Colin Warde and The Film Industry in Oklahoma
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work on a movie set and in the showbiz field? I have, and so I asked someone who knows, a native Oklahoman who is a big part of the still small, yet growing film-making industry in our state. His descriptions of his experiences read much like a Showbiz 101 class for all those interested in various aspects of the field while giving insight as to what it’s like to pursue a career in the film and television career. This Stillwater resident recently spoke to Uniquelahoma about following his yellow brick road to a field of dreams amid an industry where jobs come and then are gone with the wind.
Colin Warde is one of the thousands of cogs in a machine necessary for the production of any product. As with any functioning piece of machinery, each cog, nut, bolt, and handle is a must if the machine is to keep running smoothly. Over the past ten years, Warde has played many roles in the big machine that projects new worlds on the big screen and the small one. His role in this capacity has led him to work in many places and among many fascinating people. But just as Dorothy on her yellow brick road, his path too leads him back home too. And there is no place like home…to be in the movie industry!
Behind The Scenes
Warde’s dream was not that of the actor who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Although he does act on occasion, he always felt that the acting gig was financially volatile. He, instead, chose a dream of doing something that he enjoyed which was still mentally and physically challenging. As an Eagle Scout, he had been challenged, and that was something he wanted in a career as well. Although unaware at the time in 2003 that working in the film industry was the path he would follow, an invitation to work with a friend on an amateur film project would set him on that course. His friend and fellow student at OSU asked him to act in a horror movie. (Think Blair Witch Project type of film.) However, the acting didn’t intrigue him as much as everything else did.
It wouldn’t take long before he began to realize how many different aspects are in involved in making a movie. As this was low budget, there wasn’t any money to pay for all of these different aspects, and so his friend was juggling them all on his own. This issue became an opportunity for Warde to begin working behind the scenes to help out his friend. After graduation, he was unsure as to which direction to go. He was not sure about acting, but he felt something in the entertainment field was calling to him. He initially thought Chicago was a good place to get his feet wet…he was wrong. There just wasn’t a market there at that time.
The lack of market has become a reality that I deal with all of the time, Warde said. He was learning how quickly the wind of fortune can sweep in and how quickly they can be gone to the wind. He moved back to Oklahoma and settled in the city (OKC). He had bought into all the hype of crime and gang activity in Los Angeles and New York City, and it had made him uneasy about moving out to one of those places where there was a thriving market. As such, he was at a standstill. Then his mother suggested that he check out Oklahoma City Community College because she had been told that it had a very good film and video program. At first, he was skeptical. After all, this was Oklahoma, not exactly a mecca for the film industry.
His skepticism was laid to rest though when he learned that Fritz Kiersch, Director of Children of the Corn and Gray Frederickson, Co-Producer of The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now were teaching classes in the program. So at 25 years of age and with a Bachelor Degree already in hand, he became a student again and loved it. His involvement there would lead to an interesting opportunity. Kiersch and Frederickson were producing a horror movie entitled “The Hunt” over spring break and naturally put out that they were looking for help.
The Tie That Binds
“I have a friend who always tells this story about me. While all of the other students were showing up for interviews in sweatshirts and dressed like they were going for a job at Pizza Hut, I came with a tie and resume prepared for a professional interview. He found out later Kiersch had said he hired him as soon as he saw he was wearing a tie. He was employed as a production assistant and had a great time learning how a movie gets made. He continued living in OKC and began making contacts and building his resume by working in production departments one movie or commercial at a time in the market that was growing in Oklahoma.
Warde explained that when people see you on set and notice that you work hard and show up on time, someone will eventually ‚“scoop you up and ask you what you like doing and what interests you‚”. When this happened to him, he ended up in the art department, which consists of the set and props. Something about creating an atmosphere and developing an ambiance appealed to him. This would benefit him greatly when he moved to Los Angeles. He was lured out there by a friend who got him a job on a television series. Unfortunately, that mid-season replacement didn’t go anywhere, and four months later he was out of a job, but not for long. He then worked on the Jeff Goldblum cop show, Raines. Working in television was exciting for him even though the shows he worked on did not materialize into long-running series.
Winds of Fortune
“But hey I was working in LA, and it was exciting,” Warde said. He explains that everything on television as far as success and longevity is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Because of this, one might get on a show and have a job for ten years or one that lasts only a few months. He explains the type of is work like an adrenaline rush where there is intense energy followed by a calm nothingness. The film and television industry is not a steady paycheck, but there are so many avenues in show business with so many people involved that one can usually find work of one sort or another. A phone call from a network executive who remembered him from the first series he worked on remembered him and offered him a job that countless people must have envied.
“Nobody knew that I had been watching Star Trek my entire life when they handed me the keys and code to the building with all of it‚ everything from the franchise! Warde was a huge fan who had just been given the responsibility to sort, categorize and sell the entire lot of memorabilia from one of the most successful franchises in cinematic history. He was in awe, and although it was not what he came to LA to do, he couldn’t turn it down. The toughest part was deciding what had to be destroyed. Unfortunately, not all of it could be sold. This was “heartbreaking” he said. There were six warehouses of everything from phasers to costumes to large set components. “It looked just like the warehouse in the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark with crate upon crate in a desolate location. Over the next three years, he ran online auctions averaging $100,000 per week in sales while making a very good living for himself. Although he was not working on a set at the time, it was an incredible opportunity to be working in an atmosphere of such historical significance.
The Voyage Home
Sadly though, all good things come to an end. Without another job lined up and a child on the way, the next step up was the voyage home. He came back to Oklahoma, became a father and began reinventing himself to fit into what was happening, production-wise at home. At that time, commercials were the big thing, and he found himself immersed in that aspect of it, again in the art department. The timing was perfect. The Oklahoma City Thunder had become a big deal, and suddenly huge companies like Nike and ESPN among others were there to cash in. This influx of new business made his talents in the art department very valuable. He was local and available. All of his hard work and patience was paying off.
August Through December Osage County
“I was hungry and fierce. It was awesome! I was building my kit and all of my equipment and gear,” he said. All of the commercials would finally lead to his big opportunity in Oklahoma, working on August: Osage County with an all-star cast including Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard among others. An interesting fact from behind the scenes, Warde said that August Osage actually went all the way into December Osage. As per his job of keeping the set looking like it was summer (Set Continuity), the art department was painting the grass green and using zip ties to replace fallen leaves from the trees. There is no business like show business as the saying goes. Since his return to Oklahoma, he has become one of, if not the top art person in Oklahoma. This accomplishment is something he is very proud of and validation that he has been on the right road these past ten years. He also now works in production design as well which puts him working with the directors on the overall feel of the production.
Warde has worked with and loves mentoring people and considers himself a teacher to those who truly have a desire to work in the industry. During his career, he has had the opportunity to work in a lot of locations due to his desire to be a part of the film industry. Also, just like Film 101, he is always willing to teach newcomers how to find their role and become part of the bigger picture that is movie making.