Filmmaker Spotlight: Cole Sax

We recently spoke with Utah filmmaker and co-director, Cole Sax, about the making of his latest project to release from YouTube Originals WORLD DEBUT: FROM OUTSIDERS TO THE OLYMPICS. 

What were once lifestyle fads have evolved into some of the world’s fastest-growing sports and are now set to debut on the world’s biggest stage – The Olympic Games. Step inside the journey of three new sports born on the fringes of society – skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing – alongside names like Tony Hawk, Emily Harrington, and Sofia Mulanovich.

“This film is an opportunity to shed light upon three sports that have acted as an outlet for individuals to express themselves, and for the communities that have spawned from it and thrived,” said Sax.

While production for the documentary took place in Argentina, California, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, and much more, the majority of the production team comes from Utah, including the film’s directors, Cole Sax & Galen Knowles, supervising producer Phil Hessler, camera crew, post-production team, and sound mixers. In addition to the crew, some production took place in Salt Lake City as they met up with Kyra Condie, who lives and trains downtown. Kyra was one of the first climbers to secure an Olympic spot for Tokyo back in 2019 and is a prominent voice in the film.

This film was co-directed by Utah filmmakers, Cole Sax and Galen Knowles, and was made by an incredibly talented team put together by the two of them, alongside Boardwalk Pictures, WZRD Media, and Madica Productions. 

Kyra Condie


What led you to document this story & what did the early stages of production look like?

When we originally developed this concept, it started as a doc-series following athletes on their journey to the Olympic Games. The film still has some of those elements, but because of a wonderful collaboration with YouTube Originals, we reworked the concept to be more of an origin story of how these sports made it into the Olympic Games.

As filmmakers, we enjoyed the challenge of creating such a complex story and playing a small role in the colorful journey these three sports have had over the years. As a global filmmaking crew with connections to these sports, it was an honor to work on it. 

As a regional filmmaker based in Salt Lake City, how did the local film industry support this project?

From a production standpoint, Redman Movies & Stories supplied a lot of our production rental equipment essential to documenting the footage. Once complete, having the chance to do a community screening was so important to us. The Utah Film Center provided us the support and opportunity to screen the film at Jordan Park on Wednesday, July 7th. 

Were there unique challenges you had to overcome while filming this project?

There are always challenges when embarking on a film, some unique ones we faced on this project were fires in Australia, flooding in Peru, and of course, COVID that halted production. We also had the tall order of weaving together multiple storylines, complex ideas and distilling down bureaucratic issues into something entertaining and digestible. If it weren’t for our incredible post-production team, along with a strong network like YouTube Originals, this project would not have been possible. 

What do you hope the audience will take away from seeing this film?

I hope audiences will see the beauty in fighting for what you believe in, even if others do not see it. I also hope that parents, communities, and those in leadership positions, can see the positive impact these sports have on individuals. Not only from a physical standpoint, but a spiritual, emotional, and societal one. Skateboarding, Surfing, and Sport Climbing all illuminate important values and skills in our life. 

How can audiences see this film?

You can stream the film on Wednesday, July 7th via the Olympic Channels YouTube Channel. 

What are you working on next?

For the past year or so, I’ve been developing a wide variety of feature documentaries and unscripted shows. I’ve been working on a true-crime story lately that I am hoping to start production on here in the next few months. 

Don’t miss the Utah premiere of WORLD DEBUT on Wednesday, July 7th at 7pm, sponsored by the Utah Film Center. There will be a pre-film Q&A with directors Galen Knowles and Cole Sax, producer Philip Hessler, and film subject Kyra Condie, moderated by KUER RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio.

Stay in the loop with Cole Sax, WZRD Media, and stream the film on July 7th via the Olympics YouTube Channel.

This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. All media assets provided by Cole Sax and WZRD Media.

Allie Russell is the Marketing Coordinator for the Utah Film Commission. For any press and media inquiries, contact the Utah Film Commission at film@utah.gov