Walking into the Coolfire office on 10th Street is like going to a cool uncle’s house — the one who’s young, successful and always has candy. Perhaps this is why so many Webster University students vie for jobs and internships at Coolfire. Or maybe it’s because Coolfire is making major waves in the media world.
written by Rebecca Doran
It is more than just an average media company. Coolfire Originals is the umbrella company to Coolfire Studios, as well as Coolfire Solutions. Studios focuses on original entertainment: commercials, TV shows, etc., whereas Solutions does software development on everything from phone apps to projects for the military.
“We don’t just do one thing, we do a lot of things,” Brent Johnson said. “And that gives me a lot of opportunities to be creative in different ways.”
Johnson works at the 10th Street office, which was once the main office for Coolfire Studios. Now it is the building that houses the people who do post production, like editors, sound mixers and colorists.
Coolfire works with many clients, some of whom are more actively involved in their projects than others. Kevin Johnson, the senior editor at Coolfire Studios, said one of the hardest parts of his job is trying to tell clients why their ideas may not work. He is able to notice things that clients don’t just from his experience, and tries to steer them away from making mistakes.
“We try to work with our clients to work with our thoughts and creative ideas to come up with the best that we can,” Kevin Johnson said.
Apart from creative material for clients, Coolfire Studios also pitches TV show ideas to major networks.
Steve Luppert formerly worked at ABC during the start of Modern Family and is now working at Coolfire as the senior vice president of development. He comes up with an idea for a show and sells it to big name companies like OWN and Discovery Channel.
Luppert is proud of the show on OWN called Sweetie Pie’s, which takes place in St. Louis. He said they found the characters and the story.
Coolfire also hires freelancers to work on some of their projects, which is how Webster alum Andrew Shafer got his job there. Shafer graduated in May 2013 with a degree in film and worked briefly as an assistant colorist. He said that being around the intelligence and creativity at Coolfire was amazing.
Though Shafer only stayed at Coolfire until the project was complete, he learned a lot. He also proved himself to be someone who is willing to do what it takes to get a job.
“It doesn’t matter how much talent you have,” Shafer said. “It’s about how reliable and hardworking you are.”
Brent Johnson thinks the same way. He worked his way up from cleaning toilets and making lunch runs to doing audio work. To him, hard work and paying dues is the most meaningful form of experience. He said there is no starting at the top in the media industry, and the only way to get there is by gaining experience and being willing to work hard.
“I have had a number of Webster audio students call me up and say ‘Hey I just graduated from Webster, can I get a job?’” Brent Johnson said. “And I’m like, not really.”
Webster student Josh Coppenbarger is an intern at Coolfire for the Spring 2014 semester and has gained plenty of experience in his field.Coppenbarger has worked seven internships now, and said that Coolfire is different from any place he has worked. The environment produces a relaxed and stress-free zone, while still allowing for productivity and creativity.
One of the most exciting things for Coppenbarger is that Coolfire is still a growing company and he gets to see it evolve. He wouldn’t mind staying on if he got the opportunity.
“I really love working there,” Coppenbarger said.
One of the reasons everyone seems to enjoy working at Coolfire is the family atmosphere — not to mention the free candy everywhere.
“We have fun around here. That’s the other thing about Coolfire,” Kevin Johnson said. “We’re kind of a small family here.”
Since connections are so important in the field of entertainment, it’s important to maintain and strengthen those connections. This builds a great working environment where creativity can flourish, such as the way it does at Coolfire.
Another reason Coolfire is so successful is the leadership. A team is only as good as its weakest member, and Coolfire doesn’t seem to have any of those. Both Brent and Kevin Johnson think it’s a blessing to work for someone like Jeff Keane, the founder and CEO of Coolfire, who understands the need for creative freedom and doesn’t try to micromanage every detail.
“I think when you have a leader of the ship that basically doesn’t take no for an answer and doesn’t let anybody stand in his way then it makes a stronger army,” Kevin Johnson said. “Good leadership and people that work here make Coolfire strong.”