For Eastern Michigan University alumnus and movie producer Wesley Coller, his passion for creating and appreciation for visual masterpieces on the big screen has led him to incredible opportunities.
Once a little kid from Pinckney, Mich., Coller had a boundless imagination. He loved art, the coming-of-age film “Stand By Me” and had “crazy, illusive dreams that was an impossibility.”
“Growing up there’s all the adventurous films whether it was ‘Goonies’ or ‘ET’ or any of those films that when I was a kid that shined a light on the fact that there’s amazing stories to be experienced or imagined. So I think there’s a nice long line of films when I was a kid that inspired and lit a fire under me.”
That little kid would one day share his imagination with the masses as a producer at Cruel and Unsual Films in California and have his name attached to some of the biggest movies, like “Man of Steel” (2013), “Dawn of the Dead” (2004), and “300” (2007), which made $450 million worldwide at the box office.
Coller, who graduated from EMU in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in telecommunication and film with a minor in graphic design, will have the extreme honor of serving as the commencement speaker on Dec. 21 at the EMU Convocation Center. He will also be awarded with an honorary
Doctor of Arts during the ceremony. EMU President Susan Martin personally contacted Coller to ask him to deliver a speech. The request stunned him but with time to reflect on the experiences that set his dreams in stone, he felt compelled to share his story and impact at least one person.
“I bought a little time because it’s a huge honor,” Coller said. “I felt like I needed a little time to make sure that I knew what I would say, or that I had something to say that was relevant to such a large group of young people who are getting ready to set out on their life journey. I was like, ‘I need a few days! I got to wrap my head around this.’”
During his time at EMU from 1995-1999, he described himself as a good student. Prior to attending college, he envisioned the possibilities and desired for opportunities that he imagined as a hit. That drive would spark a renewed energy and focus that he still carries until this day.
“For myself I realized it was a huge point in my life, I couldn’t be more grateful to the university for playing that role in my life because it was validation of the hard work that I put in,” he said. “It was a big part of the inspiration and the catalyst and motivating factor for me to take a chance and take that next leap.”
So one may ask how does a guy from Pinckney make his way to Los Angeles and work for alongside new and veteran actors from Henry Cavill to Russell Crowe?
During his final year at EMU during the fall semester of 1998, he married his college sweetheart Celeste. At his wedding, Coller’s cousin, who is a film producer in Los Angeles, was curious about his plans with his film degree. He had a possible job offer in Detroit at a post-production house but his cousin persuaded him to work alongside him in Los Angeles on various projects. He was connected with Zack Synder on commercial projects such as Coca-Cola and got a hands-on experience which completely won him over.
“I got home that night and Celeste was back at the house,” he said. “I walked in the door and she said, ‘So how did it go?’ and I said, ‘We got to go pack our stuff!’”
Besides serving as a speaker, he’s currently working on major projects for a Superman/Batman movie that has brought him back to his home state, which for him is surreal. His dream is to one day step back from a film that he created that reminds him of the films that he loved as a kid and to create something that’s meaningful.
“The biggest goal of mine now as I’ve been doing this for a little while now, is to never lose that sort of childlike enthusiasm that comes with this experience,” he said.
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