By Janee Law
An ordinary mother-to-son conversation changed the life of Centerport resident Cosmo Carlson when he was 7 years old. His mother told him that “The Truman Show,” a 1998 cult classic starring Jim Carrey, involved a script and strategic process.
Like a child discovering the truth about Santa Claus, Carlson said he felt cheated, but the epiphany of movie magic pointed him down the road to study, direct, produce, write and star in films.
“I had watched a whole bunch of Jim Carrey movies growing up and fell in love with him so I originally wanted to be an actor, and I still do,” said Carlson, now 21.
Today, he’s a senior at New York University, studying film and television. Earlier this year, Carlson and colleagues Jacob Grover and Brenden Hall took home an award for best picture at NYU’s Tisch 48 Film Competition, a university-wide competition featuring 20 films that were created by students in 48 hours, and based off of prompts given to teams two days before the competition.
Carlson, Grover and Hall collaboratively wrote, directed, produced and edited their film, “Culinary Wands,” a three-minute-long satire comedy that spoofs Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform that has users create introduction videos for their proposed projects.
In “Culinary Wands,” Carlson said, the characters rebrand chopsticks and ask people to donate a “truck load of money.”
Carlson said that while the filmmaking process was stressful at times, he loved “every minute of it.”
“I am proud that our film won best picture,” he said. “We were up against some formidable competition.”
Carlson first dipped his toes into the world of filmmaking in 2007 after watching films like “There Will Be Blood,” “No Country For Old Men” and “Ratatouille,” telling himself, “These films are amazing, and I want to make something like this.”
That summer, Carlson attended Interlochen Center for the Arts, a boarding school in Michigan, enrolling in its film program.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I wanted to study film in school as opposed to acting or writing because film is multifaceted,” Carlson said. “You have writing, acting, editing, directing, cinematography and sound. I felt like I was going to sink my teeth into a bigger meal than just one thing.”
While attending Harborfields High School, Carlson participated in the Playfest class competition, during which freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes each write, direct, act and produce their own 30-minute stage play. As a freshman, Carlson starred in the play. But, he said, he ending up writing the play during his sophomore, junior and senior years.
“That showmanship of writing was a lot of fun, especially in theater. If it’s a comedy and people are laughing, it feels fantastic when you get that response,” Carlson, who graduated from Harborfields in 2012, said.
His class won Playfest each of the four years he attended Harborfields, giving him the confidence that he was an “adequate storyteller.”
Carlson is set to graduate from NYU in May. He’s currently working on another film, “The Derby,” for his thesis. The 14-minute-long short film is based on the Pinewood Derby competition, which he competed in as a Boy Scout. He said he plans to start filming in Greenlawn and Centerport at the end of April.