"You have to be confident and brave enough to put yourself out there, because nothing is more fragile than your ideas. Someone's ideas. You're really exposing yourself anytime you're creating something, because it's coming directly from you. And it takes a lot of confidence and a lot of bravery to be able to do that."

Alex ColesAbout Alex Coles

Alex Coles is a film and television director and producer originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. After graduating from the Ryerson University Film Production program, Alex entered into the film and television industry where he cut his teeth working on such high-profle productions as Showcase’s “Lost Girl”, Showtime’s “Borgias” and History’s “Vikings”. Now Alex splits his professional and creative efforts between working as a Producer/Production Manager at Farmhouse Productions, a Toronto-based film/television/digital production company, and pursuing the development of his own directorial productions.

The Interview

1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?

I think – when we’re talking creatively it’s almost a matter of necessity in a certain sense. I’ve gone through periods in my life where I haven’t been creatively engaged, or I’ve been more so focused on other endeavours – whether they are professional or personal – and I wasn’t necessarily exploring the creative side of myself. And I think, when I took the time to really start examining how I was feeling in that moment – whether you want to call it emotionally, spiritually, psychologically – I found that my life was much less fulfilling when I wasn’t engaging with myself in a creative way, and trying to produce content, stories (or whatever form that creativity took).

I’ve found that for me to reach my full potential – which is important to me – I have to be engaged creatively. Reaching my full fulfillment or highest potential is important to me. And as I sit back and ask myself “am I the best version of myself as I can be?” I find a big portion of that question comes down to expression. If I’m not taking the time to explore that side of myself, then I’m not fulfilling my maximum potential – which is always growing as well.

I think the “best version”is always changing. If you’re not always seeking ways to progress or define that “best version” of yourself, you’re missing out on an opportunity for growth in many ways.

So when you’re asking what drives me, I think it really is just the necessity – it’s really a selfish endeavour in many ways, as I think most art is. But yeah, being able to look at my life when I’m not creatively engaged, compared to when I am creatively engaged – there’s a stark difference. So it’s almost a personal necessity. I just have to do it.

It’s almost like working out. If you don’t work out, you get out of shape, you become unhealthy, and that’s a negative influence in your life. And it’s the same thing when it comes to artistic and creative expression. If you’re not doing it, you (in a very palpable way) become unhealthy and not the best version of yourself.

Oh, And spite competition as well – I think that for me, they can be a fantastic motivator or driving force. People telling you that you can’t do something, and also telling yourself that you can’t do something, is an incredible motivator. It has driven me before – to both negative and positive outcomes. But when you’re talking about just pure motivation, that’s an undeniable one for me.

Can you talk a little bit about your experience in Junior High and High School? I remember hearing about a story about you taking on a role in a school play days before the performance. You were everywhere in those days.

There was a certain fearlessness back in those days, which led me to do a lot of stuff like that, which was great. I don’t really remember that specific incident – probably because I was doing a lot of stuff like that at that time.

There was a fearlessness, or a confidence, or a desire for attention, which also goes into it, I’m sure. And also just an appreciation and desire for interaction and enjoyment. I got a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from speaking to and with people, and doing it in a way that was fun, and light hearted. I got a lot out of that.

So any opportunity I had, I would always just try to jump on the band wagon to do that.

And our schools were great for that – at least for myself. I’m sure it wasn’t the same for everyone else, but I felt like I had a lot of opportunity to really express myself throughout Junior High and High School – which I think is incredibly important. A lot of people don’t necessarily get that opportunity, and a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to realize that they actually have that type of creativity, and that type of self expression available to them – which is unfortunate because a lot of people go a good deal of their lives, I think, only understanding certain shades of themselves, or… not even knowing that they have these different levels to themselves, simply because they were just never given the opportunity to.

When I was in Junior High and High School I had those opportunities, and the people around me – the right people around me – where that was a possibility – to realize it’s not just sports, or you don’t have to be a geek or all these different labels, but that you can have the opportunity to express yourself in many ways. And I had that opportunity early on, so that probably affected a lot of my future because of that.

2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).

If I’m being honest, honestly the biggest shift I ever had was because of a relationship – a bad breakup – that ended in the middle of a big project that I was working on. And it was emotionally something that had a fairly significant impact on how I work with people. And it wasn’t just that, it was subsequent events that followed. It was a major blow to my confidence, my confidence in my work and personal relationships – and just emotionally, it had a significant effect on me. When you’re talking about ‘made you who you are today’ it certainly had a major impact on who I am today.

The big thing is… People have negative things that happen in their lives. You can talk about regrets or this and that happening. My kind of philosophy on that is that you just have to look at where you’re at in the present moment, and if you’re happy where you are in that present moment, then you can’t regret anything that’s happened previously, because that’s what’s led you to be who you are in that present moment .

If one thing was different, then you could very well be in a completely different place, a completely different set of circumstances. So if you’re happy in the present moment, or you’re satisfied in the present moment, then there’s no reason to regret it – especially if you have taken the time to understand what happened: the challenges that you faced, the failures that you’ve had.

They’re only true failures if you don’t take the opportunity to try and understand them, learn from them, grow from them, and especially – when you’re talking about in a creative sense – trying to use them so that…

I mean, for a lot of creative individuals, and I struggle with the terms ‘creativity’ and ‘artist’ myself, but it’s asinine to believe that you can produce a piece of art or any kind of medium – like in my case I deal mostly with television and film – it’s impossible to dissociate anything you create from the experiences that you have because those experiences lead to who you are and how you perceive the world -which is really what creativity and artistic expression is about.

It’s about packaging your beliefs and your perspectives in a way that only you can. It’s about how I’ve gotten to this place in my life. How I’ve taken those experiences and tried to use them as really an encyclopedia of knowledge and reference for when I’m trying to create my own stuff, my own products and my own work.

It’s kind of cliche, but it all came down to a girl for me.

And do you think you’ve grown from that? Or do you think it’s made you better?

I think.. grown certainly. I think it’s impossible to ‘not’ grow from any type of significant experience – whether you notice it or not you’re going to be a different person – I’m a completely different person now compared to who I was first year university, fourth year university, or even a year ago. Completely different person, for the better.

I don’t know if I really focus on those types of labels or those types of qualities, or descriptions, because I am who I am, and I really do believe (not to get too philosophical), but I truly believe in not having free will in a sense – in that we can only respond to events as they present themselves to us, and we can’t really respond in any other particular way.

I’m thankful that I am who I am today, because I’m happy – or at least satisfied – where I am today, and if things didn’t happen the way that they did, I might not be in the position I am right now. So I’m thankful for the experiences, any experiences that I have because I (in all intents and purposes) live a good life.

So am I better person? I don’t really think about that because in kind of a lamens sense, I am who I am, and that’s only because of what’s happened to me.

I can make myself better now – I think about that now – but I don’t think “I could be better if things had gone differently.”

3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?

I’ve been happy in my life. I’ve been very unhappy in my life. They come and go. And I appreciate both of them because, in the most simple sense, you can only be happy if you understand unhappiness. You can only be grateful for happiness if you’ve understood what it feels like to feel despair. And the thing too is that… I would never want to live a life where I’m ‘only’ happy – although that might sound a little masochistic. I don’t shy away from experiences, the negative experiences or negative emotions, because that’s what creates complex expression or experience.

One of my favourite adages – I use it in a lot of different topics – is that there were two theories of colour. There was the Newtonian theory – Isaac Newton developed the theory of optics and how light produces the colours which the human eye detects. The most basic idea being that white light is all colours centered into one, while black is the absence of colours.

Then there was another – and he was a writer actually, a poet , he wasn’t a scientist at all: Johan Wolfgang von Goethe. He came up with a theory about the colours themselves, but he didn’t approach this in a scientific way. He was thinking more so about how we experience colour. How we see colours. His theory was that black and white work as syncopated partners to one another. Or that they’re in direct correlation to one another. And through this correlation, the suffering of light to darkness, or the illumination of dark to light, all the shades of colour in the world are made possible.

The way I look at it is you can’t have colour, you can’t have experience, without going through moments of happiness or sorrow. They work directly with one another. And that’s what creates experience, which is the colour of life. If you didn’t have darkness, you wouldn’t be able to have all these rich colours, all these other rich experiences.

So if you’re only ever happy all the time, that would be a very – in a sense – black and white way to live.

To the question of ‘are you happy or not?’ I could be happy today, and in complete despair tomorrow. And I would try to find the significance of what that means in that moment, but I also know that that’s a passing moment, and a new experience is going to come the next day, and it’s just going to be about trying to understand that experience and that’s just going to keep going on and on until I’m dead in the ground.

So, I don’t concern myself with happiness or not. Just with trying to understand who I am in that moment.

4. What do you think is your greatest strength?

Communication is a strength of mine – which I think is important, especially in my particular field. Film and television production is never a one person game, or sport. It’s a team sport in pretty much every sense of the term. And I remember – when I went to university for the first time – I used to think that I was ‘the director,’ I’m making the movie, and this is my show and that’s it. And I quickly learned that, that wasn’t the case.

You quickly learn to rely on the team and the amount of creativity and ability that you’re team has. What’s important as an artist in film and television is being able to communicate with all these different people – all these different professionals – and being able to maintain what your vision is while being open to the feelings and opinions of your crew. That way you’re not only trying to achieve your vision, but you’re harnessing the experience and the creativity of other people to really come up with the best possible product.

So I feel that this understanding of the value of the team contribution is one of my strengths. And not being too precious with my own ideas if someone has better ones – objectively better ideas. I’m open to that. That’s one of the kicks I get out of it too. I work with a lot of really talented people and it’s really humbling when you have 15-20 people out on a shoot if it’s for you, you’re own creative project, and they’re all there helping you to achieve your vision. It’s very humbling. But I would say that’s probably one of my strengths.

It kind of sounds a bit odd, when you’re talking about a blog about creativity, because these words don’t always get paired with it. But for me pragmatism is a strong quality. Understanding the resources that are available to you – money, time – and using it for problem solving. What is the most efficient way of getting something done?

Delusions of grandeur can be great in art and in filmmaking, but sometimes a healthy dose of pragmatism can be a very valuable thing. I like to think that’s one area that I do quite well with.

On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?

Confidence (probably the same with a lot of people)… and it’s an incredibly important thing to have in any art. You have to be confident and brave enough to put yourself out there, because nothing is more fragile than your ideas. Someone’s ideas. You’re really exposing yourself anytime you’re creating something, because it’s coming directly from you. And it takes a lot of confidence and a lot of bravery to be able to do that.

I give an incredible amount of credit to actors – both on stage and on screen – because it’s the most direct delivery of yourself to an audience. At least as filmmakers, we get to hide behind the camera. Artists don’t necessarily have to be at their gallery openings. Musicians are up there with actors as well – it’s just it’s in your face right now. I’m exposing myself to you, and you can directly see me. And for theatre and musicians, I can directly see you and your judgments immediately. So, it’s extremely exposing.

For me, not always being confident in my ideas is a big thing. And it’s even gotten in the way of myself producing anything. It’s taken a long time to gain a certain level of confidence to just get up and do it.

So, confidence is always a struggle for me, creatively. I struggle with the confidence to call myself an ‘artist’. I feel like I haven’t gotten there yet. There’s a lot of people who I do know, people who I would consider great artists. Friends who are great artists, and I have so much respect for their ability and their perspective, and often times, I feel like I’m chasing their coat tales in a certain sense… and dealing with that sort of confidence… you know, is one of the big struggles that I have.

5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?

I did theatre in Junior High and High School, and I loved doing it, and again I never considered myself an artist while I was doing that though.

‘Performer’ maybe, because I just liked getting in front of people and having fun, and developing shows with friends to perform. I loved that process. But I didn’t have any real ambitions to be a filmmaker.

I loved movies. I’ve loved movies since I was five years old. My mom got me started early on films like ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ and ‘Bringing up Baby’ – films from the 1940’s and 50s.

I remember I started collecting movies at an early age because my cousin had a wall of VHS’s… I must have been really young because I remember him opening his closet and he had these VHS’s stacked so high, and I remember being so impressed by the colours and… it was literally just a striking visual thing of ‘wow’ that’s a lot of movies, that’s a lot of pretty colours and I want to have a wall like that.

So I started collecting movies because of that.

I had a love for movies, and then basically in High School (in grade 12) I had no idea what I wanted to do for school, and a friend of mine (we were in a filmmaking class together that I liked), came into the library and said, ‘hey Alex, what do you think of going to Ryerson and applying to the Ryerson film program and taking film production.’ And for some reason I remember perfectly well my response, and it was: ‘well, I don’t not want to do that.’ It didn’t sound like a horrible idea.

So I applied and got in, and it was sort of just this slow burn. I kind of just eased into the idea of making filmmaking my career. I don’t think there was ever one definitive point where I knew this is what I wanted to do, but I would attribute that one meeting in the library, and my friend coming in asking if I wanted to go to film school, as the probably the moment that set this whole thing in motion.

What is it about the word artist that you feel a resistance towards?

It’s interesting. I’ve always struggled with that word. Even when I was in film school and you were kind of allowed to be naively brash, and presumptuous. But I think it’s… once again knowing the people in my life who I really consider to be artists. People who… what they do is… they leave and breathe their own creative expression. That’s how they cut their teeth in life – whether or not they make their full living on that, that’s kind of secondary, but some of them do.

I have a high respect for theatre performers, or musicians, or visual artists – because it really is just the sole expression of themselves, and I respect that confidence and I respect their ability.

Alex ColesI’ve never really considered myself an artist – more of a story teller, or a performer — just because I don’t know that I’ve always gotten that real internal connection to the material. I do get it when I make the stuff that I make, but it’s always a struggle for me, initially, to get there. To sit down and write out that script is a very hard thing for me to do. I love it when we get it to the camera and we’re rolling it, but I’ve never been able to identify myself as an artist just because the people I do consider artists…

It’s not necessarily how easy it comes to them, because it doesn’t come easily, there’s an incredible amount of work involved, but I respect that work that goes into it a lot. I don’t know, they live and breathe for that kind of expression and that kind of creation, and it’s not that I don’t love it, but it’s a piece of me.

I’m half accountant half filmmaker most of the time. So it’s a portion of me, and it’s a portion that I love and I need it in my own life… I actually hold the term to a pretty high standard almost. And the people I do consider artists in my life is not a pretentious term. It’s people who work at it very very hard. And I give them an incredible amount of respect for that. And it’s not that I don’t work hard at what I do, I do, but – I don’t know – I guess I’ve just never identified with that term before.

It’s kind of a convoluted answer because I’m kind of thinking about it now… it’s coming to illumination in my own head as I’m talking about it, because it’s not really something I’ve considered much.

6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?

Habits and routines… like a lot of 20-28 guys and girls, I do things like surfing imgur and seeing a lot of creativity online. I will try and watch my fair share of different content, whether it’s television or film. And I read as much as I can – as time allows. Because I think a lot of what I’ve done has been informed by literary things much more than visual or entertainment mediums. But one of the biggest things that I’ve found to be important in my own life, and that feeds into my creativity actually doesn’t have anything to do with film or television.

It’s being involved in martial arts. Having something completely separate from the industry and the art, for me, is incredibly important. There’s a lot of similarities between filmmaking and kickboxing – I do it about 4-5 times a week. It’s a very important thing to me. It’s as important to me as filmmaking is. And it’s because it offers very similar benefits as filmmaking does, and as artistic expression does. It’s about testing the limits of yourself, and learning that you can move past the expected limits of yourself, and dealing with the struggle of doubt is very much the same in kickboxing or martial arts – or any physical endeavour – as it is in filmmaking. You set bars for yourself, limits for yourself and nothing is more satisfying than when you have that moment when you realize you can push past that.

I don’t believe in giving more than 100% – like the idea that someone can give 110% or 120%. I find that expression to be quite silly. I don’t think it’s possible to do 100%. There’s always something more that you can do. It’s about redefining what that 100% is, and if you’re bale to do that, that’s when you’re able to grow. Realizing that what you thought your limits were, really those were not your limits.at any point anyway. You can always move forward, you can always go faster, you can always get stronger, you can always work harder. It’s just about: how hard are you willing to work to get there?

So, yeah. The kickboxing, for me anyways, it’s a very different activity, but I get the same type of satisfaction and the same type of benefits out of it – but they are different and they compliment each other, and I think you have to have stuff outside of your art that can help inform different perspectives for your art. For me: martial arts, kickboxing, Jujitsu

How long have you been doing it?

I started doing Jujitsu about 6 years ago, that and wrestling. Then I started doing Muay Thai about 2 years ago. So almost as long as I’ve been doing filmmaking.

For all the artists out there, I think you need to get another hobby. And that’s not just me being rude or condescending. I think it would help, a lot.

You don’t realize the perspective you can gain from doing things that are not your art. Not to ramble on too much, but Terry Giliam, the director of ‘Twelve Monkey’s’ and ‘Brazil.’ He spoke at my school during university, and I rememeber one of the things he said was that ‘the problem with film school is that they only teach you film. They teach you how to make good films – technically. They show you ‘how’ to film something, the language to film something, but they don’t teach you what to film. They teach you the language to say something, but they don’t teach you what to say. They don’t give you the information of how to find that out.

When you’re only learning one medium – in this case, filmmaking – you can be the greatest filmmaker int he world but if you don’t have the content and the perspective to fill your beauitul gift box, you’re going to be left with a very shallow product. So you have to be able to substantiate your art, and the only way to do that is to step outside your art and experience other things in the world.

7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?

Blind confidence is a great way to deal with doubt. If you can get it. It’s not always the easiest thing to get. Hard work. I think that’s the only place confidence comes from is knowing that you did everything you could do to prepare yourself, and that you worked harder than anyone else. That if you see someone who is working harder than you, then you know you have work to do. And looking at the successes that you’ve had in your life, and trying to understand how those successes came about… I think confidence is the product of past success and hard work, so that’s where I get my confidence. Mostly from the hard work. Because success can be few and far between in the art world sometimes. So hard work is the easiest place to draw your confidence from.

And as far as support goes, I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of very caring friends and family. Sometimes it’s like… I live in Kensington market. It’s a small community in toronto, they don’t have any big box stores or any grocery stores. There’s the fruit vendor, there’s the delli, there’s the bakery. There’s one stop for everything you need to buy. And I’m kind of fortunate that I have that kind of support in my life, where if I have an issue with one thing, I have kind of a group of people I can go to. Or if I’m having a problem with another thing, I can go to this person. So it’s a product of being in a very caring circle of friends and family. Very thankful to have that.

So whenever I have problems, that’s who I can go to. But also some problems – a lot of problems – are not meant for other people to deal with. You’re meant to work through them. You can be a much more fulfilled person trying to work through them yourself. And doing the work yourself. And doing the work yourself. It’s about doing the hard work to over come problems yourself. Because you can grow a lot that way.

8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?

Clear vision is one of the biggest things. You have to have a clear vision of what it is you’re trying to do. Even if you don’t know what it is that you’re trying to do. The follow up to that is a good acting game. Sometimes you find it along the way – I’ve been there before, where I think I have an idea of what I’m trying to make or what I’m trying to achieve, but it’s just not coming through. And so, at that point, it’s about portraying that you know what you’re doing, and then the adaptability to be able to come up with a new idea – redirection. Where you’re going to go next.

So adaptability is probably a big thing as well. How adaptable are you to when something is not working? How can you change the plan?

I’m speaking mostly from a filmmaking background, I should say, because I’m sure it’s different for a lot of mediums, but that’s the world from which I sort of operate. So adaptability on the film side is one of the biggest things you have to have.

I’ve seen a lot of filmmakers on sets, and they don’t necessarily have that type adaptability, and they can just run a day or a project into the ground trying to do what they thought that they wanted to do. Compared to working in the moment they have, or that they’re in. So adaptability. A clear vision. Blind confidence – even if you don’t have it, you gotta portray it. And kindness. It’s a team sport, and you have to be able to work with people, and not against people.

And a clear understanding of the Canadian artistic grant system. Things cost money. That’s another thing too. Things cost money and don’t short change the things that are important – which includes people’s time.

What does blind confidence include? How would you portray blind confidence?

Being clear and forthright with my ideas is a big thing, and just trying to almost convince yourself that what you want to do is worth doing. That’s probably the biggest thing. It’s very easy to doubt yourself into a corner, and doubt yourself out of a project, but if you really believe in your idea, you’re going to see it through. So, somehow, you have to get to a point where you convince yourself – and I say convince yourself as if every project is sort of a fraud, and that’s not the case – but you have to get to a point where you, in your mind, this project is going to happen regardless of any other outside influences. And you need that sort of drive. You need that type of confidence to say that this project is worthwhile, and this is a project that I want to do. And that type of determined belief is what will propel a project through from inception to completion. If you don’t believe in your idea, if you don’t believe in yourself enough to actually implement that idea, you’ll never get it off the ground.

And there’s a lot of people who I’ve seen succeed in this industry, who maybe you didn’t think they were necessarily the most innovative or talented person, but they believed in their ideas, they believed in themselves, and they got a lot of success out of it. I think that’s an incredibly important thing, and I think that you need it in a lot of ways to be successful.

9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).

I think… if you think you’re working hard enough, you’re probably not. I’ve seen it happen so many times, with so many people. I’ve seen people working hard, and things just aren’t going right. You’re trying to find a job and you’re going in for interviews, and you’re not getting any callbacks. You’re putting in grant applications, but you keep getting rejected. You’re trying to get your film into a festival and it’s not working. And you could ask yourself ‘what am I doing wrong?’ And my answer ‘you’re probably not working hard enough. There’s always something more that you could be doing to succeed – to up your chances of success. When I’ve gotten in moments where I don’t feel as though things are going right, or where I’m not where I want to be in my life, then I sit down and ask myself ‘am I ultimately doing everything I can possibly do right now, or can I work harder at this? Can I do something more. And usually the answer’s yes. There’s always something you could be doing more.

I heard this… I can’t remember where it was from, but it’s something I remember all the time. It’s ‘extraordinary results require extraordinary effort.’ And sometimes I’ll ask myself: ‘Am I putting in an extraordinary effort? And when I say ‘no’. I may be putting in an effort, but if it isn’t an extraordinary effort, why should I get an extraordinary result? So that’s the biggest thing that I would tell someone.
Even if you’re working as hard as you think you can. You have to come up with ways to push yourself further because there’s always something more you could be doing.

And a lot of people think that they’re working hard, but they’re really not. That happens all the time.

10. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?

There are different types of flow. There’s a physical type of flow. Whether it’s a runners high, where you really do get that physical sense of adrenaline, or endorphins that are running around. And that’s an experience that is very difficult to replicate. I get that in kick boxing a lot. It’s a very enjoyable, almost ethereal experience.

In creative moments there’s…

On set is exciting for me. It’s extremely stressful, but when you can really get those moments when you’re really connecting with an actor, or you’re really connecting with the material, it kind of makes the whole thing worthwhile. First time you see an edit, and you get that rush: that’s what the whole thing is about.

I remember one time, it was actually in film school. I was doing a film, and there was a scene when the actor in the film was going through some trials and tribulations. He was supposed to walk down this alley at night, and he kind of has this emotional breakdown – he’s a boxer, and he starts to sort of lightly punch a garbage can and eventually he’s supposed to work into full on boxing this garbage can.

And I remember talking with the actor before it, and he was a young guy. And we were talking, and he told me that he had recently broke up with girlfriend, and it was really emotional, and he was just really drained. And we just had a heart-to-heart moment talking about it, and what we sort of settled on was, this is an opportunity to use these experiences in your life and try to put it into something. He was incredibly dedicated to the project. And it kind of came to this funnel point – this apex point. So we get into this scene to do this shot. It’s a single take. And we ask him ahead of time, hey do you want these gloves. Or do you want us to put up a piece of card board on the garbage bin. And he refused it, and said he just wanted to do it himself.

So we did the shot, and he started to just sort of pitter patter on the garbage can, and then I just saw him just start wailing on this garbage can and… there was sort of this hush in the crew, because it was just this moment, there was just this real outpouring of genuine emotion that was extremely physical and difficult to watch. And kind of guilty too because, as the director, you’re kind of responsible for this guy, and he almost broke his hands on the garbage can doing this. They were bloody, purple, bruised. But seeing those real moments happen in front of you – when someone is really delivering a piece of themselves in a way they may not understand until the moment actually comes.

This was a significant moment for myself. One of those moments I haven’t really been able to replicate thus far. I think moments like that don’t come every day. And it was definitely one of the most significant moments I’ve had on a filmset.

11. What are your favourite books? They could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. 

The first one off the top of my head. My favourite book is Neuromancer by William Gibson. It’s just a fantastic science fiction novel. If you read it, you’ll see how much movies like ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Inception’ are not original ideas. It’s just a fantastically written book. I’m trying right now to get the rights to name my production company off a city in that book, so it’s certainly an important book to me.

Sidney Lumet’s, who was a filmmaker, made movies like ‘Network’ and ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ – one of my favourite filmmakers. He has a book called ‘Making Movies.’ It’s kind of his little handbook on what it is to make movies. It’s not a ‘technical book’ – it kind of goes back to what I was saying about Goethe. His colour theory versus the Newtonian colour theory. One is a technical examination of the process, while the other is examining the experience of that process. And that’s what this book is to me. It’s about the experience of making movies is – emotionally, experientially, spiritually. It’s my favourite book about filmmaking for sure. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in film.

And interestingly, the only other book I would really say – I mean of course read other books – but one of the more important books I’ve read is one called ‘Produced by Faith‘ by DeVon Franklin. He’s an American Film producer. I met him on the first film I worked on after graduating university. This book is essentially a career help book. But not just career because it’s a spiritual book. It was his manuscript for how he got into the film industry and was able to maintain his religious virtues and morality, and everything he believed in, in an industry that doesn’t necessarily compliment that.

I am in no way a religious person in the slightest. I read it mostly because he was someone who I had met, had some conversations with, and I was interested to read what he had to say.

But what I found in that book was an extremely helpful career guide, and a guide of how to maintain your values in any industry – not just religious, but values. Moral values. How to succeed without sacrificing who you believe you are and who you believe you should be.

I got an incredible amount from the book.

And if you can take the time, for anyone who is not religious and wouldn’t necessarily benefit from the spiritual content of the book – if you can take the time and see what the messages are underneath that book. I think there’s a lot there for people of both faith and nonfaith, as taken from a person of non faith.

So, yeah those three books. I guess one for entertainment, one for artistic, and one for career. Right there.

Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees

Loved This Interview? Want More?

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MONTHLY NEWSLETTER – and get that month’s interviews, stories, and Creative Life updates right to your inbox.

You Can Also Follow Us By:



  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Alex Coles: There’s always something more that you could do to succeed. ‘Extraordinary results require extraordinary effort.’
The following two tabs change content below.
These conversations are about the creative soul. They are the true experiences of creatives with their own creative impulse, and they are the private (made public) reflections on what creativity feels like on a very personal level. All interviews are conducted by Christine Bissonnette
Tagged on:                                         

One thought on “Alex Coles: There’s always something more that you could do to succeed. ‘Extraordinary results require extraordinary effort.’

Comments are closed.