Tuesday
Apr032012

Luke Coffee: Actor, Producer, Director

Luke worked for five years in Los Angeles for both Warner Brothers and NBC/Universal as the post-production coordinator for such shows as "Everwood" and "Las Vegas." He returned to Texas in 2007, soon after starting his production company, Coffee Productions, Inc. Luke spent the next two years shooting and directing music videos, a series of web commercials, and a documentary, which he also co-produced, about the Austin, Texas live music scene for European TV. In 2009, Luke spent six months living in Cape Town, South Africa, where he produced a spec travel-reality series entitled "Gypsy Kings—South Africa" geared toward the 2010 World Cup.

Luke is also a working actor, booking various roles in national commercials, music videos, television and feature films. His highlights from 2010 include co-starring roles on NBC's "Friday Night Lights", Jerry Bruckheimer's "Chase" and the lead role in Ridley Scott’s film "The Hunt," shot in South Africa. He also recently co-wrote, produced and directed "Cubicle Cowboy," a mockumentary surrounding big Texas characters.

AHD: You’ve amassed considerable experience, both in front of and behind the camera. Going back to your time studying Film and Television at Baylor University, was it always your aim to act, produce and direct?

LC: I have always desired to produce, with the intention of one day directing, but I had no real intention to pursue acting, especially in Los Angeles. I moved to LA immediately after finishing at Baylor and I started working in television with post-production on the lot at Warner Brothers. The casting director of the show I worked for called “Everwood” strongly encouraged me to pursue the other side of the camera, which I reluctantly dismissed at the time. I guess I got the itch after a year or so when I was randomly cast in an indie feature. I began taking acting classes in Hollywood regularly as I pursued my career in post. NBC/Universal hired me as a post coordinator where I was logging 90 to 100 hours of work in a week. In the last year and a half, I made a decision to quit and pursue acting full time, which was an adventure to say the least. I feel blessed to be back in Dallas where I can pursue all three of my passions here in the Texas industry.

AHD: What’s the best and most challenging part of each discipline?

LC: The best and most challenging aspects might go hand-in-hand. For acting, I would say the greatest challenge is the ability to lose all inhibitions and be in the moment without carrying any anxiety about how your performance is viewed at that time. To me, it’s a very freeing experience when you can get to that point as an artist.

Producing is like being an event director, which I actually did during my time in LA. You take someone’s vision on paper and figure out a way to make it come to life with the given budget. There are many ingredients to make that happen: cast, crew, locations, rentals, etc. As a producer, you must be creative most of the time to make it all come together under that price point while leading your team, made up of your crew and cast, as you manage the expectations of your clients.

I know my acting experiences working with many different directors on unique projects have greatly helped me as a director. Recently, we did a YMCA commercial where our awesome little actors were from 3 to 10 years old. When I directed them, I basically acted out how I wanted them to deliver their lines. It was pretty humorous, but a bit exhausting for the kids and myself. With my acting experience, I appreciate the “actor’s directors” or those who can relate to actors as well as artists. I hope to continue growing my skill set and have that reputation for my directing style.

AHD: Coffee Productions specializes in commercials, corporate, documentaries, music videos and broadcast. Whether it’s a fifteen second TV spot or a feature-length film, you’re still telling stories. How is a compelling narrative essential to your work?

LC: A compelling narrative is essential and it’s the reason I chose this profession. I have always been a storyteller and love a great, well-told story.  To me, that’s the art of entertainment in general. The overall goal is to tell a compelling narrative that grabs the audience’s attention, and makes them laugh, cry and be inspired. Film and Video is a powerful medium in that it can captivate an audience, whether for fifteen seconds or 2 hours. Look at where we are with social networking and the free sharing of videos on YouTube; there is a universal audience just waiting for the next compelling narrative. It’s an exciting and innovative time for indie filmmakers!

AHD: “Language of a Broken Heart”, a romantic comedy you co-produced, was an Official Selection at the 2011 Dallas International Film Festival. How rewarding was it to team up with Emmy-award winning director Rocky Powell and receive the DIFF selection?

LC: I had a prayer several years ago that God would lead me to someone who would believe in me enough to come alongside and really mentor me in this business. Rocky has been the greatest blessing to me both personally and professionally. He brings over twenty years of experience directing national spots for Walmart, Southwest Airlines, and Popeyes Chicken, along with many other huge clients. I am the oldest in my family, so I never had an older brother, but that is what I equate our relationship to. It has been awesome to be a producer on his first directed feature and we have plans for many more in the future. Coffee Productions is fortunate to be under the umbrella of RockHouse Films, Rocky’s company and office at RockHouse Studios here in Uptown.

AHD: Since returning to Dallas from LA, how have you seen the local film scene evolve? How is the creative community in Dallas unique when compared to others?

LC: Historically, Dallas has had a lot of commercial production along with a good amount of TV and film projects scattered throughout the last decade. In the last several years with the success of TV shows like Dallas’ own “Prison Break” and the Austin-based “Friday Night Lights,” we’ve seen Hollywood studios bring other projects here. Unfortunately, several of these shows lasted only a season or two, but the film production community hopes that will change. The creative community here in Dallas is much more interconnected than other cities where I’ve lived. I think that is because the community is not as widespread as cities like LA or NYC. I think we are all eager to make Dallas more than just a concrete jungle and appreciate the great art and artists that live and will continue to prosper here.

AHD: What are some of your favorite things to do in Dallas when you aren’t working on a project?

LC: I love hearing live music whenever possible. We have live concerts here at the studio with Texas-based singer/songwriter types and I attend a lot of those. I love the outdoor spots with patios like Lee Harvey’s and the Katy Trail Ice House, especially in this weather. I also appreciate a great margarita and hanging out at a friend’s place with a crew.

AHD: Your work has touched on human trafficking, adoption and a host of other social issues. You also champion the efforts of several area non-profits. Why do you choose to use your creativity for the common good? How does your faith play a role in the kinds of projects you take on?

LC: There are many great organizations and NGOs making a difference here in DFW. Our company is blessed to highlight some of these groups and individuals through the medium of film. It's so powerful to see and hear their stories in a video piece that can really tug on an audience's heartstrings and even inspire donors to give. It's a goal for our company to use our creativity to continue to assist the overall survival of these organizations by using our product as a tool to raise charitable contributions and further celebrate how folks share their love of making changes in the broken world in which we live.

It is so fulfilling to share the gifts and calling the Lord has given me to bless others as He has blessed me. I have also experienced many folks who unselfishly loved me through difficult trials in my life and I know it is my turn and calling to do the same when I have an opportunity. My life's mission verse in recent years has been 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

AHD: “Texas Angel: A True Story of Faith, Hope & Love” is currently in development. What is this project about and why is it significant for you?

LC: "Texas Angel" is a feature project very close to my heart. Around 5 years ago, I lost my best friend and the woman I desired to spend my forever with, Elizabeth Toon. She moved out to Los Angeles and was pursuing a career in film with our mutual goal to one day produce movies together. On November 5, 2006 a hit-and-run driver struck us both as we crossed a street in Hollywood. We were in the crosswalk when Elizabeth's heel came out of her shoe. I picked her up and put her over my shoulder as the car plowed through the red light, hitting both of us. She left this earth instantly, while I miraculously survived. I would live on to experience my living nightmare and, in-turn, lose my faith. But, through God's grace He showed me how real He was, and further gave me hope that while Elizabeth's life here is done, her story isn't over.

Though I struggled with survivor's guilt and so badly hurt as I lived on without her by my side, I experienced supernatural miracles that made it more clear and evident than ever before that I wasn't alone and God was beside me. I wrote a script about my journey, which tells this story along with the one of forgiveness I know I've been called to share. It's story of a man's love, a father and family's love for the same woman, and how the Lord uses the three things that will remain forever—Faith, Hope, and Love—to pull them through tragedy. My goal with the project is to tell a real, main-stream story of life's harsh reality and the beauty that can exist even in darkness, with the goal to encourage the discouraged. After waiting for the right time to move forward, and for her precious family and myself to further heal, I'm excited to announce we will soon be moving forward with this film. And my good buddy Rocky Powell will be directing!

AHD: What are some of your favorite movies that influenced your decision to pursue a career in film?

LC: A few of my favorites would be "Legends of the Fall, "A River Runs Through It" and "Braveheart" (which I know is a lot of guy's favorites). I guess I'm a fan of the epic types. I am also a huge "Godfather" (both I and II) fan, and will usually stop what I am doing to watch either again if they come on the tube. Growing up I loved the "Indiana Jones" films. I actually made my very first “movie” at my family's ranch when I was around 10 years old, which was a spoof called "Indiana Jones & the Last Cow Patty". That said, I do love me some comedy as I am hardly a serious person. I can see the ability for that particular genre to take people out of the problems of their day and get them to just laugh. I appreciate everything from "Caddy Shack" to "Anchorman" when I need a good laugh fix and I plan to continue as a goal to produce comedic material on top of dramatic pieces that make you think and hopefully inspire.

AHD: What’s the next Coffee Productions offering and where can we go to see it?

LC: We are super excited to have completed our first comedic pitch pilot called "Cubicle Cowboy," a mockumentary following a half-wit with an old-school Texas heart who attempts to blaze a trail through the fast paced Dallas social scene, but can't avoid blazing his own trail of misfortune and comedy. It's shot in the same style as "Parks and Rec" and/or "The Office", and we have just begun pitching it to networks and cable. We are also shopping a sizzle pilot for a reality show we produced called "The Headhunter" featuring Tony Beshara, which is about America's top job placement specialist as he assists the unemployed with finding work.

Coffee Productions is wrapping up our feature documentary "Old Man Football," which tells the story of an Alumni group down in Corpus Christi that, after many years, has strapped on the football pads once again. We are planning to begin the festival circuit soon with that film. And finally, we are excited to announce you will likely see our feature romantic comedy "Language of a Broken Heart" in theaters late summer. Visit www.languageofabrokenheart.com or our Facebook group to stay informed.

Follow Luke's work here: http://coffeeproductionsinc.com/

 

 

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