Spreading his wings

Local grad trying to make it big in movie biz

Christiaan DeFranco
Posted 1/4/17

LOS ANGELES – Three days after graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University, Tyler Cole packed up his car and moved to Los Angeles with no job, no place to live and very little money.

One way …

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Spreading his wings

Local grad trying to make it big in movie biz


LOS ANGELES – Three days after graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University, Tyler Cole packed up his car and moved to Los Angeles with no job, no place to live and very little money.

One way or another, he was going to make it in the movie industry.

“I’ve known my whole life that I was going to be in L.A. and make films,” said Cole, a 2008 graduate of Fleming Island High School. “I told my mom that one day I’m going to take her on the red carpet at the Oscars.”

Cole, who majored in communications and theater, made his West Coast move a little over four years ago. For most of his first year out there, he slept on strangers’ couches that were advertised on Craigslist.

“It was kind of weird,” he said. “I didn’t have any bad experiences though. Everybody was really nice. This one guy had a small studio apartment and the sofa was right next to his bed, so it was almost like going to bed together every night. That was different.”

How much does couch-surfing cost in L.A.? About $100 per week.

Cole, who was the mascot at both Fleming Island High and Florida Gulf Coast, also stayed with his sister Jocelyn in L.A. for a brief time. For a few months, he stayed with an actor and comedian friend of his, Marc Price (remember Skippy from “Family Ties”?).

“I did standup for a little while,” Cole said. “That’s how I met him.”

Cole worked a variety of jobs, from telemarketing and serving frozen yogurt to being Price’s personal assistant. But it was working at a restaurant and staying on the couch of a guy named Aaron Burt, who was a waiter at the same restaurant, that would change Cole’s life.

“I was only going to stay with him for a month, but we just became great friends and then roommates,” he said. “And now we’re partners making a movie.”

Burt, who is into true-crime novels, wrote a script for a full-length feature film he entitled “The Promise.” He and Cole co-founded a production company called Tunnel Light Pictures. Cole is producing and directing the film, but the duo needs to raise money.

On Thursday, they are launching a month-long funding campaign at tunnellightpictures.com, where people can donate. Donations can also be made at igg.me/at/ThePromiseMovie. Their goal is $30,000, although they hope to far exceed that figure. Cole and Burt are also holding a contest where they will host the premiere in the state that produces the most donors.

They will be using actors they already know personally, but for the leading woman, Cole said they want a “big name actress.”

“We’ve already reached out to several Hollywood agents,” he said.

“The Promise” is based on a true story. It is about a recently engaged Christian couple who decide to have a romantic picnic in the woods to enjoy nature. On their way, they are kidnapped by Satanists. Cole describes the movie as a “dark comedy thriller.”

“It’s very intense and eerie and uncomfortable at times, and it’s also hilarious at times,” he said. “What the movie is really about is different perspectives people have.”

Since that day he moved to L.A., it has been a long journey for Cole to reach this point, with a production company and a film in the works. Another turning point, aside from meeting Burt, was when he was able to join the Screen Actors Guild union. He got in the union after working on various small video projects.

“The entrance fee was $3,000, so that went straight on the credit card,” he said. “But it was worth it.”

As a SAG member, Cole was able to do “background work,” work as an extra in movies and TV shows, which paid him $194 per day. For now though, he actually has a pretty good job outside of Hollywood as a sales and marketing director for a national nutrition company, but his long-term plans remain in movies.

And it was his time at Fleming Island High as the Golden Eagles’ mascot, “Swoop,” that helped prepare him for films.

“I’ve been acting since I was 6,” Cole said. “In my junior year, I played the mascot as an extra-credit project for my social studies class, and it turned out being a blast. It kind of goes together with acting.”

As a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast, whose teams are also called the Eagles, he went to the athletic department and asked to be the mascot, “Azul the Eagle.”

“They said, ‘Sorry, we already have a mascot, but you can be the backup and fill in a couple times,’” Cole said.

He did so well filling in that the university fired the regular mascot and gave Cole the job, which he held for four years. Just like that, he went from understudy to lead – and then all the way to LA.


Email Christiaan DeFranco at chris@opcfla.com. Follow him on Twitter @cdefranco.


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