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Poly hosts alum and filmmaker Cole Swanson ’19

Poly+hosts+alum+and+filmmaker+Cole+Swanson+19
Will Oreck

In the mere five years since Cole Swanson ‘19 graduated from Poly, he’s already made a name for himself in the film world.

Swanson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and television production from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He then attended England’s National Film and Television School, where he was selected as a director.

“He’s still quite young as a filmmaker, so what he’s been able to accomplish so far… already show[s] a really mature eye,” said Adam Feldmeth, a film teacher who supported Swanson during his time at Poly.

Poly’s Dec. 1 Back to the Big Screen event screened two of his short films, “Baby” and “Betty & Blue.” “Baby” (2021) follows a single dad raising a young girl after his partner leaves. It won Best Short at the Harlem International Film Festival and was screened at the Pan African Film Festival, BlackHarvest Film Festival and LA Shorts International.

Swanson’s most recent short, “Betty & Blue,” comes out later this year. It stars renowned actor Keith David reflecting on his career as a jazz actor and his relationship with his father.

Swanson coined the term “New Wave Black Naturalism” to describe his work.

“It’s this notion of Black characters in a space that might not traditionally be a normal space [for black characters] to occupy, yet it’s completely possible,” Swanson said.

All of his films feature a mostly Black cast, but race is not necessarily the central conflict.

“I don’t love to dwell in the horrors of the Black experience, but rather I’d like to uplift our Black experience,” he added.

Recently, Swanson has been chosen as Poly’s inaugural filmmaker-in-residence. During block week, he led workshops in Film 1 and Film 2 classes, teaching the next generation of Poly filmmakers.

“I learned a lot about how to direct actors,” said sophomore Jack Schugren, a student in Film 2.

“It is really powerful to have an opportunity to learn from and work directly with people who are pursuing filmmaking in a professional manner,” Feldmeth said.

Swanson is currently working on his first feature-length film, “Bloom.”

“It’s a drama-romance-coming-of-age film about a kid from LA who travels to Italy… and meets a group of kids who bring him into their world,” he explained.

The Poly community is excited to learn from Swanson and follow his progress as he further refines his skills in the filmmaking industry.

Will Oreck
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