Thursday, December 6, 2012

10 Questions with Michael Todd Cohen

By Richard Oceguera

Subject: Michael Todd Cohen, Staff Creative Producer
Name of Business: Lumina Films
Making Movies Since: 1996
Number of Employees: 3
Location: 231 W. 29th Street, #807 NY, NY 10001

What is Lumina Films and what services do you offer?

Lumina Films is a full service production company. We produce content from television shows, to local and national broadcast to small business promotional videos.

Your role is “Staff Creative Producer.” What does that mean?

In a company this small it means a lot of things. It includes researching stories, writing scripts and physically producing shows in the field. I bring together all the different logistics behind a show such as handling schedules, crews, travel. I act like the glue for the crew making sure everything is running as smooth as possible. It can be very stressful. Thankfully I have a very great fiancé, Daniel, who calms me down at times!

The film and video industry is extremely competitive, especially in New York. How do you stay ahead of the pack?

I think networking is key. Developing in-depth, meaningful, relationships is key. Rather than fighting against the community and trying to rise above the pack, I’ve become an integral knowledge source. For example, when you look at social media like Twitter most people think of it like a megaphone for blasting personal info. Instead, if you flip it around and become very interested in what others are saying it is more impactful. If people see that I am listening they will get to know me and trust me and then I can be a resource for them.

What’s been your greatest project so far?

One of the shows we work on is called The Next List for CNN. It’s a half hour documentary series hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta about agents of cultural change. The second episode I wrote and produced was about a fourth generation silversmith named Ubaldo Vitali. It turned out to be an amazing piece that I’m very proud of showcasing an incredible artisan of this dying art. In fact, I created such a strong connection with Ubaldo that I asked him for help. I said, “Ubaldo, I know you are not a jeweler, but I am hoping you will be willing to create our wedding rings.” He said, “You’re right, I’m not a jeweler but I will do for you what I did for my own kids. I will help you forge your own rings.” And so Daniel and I went to his shop and Ubaldo guided us through the entire process. Not only was the episode we produced beautiful, but the personal interaction with Ubaldo as we created our silver rings is something that will be with us always.

CNN The Next List - Ubaldo Vitali Promo 3 from Lumina Films on Vimeo.

You have an extensive background in film and video producing. What is it about this work that calls to you?

Wow, well, I graduated with a degree in acting. And I had an agent and moved to New York but something was missing. As an actor you are a piece of the puzzle. But I realized I wanted to create the entire puzzle! As a producer I’m involved from first inception all the way through to the end of the project and that is very satisfying for me. And something I get as a producer that I loved about being an actor is the sense of community and collaboration. If you’re not collaborating you can’t create good work.

How important is video as a tool for small businesses?

As far as I’m concerned it’s an essential tool. You need to move at the speed of business. And right now what the market is consuming is mass quantities of video content. Video gives you an opportunity to reach more people via your website. There’s nothing better to build trust with clients than seeing an earnest, personal message from you as a business owner. At Lumina Films we work with small businesses to create custom promotional videos based on your budget and needs. It’s all scalable depending on what you are looking for. We recently did a project for a small PR firm and I think it really showcases who they are and the value they offer their clients.

Victoria: Laura Davidson Public Relations from Lumina Films on Vimeo.

Lumina Films joined NGLCCNY in June this year. What appeals to you about the Chamber? What do you find of value?

Community and collaboration! As a small production company it’s important to reach out to the community around us and to be of use and value. LGBT rights and the strengthening of our community is important to me. My boss understood this and encouraged my participation and it’s been a positive experience so far. I’ve met with great people like Roman Feeser of Scholastic and Bernadette Coveney Smith of 14 Stories. We’ve had promising conversations about future business development.

You’re originally from MA. What brought you to NYC? 

I’m from the Town of Marblehead, MA. It’s a historic fishing village founded in 1629 and I’m very connected to that place. Being an actor steered me to New York. The thing about NYC is you have to want to be here. After my first year here I was overwhelmed so I moved back to Boston. Then after a year, and lots of thinking, I came back to the city. Daniel and I purchased an apartment on 43rd and 10th and now this is my real home. Next summer we’re due to get married back in Swampscott, MA at our family home that once belonged to my grandfather. My parents, brother, aunt and uncle and cousin were all married at this same house.

You are extremely well connected. What’s your secret to building relationships? 

Honesty. If I can walk into a room and be 100% myself I will draw similar energy to me. If you start out being honest it grows from there. I think there is myth in business that you have to be a shark. You can be an honest, assertive person without having to be a shark. I’ve developed this mindset from trial and error and also from my training as an actor. In fact, I’m now a guest speaker at the Weist Baron School teaching actors how to develop this same mindset and networking skills.

Uptown or Downtown?

Can’t it be in the middle? I’m all together a Hell’s Kitchen guy!

Richard Oceguera is CEO of Merchant Mart USA and the founding President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce New York. He’s an Entrepreneur, Visionary Community Leader and Media Personality. Follow him at and @RichardOceguera on Twitter and Facebook.

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