When hundreds of Harborites packed the theaters last April to watch “Avengers: Endgame,” they probably didn’t realize a former Montesano resident played an important role in getting the film made, along with numerous other major films such as “The Social Network” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Adam Cole, 40, grew up in Montesano and took an unconventional path from not having much ambition after high school to now acting as a post-production supervisor at Marvel and previously working for other major film companies in Los Angeles. Some comic geeks would probably kill for a chance to be in his shoes and know the development and secrets of upcoming Marvel movies, and Cole said most of his friends now know to not ask for spoilers that break company policy.
Cole’s job as post-production supervisor is mostly as an administrator and manager, acting as the glue that brings together and coordinates all the departments, like visual effects, sound and editing to ensure these blockbuster movies get completed.
Although he thinks others in Montesano are more deserving of a profile story, Scott said he hopes his can inspire local kids to show that anyone can achieve career success if they’re determined.
“I’m probably the best example of: ‘If I can do something like this, anyone can do anything,’” said Cole. “I’m not the brightest or smartest, I just busted my ass to follow my dreams.”
When growing up in Montesano, Cole said he didn’t have much of an idea what he’d do after high school. He loved television and movies, but wasn’t serious about filmmaking then. He described himself as a class clown, doing just enough to not fail classes. In the fall of 1997 after high school, Cole was working at McDonald’s in Aberdeen when his friend invited him to move with him to northern California.
After moving to the Fremont California area, Cole worked, along with many immigrant workers, in a factory polishing computer hard drive discs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day. He said the job humbled him, watching as coworkers dealt with harder life situations.
“One guy I worked with was a doctor in India; he moved over here to give his family a better life, and he’s working a graveyard shift before going to Stanford during the day to become a doctor in the U.S.” said Cole. “It’s one of those eye-opening things where I learned the value of education and realized, ‘Oh s***, I need to do something with myself. All these people are dealing with other things much more hardcore.’”
Cole enrolled in a local community college in California, and got interested in filmmaking, taking as many classes on it as possible while also taking school more seriously.
“My friends and I were making little videos, and I always had a love of movies and TV. I started taking classes in it, and realized you could have a career in it and not be an actor; there’s all these other avenues,” said Cole.
He then enrolled as a geology major at UCLA before applying again to enter its more exclusive film program, which accepts only around 30 applicants each year, he said. He waited tables while going to film school, shot some of his own movies, and eventually a friend recommended him to be assistant to the head of a post-production operation.
From there he started getting involved as a freelance post-production coordinator, working under renowned directors like David Fincher for “The Social Network,” which tells the story of Facebook’s rise, and Christopher Nolan films “Interstellar” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Since then, Cole began working primarily on Marvel films, starting with “Iron Man 3” and going on to eventually take a higher position as post-production supervisor starting with “Doctor Strange” in 2016 and then for the two final Avengers movies, which set worldwide box office records.
He was even at the studios the somber day after Marvel icon Stan Lee passed away.
Even though he gets to interact with household name actors, Cole said over time it has felt just like any other job. But he said it is cool getting to see the movie go from its first draft to a final product.
“It was very surreal to be on set of Avengers, to see the scale, since it’s one of the biggest movies of all time, being able to walk through and experience it,” he said.
For his job, Cole has to move between each department, going from the editing studio, to the recording room to re-record dialogue and generally helping coordinate the steps to finish the movie. He said the best analogy for his role is an overloaded train with people hanging off the sides, telling passengers when to get off to work on a certain part of the movie.
The job can get stressful, especially in the last several months when it becomes 14-hour work days seven days a week, Cole said. In his breaks between movies he enjoys traveling around the world to reset, and at one point volunteered teaching kids in Peru which he said helped him put his work stress in perspective.
Reflecting on his path to movie-making, Cole said he encourages young people who might be struggling with direction in life to get out of their comfort zone, and try new things that might lead them to a career they never considered before.
“You might think you can’t do filmmaking, but you can take free courses online,” said Cole. “There’s no reason you can’t. Everyone has a smartphone, and you have libraries, just dive in and have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Cole now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two cats, and joked that his commute has gotten better over time so it’s not an hour and a half each way now.