Stories From Oregon’s Economy: Steve Coker

Eugene-based producer/ director and casting agent Steve Coker recently shared the story of how Oregon’s growing film and TV industry not only helped him through some hard times -but gave him a full-time career:

Eugene-based Producer/ Director and Casting Director Steve Coker

In 2004 I was working as a General Manager for a wine shop/bistro in Lake Oswego, then for a local family owned chain of Italian restaurants. In addition to that I was working off-and-on as a freelance producer and sometimes casting director for local commercials and indie productions.  I was fairly happy as a manager until I produced my own independent feature Crackin’ The Code in the summer of 2008. 

After I made my film I was never the same.  I knew I wanted to work in the film industry, but like many I was really unaware of the possibilities and opportunities our community possessed.  Like many I felt that working full time was an impossibility unless I relocated to larger communities like LA or New York.  So my dream died a little. 

In 2009 something amazing happened…I got laid off from my General Manager position. I was a little worried at first, I mean that was all I had known for seventeen years…restaurant work.

I quickly lined up an interview to take over another restaurant in Saint Helens where my wife and I owned a home.  I was set to go in for a second interview to discuss the possibilities when my wife sat down with me and asked one question -

“Do you really want to take another restaurant job?” she asked.

I sat and thought about it. And the thing that kept ringing in my head was; “Hell no!”

But my fear was overpowering.  She pointed out that I loved film and that I had been dreaming of running my own casting company, and working in the industry creating digital media,  commercials, and films.  She suggested I take some time to try and develop those skills into a career. But did Oregon have the resources and job opportunities I needed to make a living as a freelance producer and casting director?  I didn’t really know, but I decided to take the risk.

I began meeting with everyone I could for coffee, putting my name out as available and willing.  I signed with an agent to represent me as an actor, I took PA jobs for friends, I applied for a business license to start my own casting company CokerCasting, I even began to develop scripts I’d sat on for some time.

It took about three months before I started to see a return. I was cast in the second episode of  Leverage‘s second season, got three months of editing work with a local production company, worked as a creative producer for an Intel spot and 1st AD on one for Sisco Communication Systems, and was even asked to cast an indie feature Trainmaster 2: Jeremiah’s Treasure for Phil Bransom Productions… THEN asked to co-write the script as well.

I worked like this for about fourteen months before I was called by my former Restaurant and offered my old job back. I was in a little slump at the moment and thought sure… maybe a steady paycheck would be better. I hated the thought but I was still nervous for the future.

Then it happened: A few weeks before the restaurant offered me my old job, I’d applied for a position at Chambers Productions .  Chambers called me before I accepted my old position.  I interviewed with them and they offered me the job. I have been with Chambers now since March of 2010 and am currently their Senior Producer/Director.

Every day now I get up and get paid to work in the industry I love… an industry that I had thought had no jobs to offer… one I thought couldn’t sustain the talent of this community and grow our state’s economy. I was wrong.

Every month I produce projects that require our hiring the vast resources our film community has to offer.  Camera Operators, Voice and On-Camera Talent, Sound Engineers, Gaffers, Grips, Makeup Artists… monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily I am offering job opportunities to folks who make a living in our industry.  From  freelance artists, as I once was, to seasoned and established professionals.  Just like the people who hired me when I was a freelancer. And one day those freelancers and Professionals will turn around and hire people or recommend people for work as well. It is a cyclical business and it needs to be promoted and celebrated.

I am so encouraged by the numerous productions that I see moving into Oregon, by the opportunities our incentive programs bring to this state and by the artists who make their living here. It would be a travesty should we lose those opportunities. 

Stand up and let people know your story. Tell everyone how you make your living in the industry. And remember to hire as many local talents and craftspeople as you can in order to assure our continued growth.

Steve Coker is a Senior Producer/ Director at Chambers Productions, and the Owner of CokerCasting LLC.

We want to hear your story!  Have you seen Oregon Film and TV Dollars at work in your community?  Did those dollars help you through a difficult time? Did a production buy something from a business you own, or work at?  Maybe you’ve found one of these bills in your pocket, or in your “till” at work!  Click here to share your story!


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About Haroldphillips

Harold Phillips has worked professionally in theatre, film and television for over 20 years. In that time, he's built a reputation for his commitment to the characters he plays and his efforts to strengthen the film and theatre industries in the cities he's worked in. Harold has gained prominence in the quickly growing world of digital media, with appearances in the wildly popular web series Lady Wasteland, Animus Cross, and the interactive movie The Outbreak. In addition to appearances in commercials and independent films (including the comedic Crackin' The Code and thrillers Sum Of The Parts and Dark Horizon), Harold has spent many years working on stage in the Pacific Northwest. To learn more about Harold, please visit his web site at http://www.haroldphillips.net or follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/haroldPDX
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