Talmage Cooley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Talmage Newman Cooley (born in Charlottesville, Virginia) is an American social entrepreneur and filmmaker. He is co-Founder and former co-CEO of The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (formerly PAX).[1] While attending the Harvard Kennedy School in 2012 [2]he founded Democracy.com.[3]He has also written and directed several award-winning films.[4]


After graduating from the University of Virginia, Cooley began directing television commercials, including some for prominent social impact organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Partnership for a Drug Free America.[5] Through this work, he began researching how large-scale social messaging efforts could successfully shift cultural norms and launch grassroots movements. This led to his founding of The Gun Violence Project, a collaboration with The Creative Coalition, and then co-founding  The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (originally called PAX).[5] In 2012, Cooley graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School with a master's degree focused on democratic inclusion, social network theory and movement building. This research led to the creation of Democracy.com, an online platform for civic engagement that "empowers every citizen to take action on the issues and elections they care about in under 60 seconds".[6]

Social Entrepreneurship[edit]

Gun Violence Project, PAX, Center to Prevent Youth Violence[edit]

In 1995, Cooley founded The Gun Violence Project, a non-profit organization with the mission to reposition the gun violence issue as an urgent matter of public health rather than the seemingly intractable political wedge issue it had become.[1] In 1996, The Gun Violence Project, in collaboration with The Creative Coalition, created its first campaign (voice-over by Alec Baldwin), which focused on the dangers of kids taking their parents' guns to school. In 1997, The Gun Violence Project merged into a new organization called PAX [1], founded by Cooley and Daniel Gross, an advertising executive whose brother was wounded in the shooting atop the Empire State Building in 1997.[1]

By 2000, PAX had become the largest non-lobbying organization working on gun violence prevention as a result of the success and rapid expansion of its ASK[7] and SPEAK UP campaigns. The ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign leverages partnerships with over 400 national and grassroots organizations that promote the ASK message, driven by the fact that almost 40% of homes with children have a gun, and almost half those guns are either unlocked or loaded. The message to parents is "ASK your neighbors about guns before you send your kids over to play. It's not about politics, it's about common sense parenting.".[8] The SPEAK UP program created a national hotline for young people to anonymously report weapon related threats in their schools and neighborhoods, and has received over 40,000 calls since inception.[9]

Cooley directed commercials for the ASK and SPEAK UP campaigns, with voice-over by Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon. These campaigns pioneered a new approach to the gun violence issue, designed to have immediate impact on the frequency of gun deaths and injuries while also shifting the national dialogue around guns to a prevention-driven, public health and safety orientation. This innovative, non-partisan approach to gun violence prevention represented a stark contrast to the politics-based framing which had dominated the issue for many years without significant success.[10][11]

In 2011, PAX officially changed its name to The Center to Prevent Youth Violence[12] to better reflect the youth and family focus of its prevention driven campaigns. Cooley resigned as co-CEO of The Center to Prevent Youth Violence in 2004 but remained on the organization's Board of Trustees until its merger with the Brady Center in 2012. By 2018, the ASK and SPEAK UP campaigns had been active for over 18 years, and remain the leading public health and safety campaigns dedicated to gun violence prevention in the US, with over 19 million Americans signing the ASK Pledge (www.askingsaveskids.org) and over 31 million parents reporting that they ask their neighbors about guns where their kids play.[11]

2017 Harvard/GAO Report names ASK Campaign as only verifiably effective gun violence prevention program

In October 2017, the Harvard School of Public Health and the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the effectiveness of 16 firearm storage awareness programs, ultimately finding the "ASK" program to be the only gun safety program that has been independently evaluated and found to be effective. The report, entitled "Personal Firearms: Programs that Promote Safe Storage and Research on their Effectiveness," was prepared over a two-year period in response to a request by the Congressional HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee.[13] The report evaluated 16 programs, both regional and national, that are aimed at spreading awareness of the importance of safe storage of firearms. The ASK campaign was found to be the only verifiably effective program out of the 16 programs. Jim Accomando, president of The National PTA, said "Child and school safety starts at home. When families store their guns responsibly, they're much less likely to end up in schools and tragedies are less likely to occur. National PTA is proud to support the ASK campaign to help prevent gun-related incidents and keep children safe."[14]


In 2012, Cooley founded Democracy.com while attending the Harvard Kennedy School in its MPA masters degree program. The company launched its first generation site in 2014, which connected candidates and civic organizations with citizen supporters.[15] The site was awarded "Best Technology Innovation" by the American Association of Political Consultants, "Best Fundraising Platform" by Campaign and Elections Magazine and "Top Campaign and Organizing Tool" by Campaign Workshop.[16][17] The company's first generation site achieved over 30% month on month growth and reached over a million users." As of mid-2019, the company was in negotiation for acquisition. [6]


In 1999, Cooley co-authored a photo essay book with Kate Spade Fashions and Partners & Spade co-founder Andy Spade entitled Public Love, published by Chronicle Books. The book documents first person accounts of amorous acts conducted in public spaces, juxtaposed with Cooley's photographs of the spaces when empty.[18] Paper Magazine's review of the book said: "The subjects' plain words convey the spontaneity of desire, as well as the apprehension and fear (of getting caught, perhaps, but sometimes of one's partner) inherent in an act that blurs the boundary between public and private."[19]

Cooley's editorial photography has been featured in The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Independent and other newspapers, magazines and books published in the US and Europe.[20] His fine art work was shown in the former CBGB art gallery "CB's 313" next door to the now demolished club on the Bowery in New York City.


In 2004, Cooley wrote and directed his first film, Pol Pot's Birthday,[21] a short satirical comedy which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won numerous Best Film awards at festivals worldwide, and is included in the Sundance Collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The film was featured in American Cinematographer magazine[22] for its evocative use of the newly emerging equipment and techniques for digital cinematography. The film's style of awkward comedy has been compared to the BBC television series "The Office".

In 2005, Cooley directed a short documentary, Dimmer,[23][24] about a gang of blind teenagers who roam the streets of the bleak industrial neighborhoods of Buffalo, New York. Featuring a score by the band Interpol, Dimmer premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary, and won numerous international Best Film awards as well as being exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and included in its Sundance Collection.

Cooley's first feature film was the comedy Patriotville (renamed Taking Chances by Lions Gate Entertainment),[25] featuring Justin Long, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman, Keir O'Donnell and Emmanuelle Chriqui. The film, a satirical take on greed and corruption in small town America, was shot in South Carolina and West Virginia and was released by Lions Gate Entertainment in 2009.

Cooley's films have won over 20 Best Film and other honors, and he has been profiled in a number of magazines, such as The Fader [2], Create, and RES Magazine. He was selected for the "RES Magazine 10 Top Talents" issue and named by Screen International as one of "10 Talents to Watch"[26][27]


Year Film Role
2004 Pol Pot's Birthday Writer, Director, Producer
2005 Dimmer Director, Producer
2008 Goodbye Canarsie Associate Producer
2009 Patriotville aka Taking Chances Writer, Director

Source: IMDB[4]

Film awards[edit]

Sundance Film Festival—Premiere (2 films)
2006 Academy Awards—Short Documentary Shortlist
Worldwide Short Film Festival (Toronto) -- Best Film
Curtas Vila Do Cordo Festival (Portugal) -- Best Short Documentary
Seattle One Reel Festival—Best Film
Asian American Film Festival—Best Short Film
Nashville Film Festival—Special Mention
Aspen Film Festival—Silver Prize
NY Museum of Modern Art—Sundance Collection (2 films)
Hammer Museum LA—Special Exhibition
RESfest—Best Film
RESfest—Special Jury Prize
RiverRun Festival—Best Documentary Short
Dubrovnik Film Festival (Croatia) -- Best Short Film
Newport Beach Film festival—Best Screenplay
Filmstock Festival (UK) -- Best Film
Filmstock Festival (UK) -- Best Concept
Grenada Film Festival (Spain) - Best Cinematography
Silverlake Film Festival—Festival Director's Prize
St. Louis Film Festival—Best Short Film

Source: Footnotes[4][28][29][30]


  1. ^ a b c Gregg Lee Carter, Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Volume 1, pp.465-6, ABC-CLIO, 2002, ISBN 1-57607-268-1, ISBN 978-1-57607-268-4.
  2. ^ Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, "Storytelling and Impact Highlight 2012 Gleitsman Social Change Film Forum", May 10, 2012, http://www.centerforpublicleadership.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=802:storytelling-and-impact-highlight-2012-gleitsman-social-change-film-forum&Itemid=53
  3. ^ "Digital Pros to Meet at the Democratic National Convention".
  4. ^ a b c "Talmage Cooley".
  5. ^ a b "Talmage Cooley".
  6. ^ a b Democracy.com, "Investor Deck", pp. 1-15.
  7. ^ Evaluation of the ASK Campaign in Two Midwestern Cities | ISRN Public Health
  8. ^ "Home | ASK - Asking Saves Kids".
  9. ^ "United Against Gun Violence".
  10. ^ Gregg Lee Carter, Gun control in the United States: a reference handbook, pp. 248-9; ABC-CLIO, 2006, ISBN 1-85109-760-0, ISBN 978-1-85109-760-9.
  11. ^ a b "Making a Million Moms Proud: The ASK Campaign Has Been Saving Kids for 15 Years!".
  12. ^ "Changing Culture". Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  13. ^ "GAO Report Validates ASK Program As Most Effective National Safe Storage Awareness Program" (GAO-17–665). 2017-10-18. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "GAO Report Validates ASK Program As Most Effective National Safe Storage Awareness Program". Cision Newswire.
  15. ^ "Democracy.com Launches Plug-And-Play Web Presence For Political Campaigns". TechCrunch. 9 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Pollie Winners" (PDF). 4 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Reed Award Winners". 15 June 2014.
  18. ^ http://www.allbookstores.com/Public-Love-Talmage-Cooley-Andy/9780811821537
  19. ^ Cooley, Talmage; Spade, Andy (1999). Public Love. ISBN 0811821536.
  20. ^ This Week: Darkness and Light, The New York Times, October 18, 1992
  21. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0398270/
  22. ^ Stephanie Argy, An Uneasy Celebration, American Cinematographer, January 2005
  23. ^ "Dimmer (2005)". The New York Times.
  24. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0437968/
  25. ^ Denyse C. Middleton, "Glimpse of Stardom: Area Residents Land Roles As Extras in Upcoming Movie", The Rock Hill Herald (front page), August 30, 2006.
  26. ^ Ting Lipton, Shana (April 2005). "Res 10 Filmmaker Profile". Res Magazine.
  27. ^ http://www.cinevegas.com/blog/?s=naiveté&x=1&y=1
  28. ^ Maxwell, Erin (14 December 2005). "Resfest honors alt music vids, short films". Variety.
  29. ^ http://www.talmagecooley.com
  30. ^ Seif, Dena (13 September 2005). "AMPAS Kisses Short Docus". Variety.

External links[edit]