March 10, 2018

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Writer & Director Tara Cocco’s Comedy Chops

What are you working on—on the side?

My side projects mostly revolve around film—writing, directing, producing and acting. The last year has been incredibly rewarding. I just celebrated the release of “Strange Company,” a comedy webseries that I wrote, directed and play a small role in. My team was nothing short of mindblowing. We had no budget and most of us had spent little to no time on set. So to see how beautifully it came together was a testament to how far hard work and surrounding yourself with talented people can get you. We’re three episodes in and I’m currently writing the fourth, which we hope to shoot at the end of April!

I’ve also jumped into other writing projects: a feature-length comedy called “The Slammer,” which was a semifinalist in the 2017 Screencraft Comedy Screenplay Contest (currently in the development stage for future production), and co-wrote the first chapter in a three-part SciFi miniseries, “The Star of Elia,” (currently in production).

Because I don’t like to ever let myself get bored, I also recently joined an improv group in Louisville. It keeps the wits sharp and my life grounded in the absurd.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

I’m very lucky that I have a job that I love and leadership that is very understanding of the work-life-other work balance. My full-time role covers photography, videography, design and social media for a nonprofit which requires a flexible schedule (while I’m covering events and productions on non-normal working hours). That comes in handy when I have to run off for the weekend to shoot, focus on editing an episode or hit a writing deadline.

It’s also very fortunate that both my full-time and side gigs deal in story and narrative. I like to think that the constant practice in such different industries allows me the space to think outside of the box and apply the lessons I’m learning on both sides. Particularly, focusing on comedy in my side projects gives me a fresh way to approach a marketing project in a fun, engaging way. So much of comedy is about understanding how your content resonates and connects with your audience.

Why have a side project?

For a creative person, I’m incredibly logical, structured and pragmatic—I like to Adult with a capital A. Having a side project gives me the space to be playful and expressive and me. I spent several years leaning on my creativity to pay the bills—attempting to compel people to action in marketing or making photographs for other people. My side projects are for me. They’re my mark on the world.

Before finding my current position, I spent four years as a professional photographer full-time and thought that I should focus my energy solely on honing my skills as an artist and business owner. I said no to side projects, thinking that they would diminish my commitment. I improved technically over time, but I started to lose my passion and love for the craft. It wasn’t until I started taking acting classes about a year ago that I started to figure out how to be human again, reconnect with my emotional life and start pouring myself back into my work. That was the gateway drug into the world of film. And I’ll never look back.

My side projects, by virtue of film being such a group effort, have also introduced me to an incredible community of like-minded people. Warm, energetic people looking to collaborate, hustle and make their mark, too. I mean, I get to hang out with my friends and create stories that make people think and laugh. How much more fun does it get than that?

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Diptych courtesy of Tara Cocco.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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