CREATOR SPOTLIGHT: COLE SWANSON
WORDS BY: Ajay Woolery / Cole Swanson IMAGES: Cole Swanson, The Baby Film, Black Swan Magazine Cole Swanson is a Filmmaker and Creative currently based in Los Angeles. A student at the NYU Tisch School school of arts studying film and television production, Cole frequently directs Independent films and projects including for his own Magazine "Black Swan". His soon to be released film "Baby" speaks to his mission as a Black Creator to redefine the representation of Blackness in Film through the story of a young Black father who must learn to navigate parenthood after his girlfriend mysteriously abandons him and their five-year-old daughter. In or latest Interview we speak with Cole about his inspirations and craft.
(TCK) Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do...
My name is Cole Swanson. I’m a filmmaker, creative and founder of the fashion, art and culture publication called “Black Swan Magazine.” I’m based in Los Angeles, CA, and study film and television production at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. I primarily write and direct independent films, direct for °1824 and Universal Music Group and I am also a creative member of the Converse All Stars Team.
(TCK) What would you say were your first introductions to Film and how do you believe they influenced your decision to pursue Film in post-secondary?
Well, I definitely get it from my mother. She’s a writer and director and ever since I was a baby I’d be on set, at film festivals, or in the editing room with her. It was always around me and I think consequently, I chose to gravitate toward storytelling and filmmaking later in life making my first ever movie in the fifth grade. Besides immediate inspirations that followed me as a child, there were several movies that shaped the way I thought about filmmaking and storytelling as a whole. ​Sunset Boulevard (​ 1950)​, Chungking Express ​(1994), ​Y Tu Mamá También​ (2001) and CityofGod​ (2002)​.​ All classics that intrigued me and further solidified my interest in pursuing filmmaking in unique, visual and stylistic ways. Even movies like ​The Wiz ​(1978)​ My Neighbor Totoro ​(1988) and ​Star Wars ​(1977) - I watched all these movies as a kid and they play significant roles in the development of my storytelling curiosities. There was something so fascinating about the spectacle of it all and the fact that a “filmmaker” (Sidney Lumet, Hayao Miyazaki, George Lucas) was responsible for its conception.
(TCK) Outside your work in film you also run your own magazine “Black Swan”, tell us some more about the inspiration, goals and work you've been doing with this project...
Black Swan Magazine started as an experiment that primarily focused on showcasing fashion through a young, authentic and personal point of view. I first started the magazine in high school with no legitimate plans or goals other than to give my friends an opportunity to model different pieces of clothing and to give them printed souvenirs when we finished. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City for college when I realized that there are so many creative and talented individuals my age who have so much to say with their art. My first semester in college was when I started to establish Black Swan Magazine as not only a brand but also a universal platform that can represent young, innovative and important artists on a global scale. When we launched the second issue of the magazine in February of 2020, it blew up and has since become a cult classic among young NYC and L.A. artists. The magazine has also found its way into various coffee shops, salons, doctors’ offices and into the homes of people ranging from a variety of ages, backgrounds and locations. It’s such a delight to see art travel and connect with people you don’t even know and I hope to continue reaching larger audiences with the future issues to come. Currently, the third issue of the magazine is in production and is being co-creative directed by me in collaboration with artist and photographer Ali Stancheva.
Black Swan Magazine Montage ( SOURCE: @yungblackswan / Black Swan Magazine)
(TCK) Arguably your most exciting project has been The Baby Film which is now in post-production, Give us a rundown of what it's about and how you're feeling about creating such a major piece...
Baby ​is a new film about a young Black father who must learn to navigate parenthood after his girlfriend mysteriously abandons him and their five-year-old daughter. ​Baby ​is quite literally my “baby” and was my first major short film that I wrote and directed. It stars Elijah Rashad Reed and Vanessa Bell Calloway and features incredible original music. As a Black artist, I strive to debunk the numerous cinematic tropes that often surround Black individuals in film and television. As I continue to write and direct more projects, I want to set a precedent and be an active participant and filmmaker to help advance this movement to push positive and accurate representation in cinema. I seldom come across movies that I genuinely see myself in and I want to help create a different landscape and inject my voice. ​Baby ​does just that with its accessible and heartfelt story. The film is emotional, vulnerable and unapologetically honest. I am extremely excited for ​Baby ​to be released to the public. Right now the film is beginning its early run in the festival circuit and will be made available on Amazon Prime Video in the near future. The ​Baby​ production team and I encourage everyone to stay tuned and follow the film’s journey on Instagram - @thebabyfilm!
Gallery for “Baby” Cole’s new film ( SOURCE: @thebabyfilm)
(TCK) What are some things you do to engage yourself creatively?
I’m always writing or constantly listening to music. I would typically find those engaging creative projects on a set of a film, creative directing a photoshoot, or simply going out on a museum or gallery run. Because I am working more remotely as of late, I have found more time to create with just myself. While I love collaboration out in the field, I am grateful for the time I get to have alone in quarantine with just myself, my thoughts, and a laptop. I have written a lot more than I have in the past and have also listened to a lot more music as it is always inspiring me. When I am not writing, I try to get things moving on future projects I plan on either producing or directing. I find myself having a lot more time to focus on pre-production for several projects and quarantine is certainly encouraging me to spend more time on the logistical aspects of filmmaking. I’m definitely learning a lot given the various limitations but I am also learning how to overcome these obstacles by approaching them as creative challenges.
(TCK) What are some of your favorite films and which do you believe every young creative should watch?
Such a difficult question to answer only because I have so many different answers. While I could sit here and give a list of recommendations that every cinephile and filmmaker would probably agree with, I want to point out some Black films that are often overlooked but deserve to be screened, taught and talked about in every film school: ​Cooley High ​(1975), ​Mahogany (1975), ​Killer of Sheep​ (1978), ​Malcolm X​ (1992), ​Menace II Society​ (1993), ​Queen & Slim (2019).
(TCK) Finally, what's some advice you'd give to a young person looking to pursue Filmmaking?
You’ve got to be serious about your craft then go out and make your film. I learned that nothing would get done if I just waited around for an opportunity to present itself. Sometimes you have to drop everything and go out and just do it. Be comfortable taking creative risks and collaborating with creative people. With the right team of friends and a dedicated passion for a project, you will find yourself making brilliant work and having fun along the way. And people will recognize the hard work you’ve put in too. Filmmaking isn’t easy. Never has been and never will be. But finishing a film is such an incredible accomplishment, especially when you finish a project with your close friends and collaborators. It takes a village to move a mountain so don’t shy away from critical and constructive feedback, embrace new opportunities, don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes and always stay true to your voice as an artist. Go with your instinct and be sure to pour your heart and soul into a project. You’ll find that the more personal a story is to the author, the more interesting it is for an audience. Good luck! To Learn more about the work Cole is doing make sure to check of the links below! A special thanks to Cole for joining in on our Creator Series!
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2.11.21