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Tom Cohen '64

In 1983, Tom Cohen '64 read a book that changed his life. Written by David James Duncan, The River Why is the story about Gus Orviston, a fishing prodigy, who struggles to come to grips with the modern world. Cohen first discovered the book while working as an independent filmmaker following several years in television production at KQED-TV. In 1984, he bought the rights from Sierra Club Books. "I read the book and loved it. I knew that it would make a great independent movie," he said. With the help of John Jay Osborn, Jr., a friend best known for his book The Paper Chase, the two completed a script. After a few years of trying to secure financing, he put the film on hold to attend Hastings College of Law where he graduated in 1991. Cohen went on to build a successful career as an entertainment lawyer and civil litigator in the years to come.

Fast forward to 2008 and Cohen and his wife Kristi Denton Cohen are on location in northwestern Oregon on the banks of the Wilson River. Kristi, the film's producer, secured financing and signed on the stellar cast that includes William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider WomanBody HeatChildren of a Lesser God), Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13), William Devane (Knots Landing), and Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights). “The River Why” hit the big screen in 2010.

Cohen has also directed and produced two films. The first of which was Hungry Reunion (1980), a reunion documentary featuring such well known personalities as Bill Cosby, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters and Professor Irwin Corey; they all got their starts at San Francisco's legendary Hungry I comedy club. The second, Massive Retaliation (1985), starred the young Jason Gedrick and featured a group of survivalists who head to a retreat in order to discuss how to save the world from the cusp of World War III.

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