This is one in a series on Odd Hollywood Jobs — not acting or directing, but rather the tasks you haven't heard of. You can read other segments in this series at the links below the story.
When he joined the Army 18 years ago, Lt. Col. Steven Cole never thought he would be working in Hollywood. After a long career with the Army that has sent him around the world, he now serves as a liaison between the Army and the entertainment industry.
"The army has an entertainment liaison office out here in Los Angeles that basically serves as a conduit between production companies for film and television, studios or individual production companies, and the army," said Cole on Take Two. "We help translate army into production company and production company back into army."
As part of our series on little-known Hollywood jobs, Cole joins the whow to talk about how he got into this line of work, what he does and how he balances the real with the fictional.
On what his day to day is like:
"Who we deal with on a day to day basis are the people that roll through on the credits. I see productions as army units, so director is the commander, the talent are the soldiers, and then the producers and all those that make the movie or TV show run, those are the people that I deal with."
On the Army's longstanding relationship with Hollywood:
"I think one of the most interesting things about the job is that the very first Academy Award-winning Best Picture in 1927 was a movie called "Wings," a silent movie. The army provided an aircraft for it. In a lot of ways the army has been involved in Hollywood as long as there has been a Hollywood. There's times where we do more and there's times where we do less just based on viewer appetites for films that depict the army."
On why its important for the Army have a relationship with Hollywood:
"We don't work for Army recruiting, but one of the biggest barriers to military service in general and the Army in particular is just familiarity with the service. I happen to come from a family that has a long military history, but if you don't know anything about the Army, all you know is what you see on television. So outdated depictions of the army may be all that you know. So what we try to do is depict the Army as realistically as possible so that future soldiers come in with their eyes wide open about what it is they're joining up to do."
On how he became a military liaison:
"The golden path to this job, I was commissioned out of West Point in 1995, that was about eight years of my career, spent in what conventional Army units. Then the military academy asked me to go back to graduate school, then I went back to teach at the military academy for three years in the history department. From there I became a public affairs officer and then deployed to Afghanistan to be part of the international security assistance force NATO staff there. Coming back from that assignment went to work at FleishmanHillard, which is a corporate global communications firm, to try to understand how big business uses communication to explain what it is they do. Took that experience and I'm not really applying those lessons to explain what the Army is all about."
On toeing the line between real and fiction:
I think there's a fine line between exciting and reality, so sometimes you want sexy. The lone wolf character, or whatever, and we say look the Army is a team sport. This isn't how it would be. Most people that work with us understand that and that's why they ask us to participate. The DOD instruction that we follow provides for those things that don't exist, but in a world where they did exist how would the Army react to them? The U.S. Army having Superman's back is probably what we would do, in defending the country and supporting the Constitution of the United States, that's our job. So would we do that in these make-believe worlds? Sure. If we were doing that how would be act? That's how we have to think about our roles in these films.
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