Another feature he had worked on was the action film The Highlander: Engame starring Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul.
David Seth Cohen’s first acting role came in 2001. Then a script supervisor for the film Marie, the casual entertainer was amusing the crew when his talent caught the eye of Fred Carpenter, the movie’s director, who decided to cast him in a supporting role.
The following year would see Dave Cohen joining Telecare TV-29 in Long Island. First as an Associate Producer, then Producer and later Senior/Executive Producer he worked on several shows including Real Food, Good News, Debates and Next Generation. Five years later, he decided it was time to strike out on his own establishing his own production company, Precision Pictures.
Among the clientele that has hired Precision Pictured for video productions are Mercedes Benz, Crunch Fitness International, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Sotheby’s International Realty, Rachel Ray, Dan Rather Reports and The Leon G. Smith Infectious Disease Foundation.
According to the director/producer, the best thing about filmmaking is watching the audience react to something he has done. “I like to move people and to take them into different directions and to see them reacting,” he states. He cites the presentation of the biographical film he made about Dr. Leon G. Smith as an example of such a moment.
Narrated by renowned sportscaster Don Criqui, the film tells Smith’s story first as a man, then through his mission and through his patients. The Yonkers-born healer and philanthropist emerged from humble beginnings to become one of the leading global experts in the treatment of infections diseases. But for Smith, medicine wasn’t his original calling. An avid baseball player, he dreamed of joining the professional league. In fact, the Yankees even offered to have him play for them. But his parents wanted him to be a physician instead.
Still he had remained undecided until a personal tragedy hit. Leon’s father passed away suddenly from a disease. And when they sought an explanation, none was given to them.
So Cohen set out to confront these looming questions by finding Sandler and proposing to take him up on that drink. But it hasn’t been easy. In the course of six years, he proceeded to chronicle his pursuit in a documentary in which he starred and which he directed himself.
But Dave explains that Finding Sandler isn’t just a mechanical recording of the search itself. The actor/filmmaker says it also belies the many ups and downs of his own personal journey—the challenges, victories and many revelations he has had in what has proved to be a pivotal turning point in his life.
He has realized since that these experiences while quite personal to him held some very universal truths. Certainly among the most important lessons he has learned is not to be timid when presented with a rare opportunity to make one’s dream a reality.
Furthermore, the making of the movie has also tested his own limits as a person, the limits of his persistence, commitment and tenacity among other qualities. During that period he has seen the beginning and end of relationships, his family moving away, his beloved grandmother being evacuated from her Long Beach home due to Hurricane Sandy. For a while, she took refuge at her grandson’s apartment, something the sweet, aspiring actor didn’t mind at all.
Filming has also taught him some valuable practical lessons about both the process and the industry itself. First is that getting people together, quickly and efficiently, at various times, in various locations is challenging at best. For the movie, he has had to travel back and forth to Adam’s native New Hampshire, New York and to the West Coast.
He has had to do interviews, track the star’s appearances in red carpet and other events, shoot supporting scenes in the movie—all the while trying to survive by taking in unrelated video production projects. Fortunately, he has “lifelong friends” who back him up, friends who have been his “life support” throughout his journey. But even friendships can only go so far.
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Observes Cohen, “I never realized (before) that movie was a business. It’s not ‘Show Friends,’ it’s ‘Show Business’”! The most tangible factor and perhaps the most important consideration is funding, according to Cohen. Finding Sandler is funded through private donations and monies received from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Still more funding is needed in order to wrap up the production, to edit the 96 tapes totaling 80 hours and to condense it into a 90-minute movie.
He explains that there are other grave challenges also. He has found that the biggest stars “often don’t make decisions for themselves,” he observes. Thus, he has had to deal with agents, public relations people and handlers whose sole job is to protect the celebrity from “unnecessary” distractions. “Why would he do it?” Cohen reasons. “He doesn’t need me.”
Yet there are surprise voices of support that have already added to the interest in the film. Emeril Lagasse is filmed agreeing to make hors d’oeuvres if and when Cohen sets up the drink with Sandler and schedule allows. Billy Joel, meanwhile, says "Sure, why not?" to playing a song. Mike Foley has offered to body slam Cohen, too.
Turn the page
To Smith, the devastating loss was compounded by disillusionment in not knowing why. Resolving that never again will he allow “people to go through what my [Smith’s] father went through” he entered the world of medicine and never looked back.
Leon G. Smith studied at New York University, then Yale then Georgetown University and even interned at Harvard. The brilliant medical student was diligent and his hard work was recognized. At the day of his graduation, he “took more awards than any student.” He describes this day as the “proudest day of my mother’s life.”
Cohen uses Dr. Smith’s patients to tell the story, too. For example, a colleague recalls a 2 am phone call to Smith telling the doctor of his pregnant wife who was gravely ill and whose condition was dire. By 2:30 a.m., he says Smith was there. After examining the colleague’s wife, Smith informed him that the original diagnosis was incorrect and that an abortion wasn’t necessary to save her. Choking up in the film while retelling the story, the colleague expressed his profound gratitude to the doctor for saving both lives. His son is now over 20 years old.
During the screening, Dave Cohen says he watched the audience get moved, laugh and tear up as his film navigated them through a whole range of emotions. To him, this only reinforces his belief that the success of the story frequently relies not only in the subject matter itself. Often, it leans quite heavily on the skill of the storyteller as well.
To further his own mastery of storytelling in feature film and television productions, David Seth Cohen founded Legitimate Rascal Films in 2006. Not coincidentally, it was also during that year when the young actor/filmmaker really seriously reflected on that fateful autumn day in New York, the day he passed up an opportunity to have a drink with one of his heroes.
What if he had that drink with Adam Sandler? What words of wisdom might he have heard from the star? What doors might have opened for him? Might his career path been paved differently? How would it have changed his life, if at all?