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Gainesville man turns Northeast Georgia History Center into filmmaking facility
David Cook found his calling as videographer and creates historical webisodes
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David Cook, right, sets up a photoshoot for the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville. Cook is the History center’s videographer.

To watch a Northeast Georgia History Center webisode, visit vimeo.com/177131959

When officials at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville asked David Cook to become its videographer, he knew he couldn’t say no.

“To me, it’s just a dream,” Cook said. “It’s always been my dream to run a studio. It’s been wonderful.”

Cook first came to the attention of the History Center when he created a special Fourth of July mini-documentary video in 2015 for his then-employer Jacobs Media. Part of his documentary included information from the History Center and interviews with staff members.

At that time, the History Center was contemplating creating a videographer position. After his interaction with them, Cook was offered the job.

“Not only is he highly technically proficient, creative with editing effects and willing to take direction, he is also quite a personable fellow,” said Ken Johnston, curator of education at the History Center. “He was a clear stand-out among all the numerous applicants.”

Cook accepted and the rest is history.

The 34-year-old man has hit the ground running by taking ownership of The Cottrell Digital Studio, which is the video department of the History Center.

“I don’t work small,” he said.

And the studio is anything but small in size and project concepts. Cook has already produced a handful of webisodes for area classrooms, History Center director Glen Kyle said. They are also producing videos for the public.

Cook hopes to produce longform biopics for the History Center by next year. His ideas are gaining traction with his fellow History Center co-workers.

“Working with David is a rewarding experience,” Johnston said.

But Johnston isn’t the only one feeling rewarded by Cook’s presence at the History Center. Cook enjoys working in a field that he has loved since he was a boy.

The young man, who was born in Texas and lived in South America for 15 years, fell in love with the filmmaking industry after watching “Jurassic Park.” The movie is particularly inspiring to Cook.

“It will always have a special place in my heart,” the Gainesville man said.

Like most children, Cook was fascinated by the realistic-looking dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 science-fiction film.

“(Spielberg) really brought the dinosaurs to life,” Cook said. “I thought, ‘If they can do that, they can do anything.’ You can really do whatever you want.”

Cook said watching that movie essentially propelled him to pursue a career in filmmaking. Since he didn’t know specifically what he wanted to do in the industry, he tried his hand at acting first in high school and his freshman year of college.

“It was just really difficult and hard to get into,” Cook said. “It was too competitive, and I realized it was not for me.”

Later, he apprenticed with the Twiin Media company after moving from Illinois to Georgia in 2008.

“They took me in after I showed them (what I can do),” he said.

Some of those skills are 3D animation, voiceovers and working as a director, producer and film editor.

Due to his efforts, he received an associate producer credit on the 2009 film “Zombie Crush.”

It wouldn’t be his last run-in with the undead.

He acted as a stand-in for the television series “The Walking Dead,” which films in Senoia. He spent five days getting up early and making the two-hour commute.

“I loved the experience,” he said. “You just get to see how much work goes into it.”

Cook was there with the directors, other crew and cast for an episode.

“The work is insane,” he said. “I don’t think many people realize how much goes into it.”

Somewhere in that time period, Cook said he discovered 3D animation. At the time, the industry standard programming cost up to $3,000, which he didn’t have. He kept practicing his skills and eventually realized something important.

“I just like telling stories,” he said. “It became my mantra, ‘Don’t worry about anything but the story.’”

Now, Cook helps create weekly webisodes for the History Center and attends Brenau University.

Most of his job consists of putting together the shorts, which are usually centered around one historical figure, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton or John Hopkins, or an event in Northeast Georgian history, such as the Georgia Gold Rush. Actors used in the webisodes are mostly local people.

“A lot of research goes into (the webisodes),” he said.

Once he picks an idea, he presents it for approval and starts planning.

A 4 «-minute video can take up to a month to a month and a half to plan, get permissions to film, find available actors and voiceover narrator, edit the footage, determine a good day to shoot and write the script. He also has to ensure the images or music he uses is in the public domain.

“You only see a small portion of what went into it,” Cook said. “It is all condensed.”

Most of these steps Cook performs himself.

“I had to tell myself that if I want to make movies, I have to teach myself,” he said. “It was that or nothing.”

Watching YouTube tutorials was one of the ways he learned. But he already knows to keep the attention of his viewers, filmmakers have tell an appealing story.

“People can tune out easily,” he said.

However, it is the small details that helps flush out the story. He uses that philosophy when he creates animations.

In animations, flags are waving in the background of some shots, which helps his videos seem more entertaining.

All of these elements come together to teach the area and students in particular about history.

“We try to spread the word out to schools (about the webisodes),” Cook said.

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