like my biggest lesson, you know what I mean? Because, you know, when you first moved to LA, it's like, you're hustling so hard, and you're like, trying to get every single job. And it's like, again, Saturday night, 10 o'clock, you could go out, or you could like work on a script, or like work on some edits, you know, I mean, and so, and when you're really driven, you want to do that. Right. And I think that that's good. And I think that there's a part of your career that like, you have to put in those hours, and you have to put in that work. But at some point, you know, after years and years of doing that, I sort of like took a step back and was like, why am I working so hard? Like I'm just working to work more I need to really like find this balance. And so, it it's one of those things for me that I have to actively put effort into creating a balance into stopping work, you know, certain days, like 7pm I'm like, Okay, I'm done. I'm taking, like, a mental break from whatever, whatever. I'm working Get on to just not think about work. And I ultimately think that that makes me a more productive, and a more proficient, sort of, you know, creative and worker, rather than just hammering it non stop, I don't think that that that actually serves you better. It's important to be able to buckle down, but I have to schedule time to go relax or to go surf or to go workout or whatever. You know what I mean. And I think that it's just it just took time to realize the importance of actually scheduling that in to take a break, because you need it. I I'm a better director, because I let myself have that balance.

Alex Ferrari 40:42
I think, yeah. Because if you burn yourself, if you if you keep burning and burning and burning, you don't, it just is tough, especially when you have a family. And when you don't have like your kids or stuff like that. It's so easy to just keep going.

Cole Walliser 40:53
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And you just like, you just become uninspired, you just become tired and uninspired. And like, you lose your excitement, because you're always just so in the weeds about every little aspect of your career, it's refreshing to take a break, and then come back and be like, amped to be like, I'm excited to like, dive into this script. I'm excited to dive into this edit, and to get back to it. But if you were working non stop the three days prior, you'd be like, Oh, I can't believe on you, for some reason, feel obligated you force yourself because you think that that's the only way to, to make it happen. Sure, you know it. That's what I mean. It's like balances is the perfect word. It's like you have to bust your ass sometimes. But you have to take a break sometimes do.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Now, can you talk a little bit about the importance of having an audience in today's digital world?

Cole Walliser 41:43
Yeah, I'm realizing that importance now. And the way I realized it was, you know, we touched on this on this earlier was like these young kids that are out making videos, you know, that have a couple 100,000 followers, they're getting jobs that I would want as a director. Wait, wait a second, you know what I mean? Like, you know, these kids are like, I mean, they're making cool stuff. I don't want to discredit them. But like, they're, you know, they haven't. They're not as versed in like production. You know, as someone who's like, been in the industry for a while and have no fault of their own. They're just out making content, but they're also getting jobs for brands with decent budgets to make cool stuff. And I'm like, I want that job. You know what I mean? So and they're getting it because they're their audiences built in. And so upon that realization, and it was mostly this year, I made it, like a commitment to push my presence on social media, because it's only going to get bigger, it's not going away. And I think that for me, like where I'm at, in my career, like I have enough relationships, I like if I never did social media, I'd be fine. I know, I keep working. I don't necessarily, I don't get I mean, I, I have gotten some jobs from social media, and gotten some cool ones that I'm excited about. But the majority of my work doesn't come from from that avenue, right. So I feel like, I'd be fine without it. But if I invested my time into this aspect of my career, I can get better jobs, I could get more jobs, I can get different jobs that I normally wouldn't get. So I'm really trying to put like energy into it and looking at it like an aspect of my career. Sure, it's fun, and it's cool. But I'm like I need to post every day, I need to make sure I'm like, letting people know what I'm working on. And like really committing to having a presence because it's only going to be more valuable to your career as we move forward.

Alex Ferrari 43:29
Right, because I was watching some of your vlogs that you have on your YouTube channel, which were, you know, I want to go to Bali and surf. Yeah.

Cole Walliser 43:36
Those are so fun. I mean, for me to like, it's the cool thing about the extra little bonus about doing that stuff is that's how I started filming. I just started filming stuff, you know, me and my friends and putting together fun videos. So like, the idea of these vlogs is very much in the same spirit of of who I was when I started when I picked up a camera. And it's like just film some cool stuff and put it together cool and put it out there. That was the essence of like my early beginnings of my career. So it's fun for me to make these videos now. And to put them out while I still have other jobs that I'm doing. I still can have that fun that I used to have, when I started started with a camera. Very cool. Now we also have it be beneficial to my career, you know, so it's, it's a it's a win win.

Alex Ferrari 44:19
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business?

Cole Walliser 44:25
You know, it's you know, it's interesting, because like, I've always been obsessed with that question. And I would, you know, I google stories and I try to read how people got their big breaks. And, you know, the only thing I determined from doing years of research on that is that no one person did it the same way. That's the only thing that's the only similarity I could draw. And so I the advice would be because of my the way I I sort of came up and I you know I push what what worked for me which is going out making videos getting better and just making as much stuff as you can. And I think that's even more of like a valuable tip today, because you can have you have these avenues of distribution. But it's important to just make cool stuff and to keep making stuff and to keep getting better. Because as you get better, people are going to take notice, you know, and it's, I just think it's important to learn by doing rather than, you know, just have your I mean, you guys should read books, too. I'm not saying don't read books, but like, don't just have your head in the book, and then think about why you can't go actually make something, go make something. And also maybe read a book or two, but definitely go make something,

Alex Ferrari 45:33
Educate yourself as much as you can read books, re take online courses, all, you know, watch YouTube videos, but then go make stuff.

Cole Walliser 45:41
Absolutely, absolutely. And and I think that, you know, most people that are not quite fully jumping in the step that they're missing is just to go make something, you know, I mean, they're just, they're right, right, before they can go pull that trigger and go do it, there's whatever is getting in the way. And there's all these different things that get in the way, be it like money, or time or equipment or whatever. But I think that you know, anybody who's even considering it has that ability. It's like, sure, not everybody in the entire world, but like, you probably have a phone you can go shoot with, you can edit a video on your phone now. And and even if you do a short little 32nd thing that has a beginning, middle and end, that's great practice. And so it's like you can show your friends, your close friends that are your mom that and be like, look at this little thing I made. And just like that's literally where I started, and you know, all the way up to doing, you know, tour videos for Katy. It was just one step at a time. Just getting a little bit better each time. So that's, that's what I push. Go do that, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 46:44
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Cole Walliser 46:51
Oh, that's a great question. Book. Um, I mean, there's definitely a few. There's one that stands out as far as for filmmaking. You know, because when I when I was learning, you know, I buy books, I'd read books, but there's so many books out there that are like, these 500 page like filmmaking Bible that, like so much information and like it's really hard to they're like, hard read sometimes, you know, and they get into all these, this minutia of stuff that like doesn't really matter. Not that it doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I've read those books.

Cole Walliser 47:26
Yeah. So I found this one. It's called, I think it's called the bare bones guide to indie filmmaking. It's super thin. It's like maybe like 40 pages and like, has stick drawings in it. But it breaks down just the basics of like, what you need to understand like, enough about how a camera works and how editing works to like, go and make something after that. So it literally is the bare bones, like basics, and I think it's on Amazon for like 15 bucks. No, but but that I would tell everybody, like go buy this book, you can read it in 25 minutes. And it explains like what aperture is explains like how it changes depth, the field explained explains like how much of an angle you want to change when you're getting different angles, like just the basics that you need to then go Be creative within knowing those parameters of like the general filmmaking tools. So I found that book to be really beneficial to clear up a bunch of all the craziness that was written in like these 500 page books.

Alex Ferrari 48:25
Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Cole Walliser 48:30
Well, like we touched on the balance thing, okay, know for sure, I would say, you know, there was probably like five or six years in LA, of just grinding non stop, and then having me take a step back and go, Wait a second, like, like, Where am I enjoying my life? Like, after I found a bit of success and been like, Okay, I'm not worried about like, next month's rent, you know, I mean, I'm okay for a second. What am I like? Like, how, where is my enjoyment coming from other than just working? You know, and so I think that the balance is, it's still a lesson that I'm trying to, you know, navigate around and trying to figure out exactly what the right balance is for me, but it for me, it's super important for just my overall happiness. And and it's been a work in progress for a number of years now. So I would say, yeah, the balance thing.

Alex Ferrari 49:16
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Cole Walliser 49:20
Oh, that's a great question. That's a hard question. But it's a great question. I have Yeah, I thought I've thought about this actually. So I think, you know, it's, it's very, my answers are sort of classic in some way and not sort of surprising, like Pulp Fiction for me, because of my age when it came out. Oh, such said it was such a like, atom bomb going off. Yeah. You know, like, that was, that was a film that really, like inspired me to tell stories. Like I was so enamored with how that story was told. And I was such an impressionable age. I was just like, you know, my mind was blown, like what you could do in a film, you know, so that was like that really inspired me to like want to go make films. Then in similar vein, El Mariachi, you know, Robert Rodriguez was like, I realized, like, Oh, I could actually go make something, you know. So like looking at Pulp Fiction was like this huge, you know, sort of a bigger budget thing like with all these stars, it was like, that seems like a pipe dream a little bit, but I want to do it, you know, whereas El Mariachi was like, Oh, this guy went to Mexico with a buddy and shot this awesome movie like I can you can do it, you can actually do it, you know what I mean? So those two really like inspired me to go actually pursue film. And then I was at a loss for the third but I think this is a funny one. But Aladdin is one of my favorites that I can watch all the time. And and I think it's actually like a really good film to watch for filmmaking because the story is like, so the story is so good as far as like the setup the hero's journey.

Alex Ferrari 50:54
Yeah, sure.

Cole Walliser 50:54
Oh, totally. It's such a great, like, like, example of that. Not only is like that, it's just a great marriage in between the music and the story in the world that they created. If that's ever on TV, I'm like, I'm definitely watching. You know,

Alex Ferrari 51:11
This is the first time I had Aladdin as one of the out of almost 200 episodes. No one's ever said a lot. And so you are Aladdin. Yeah, that's awesome. No, it's a good flick man and Robin and the performances like Robin Williams performance is so amazing.

Cole Walliser 51:24
Legendary. The music was amazing. There's nothing there's nothing that fought with that movie. So

Alex Ferrari 51:30
I don't know. What do you think about the live action that they're gonna do?

Cole Walliser 51:34
Are they doing a live action?

Alex Ferrari 51:35
They're doing a live action of all the Disney other good all of them,

Cole Walliser 51:38
You know I mean, I didn't. I didn't see beauty in the beast. So I don't know how that came out.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
It was okay. It's, there were moments but it's like, no, it's not as good as the first no

Cole Walliser 51:51
of course, jungle the book

Alex Ferrari 51:53
Jungle Book was amazing. Like Jungle Book. Yeah. And Lion King. I mean, Lion King they're doing right now. Yeah, and they're doing Milan too. I hear yes to do Milan as well. And Cinderella. I didn't. Oh, but they've made so much money. That's why they get like, wait a minute, how much money can we make? Let's just get back to the well,

Cole Walliser 52:10
Totally for business sense. Like it makes perfect sense. Because like people are gonna go Well, I mean, I'll definitely go watch Aladdin. I'm not I wouldn't expect it. The thing that that irks me is I think that people expect to be enamored with like the remake the way they felt about the original, and like, and then if people get disappointed, so I'm like, I'm gonna go in being like, I'm gonna hate this because it's not as good as the original and then find something that I like about it. You know what I mean? Right, right, right.

Alex Ferrari 52:33
Now, where can people find you online?

Cole Walliser 52:36
I'm most active on Instagram is my most active so the Instagram for Instagram? Yes, but Instagram. Yeah. I like calling it the the Facebook. The Instagram is kind of the Twitter. Yeah, the Twitter. So Colione is a nickname I've had for years. So Colione. And that's kind of like where I I put all my stuff out. And then and then YouTube, of course, for other blogs, which is my full name Cole Walliser youtube.com\colewalliser. I'm on Facebook and stuff, but not, not really. So those are the two avenues. I think you can find me and keep up to date. I mean, also on my website, koalas calm, I post everything I create, and all my work is on there. So that's a good place to see that stuff. And obviously be the three spots.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
Cole man, thank you so much for taking the time out to share your adventures in the music video, commercial and digital content world with us. Man, I appreciate it.

Cole Walliser 53:28
It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. It's been great.

Alex Ferrari 53:32
I hope you guys got some inspiration from coal. And just to know that you guys can go out there and do it. No matter what you don't need film school, you can go out there and just make stuff make on shoot films, make commercials, make music videos, shoot short films, shoot feature films, educate yourself, there is more than enough education out on the internet alone, that you is like having a film school on demand, either from YouTube or getting, you know low cost online film courses, reading books, educate yourselves, you can go out there and make it happen. So I want to thank Cole for coming on and inspiring the tribe to go out there and make it happen for themselves. If you want any information about anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/215 for the show notes. And then there of course, we'll have the information about the slam dance talk that I'm going to be doing on Saturday, the 20th between 2:30 and 4:30 at the treasure mountain in at the top of Main Street. Now I have a lot of stuff going on. It's at Sundance This year, we're going to be doing already got some amazing interviews lined up, I cannot wait to share them with you. I'm going to probably release them when I get back because I'm just going to be doing too much stuff while I'm there. There will be some other podcasts going out this week. And then I'll start one next week around Wednesday. I'll probably release the next one. And then I'm going to start releasing all of this content. 10 out. While Sundance is still going on next week, just wanted to give you guys a heads up. And I've got, you know, a really big kind of thing I'm working on. I'm going to talk to you guys about that later. But just know that there's a big surprise for you guys coming up very, very soon. And I think you guys, your minds are going to be blown when when I tell you guys this stuff. So don't forget to share this podcast with as many people as you can as many filmmakers as you can. Please retweet. Please share stuff on Facebook, email your friends, let them know about the podcast because I really want to get this information out to everybody and build up the tribe and build up the indie film hustle movement to show as many filmmakers screenwriters and artists out there how to survive and thrive in this film business. So keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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