Talmage Cooley

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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 and became CEO of Democracy.com.[3] He has also written and directed several award-winning films.[4]


After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1988 with BA and MBA degrees, Cooley worked as a bond trader at Morgan Stanley in New York.[5] In the mid-1990s he left Wall Street and began directing television commercials, including some for prominent non-profits such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Partnership for a Drug Free America.[5] Through this work, he became interested in large-scale social change efforts that successfully leveraged strategic marketing insights in service of shifting cultural norms. This led to his founding of The Gun Violence Project and then co-founding The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (originally called PAX).[5] In 2012, Cooley graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School with an MPA degree while also founding Democracy.com, an online social network for politics and civic engagement that connects "every citizen with every candidate, political party and issue organization". Democracy.com's mission is to level the playing field in politics and civic engagement by providing state-of-the-art organizing tools to anyone at zero cost of entry.[6]

The Gun Violence Project & The Center to Prevent Youth Violence[edit]

In 1994, 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 early 1997.[1]

By 2002, 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 and SPEAK UP campaigns, which were 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, rather than the politically-based framing which had dominated the issue for many years.[7] In 2011, PAX officially changed its name to The Center to Prevent Youth Violence[8] 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.


In 1999, Cooley co-authored a photo essay book with Kate Spade Fashions co-founder Andy Spade entitled Public Love, published by Chronicle Books. The book documented first person accounts of amorous acts conducted in public spaces, juxtaposed with Cooley's photographs of the spaces when empty.[9] 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."[10]

Cooley's editorial photography has been published in The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Independent and other newspapers and magazines in the US and the UK.[11] His 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,[12] 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. The film was also featured in American Cinematographer magazine[13] for its evocative use of digital video. 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,[14][15] 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 and included in its Sundance Collection.

Cooley's first feature film was the comedy Patriotville (renamed Taking Chances by Lions Gate Entertainment),[16] 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"[17][18]


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)
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
2006 Academy Awards—Short Documentary Shortlist

Source: Footnotes[4][19][20][21]


  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. ^ http://techpresident.com/news/22806/digital-pros-meet-democratic-national-convention
  4. ^ a b c http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1548627/
  5. ^ a b c http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1548627/bio
  6. ^ http://www.democracy.com/about.aspx
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "http://www.cpyv.org". Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.allbookstores.com/Public-Love-Talmage-Cooley-Andy/9780811821537
  10. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Public-Love-Talmage-Cooley/dp/0811821536
  11. ^ This Week: Darkness and Light, The New York Times, October 18, 1992
  12. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0398270/
  13. ^ Stephanie Argy, An Uneasy Celebration, American Cinematographer, January 2005
  14. ^ "Dimmer (2005)". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0437968/
  16. ^ Denyse C. Middleton, "Glimpse of Stardom: Area Residents Lanm Roles As Extras in Upcoming Movie", The Rock Hill Herald (front page), August 30, 2006.
  17. ^ Ting Lipton, Shana (April 2005). "Res 10 Filmmaker Profile". Res Magazine. 
  18. ^ http://www.cinevegas.com/blog/?s=naiveté&x=1&y=1
  19. ^ Maxwell, Erin (14 December 2005). "Resfest honors alt music vids, short films". Variety. 
  20. ^ http://www.talmagecooley.com
  21. ^ Seif, Dena (13 September 2005). "AMPAS Kisses Short Docus". Variety. 

External links[edit]