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Seeing Stars
An Interview with Coolwaters Productions President Derek Maki

By Kat
Staff Writer

August 3, 2010

Derek Maki, President of Coolwaters Productions, started his public relations company by coordinating appearances for two Star Wars actors: Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok). That was in 2000. Fast forward ten years and Coolwaters Productions has amassed dozens of clients from Star Wars as well as other popular franchises like Harry Potter, Star Trek, Superman, and more. .

Derek Maki talks about how he has built up Coolwaters Productions over the years and discusses some of his own acting and video projects that are in the works as well.

  Screenshot of Coolwaters Productions
Screenshot of
Billy Dee Williams and Warwick Davis were the first two clients of Coolwaters Productions.
You have a background in acting and sketch comedy. How did you decide to break into the public relations business?
My first love is still and will always be acting and directing, I am still struggling to be a successful actor in Hollywood now. I finally have a distribution deal with iTunes for my indi film Instant Dads, there are not many young film makers who can say that they shot a feature film and then got a distribution deal for it!

That aside, the PR part of my life was a happy accident. I used to work for a company who brought some of the actors from the Star Wars films around the world to conventions. During my time there part of my job was to seek out and find more actors from the films to do appearances. In doing so I created great relationships with people like Billy Dee Williams and Warwick Davis. After the company collapsed, Billy Dee had called me at home and said that he would continue to pay me on the side to finish out conventions that the company had set up for him, so we did. Then he got more calls from promoters and he would defer the calls to me. I did it as a lark at first, figuring Billy Dee would be a good contact to have.

Over the course of several years I gained a few other clients and then decided that I would make it legitimate. We made Coolwaters a two part company, one for PR and one for production. The PR side allows me to make and keep great contacts in the film world which in the end will only help my career as an actor and director. Its a long road, but at least I am networking with people who can help further my career. My clients all know my passion and they respect it and have, from time to time, tried to even help me along with auditions and introductions to people. I do not abuse my relationships with the clients which is why they offer to help me. Currently the help I am getting is that most of my clients have agreed to be a guest on my live web show called Coolwaters LIVE, which I co-host with Sheila Myjo. Having the celebs I am friendly with appear on the show really helps us out and I am blessed that finally I am doing something else in front of a camera.

How did you go about building Coolwaters Productions up?

It is basically word of mouth. I work my butt off and my clients see that I do that. So if they hear one of their famous friends saying "I'd like to try appearing at a convention" then my client would tell them, "You need to talk to my guy" (me). I also have gone after some icons that I admire. It took me a couple of years but I finally got to do some work for appearances with Sean Young from Blade Runner and I also got to do some private signings with Harrison Ford. It been a long process and one that is not easy but I feel that my hard work and determination shines through. Doug Jones (Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth) saw me at a convention working with some of my clients, he loved what I did for them and he approached me about working with him. I guess I am good at what I do and it shows. I am proud of my company and what we have become.

Can you describe a typical day on the job for you?

My life has many different days. On a PR day at the office I would be writing contracts, making phone calls, negotiating new deals, basically office work. On a convention day we would be with a client all day assisting them with their appearance, which would range from selling signed photos, getting them to their Q&A sessions, arranging limo rides and such. On an acting day, like any actor, I am "unemployeed" most of the time. So I would spend my time submitting my heads hot for auditions, going to auditions and IF I book a role then balancing out the PR time to the acting time so I can do both. End of the day unless I am at a convention or filming something my days are boring, to an average person. But my days do fly as I never stop, there is always something to do.

Many of your clients are Star Wars actors or crew members. Does the 'Star Wars factor' change any aspect of how you handle their PR?
Not really. Star Wars is so well known that that most of those clients are sought after by any given promoter. However, and of the day the negotiations are the same for any "actor". They require certain things to appear and that is what we go after. Being a Star Wars actor does not change anything, other than making them perhaps more in demand.

Can you describe the process of coordinating an appearance for a client?
Appearances vary for each actor. With a bigger name (like Billy Dee Williams or Carrie Fisher) you have more things to coordinate. But the basics for most celebs are things like making sure the promoter has proper security, making sure there is a green room or rest area away from the crowd where a celebrity can have some down time. Usually when I arrive to an event (whether it be a convention or a red carpet event) I will arrive a little early so I can get a lay out of the land. Make sure I know where all entrances and exits are in case of an emergency. I also try to familiarize my face to those who work at the event so that if I, or the celeb, needs something I know who to talk to and then of course in turn they know that I'm an official rep asking for something and not some crazed fan whose trying to sneak into an event.

If appearances are out of town I also need to arrange for flights and hotels, making sure that the celebs are happy with the airline chosen and they hotel chain is acceptable. Each celeb is a different personality, they all have likes an dislikes for various reasons, my job is to know what they like so when they travel they have to do very little thinking. It makes the trip more enjoyable for them. People do not realize it, but appearances are very stressful on an actor and it can really wear them down, so the more we plan ahead the easier it is for the celeb. We want fans and the paparazzi to remember then celeb as a smiling enjoyable person, someone that we expect our idols to be, someone we can look up to, I guess in a way I am part of the magic that happens that make an individual who is "celebrated" someone the public can be impressed with.

What's the most challenging and rewarding part about running a public relations company?
The most challenging part, like any company, is competition. I strive to be the most professional rep out there. I am honest, fair and hard working, but getting new clients can be very hard to achieve. The most rewarding part is perhaps the travel. With the higher end celebs they require an assistant to accompany them to events, so I have been lucky enough to travel the world including places like Japan, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and so many more places. London is my favorite place, I love the people and atmosphere there!

How has Coolwaters grown and evolved over the years?
The easiest answer to that is that we are 100% legit! When I realized that this was going to be more than just taking one client to a few places in a year I realized I needed to make this all legal! I hold two licenses in the state of California for PR and management. The company is an LLC (limited liability company) which protects me and the other owners should we or a client ever have a law suite filed against them. When I started this company I was more of a lucky fan who got to help out one or two celebs, now I am a tax paying business owner who has strict rules that our clients and employees follow. It's all about branding and I have tried very hard to be the best at what we do.

You launched your video webcast, Coolwaters LIVE, in 2010. How did that project come about?
I was at home for Christmas in 2009. My best friend was visiting me at my Mom's house and he was telling me about he listens to this fan run pod-cast every week. He explained that the pos-cast runs about 2 hours long and that they just talk about things like new toys coming out and upcoming conventions. After sleeping on it for a week, I called my friend to come over for a second visit and asked him if he would not only listen to but watch a "pod-cast" that would be only an hour a week and feature celebrity interviews. Obviously the answer was a big "YES".

I then came back to California from my Christmas holiday and got my team together. My co-host, Sheila Myjo, is a struggling actor just like me, so she was my first choice to be a host. I also had friends who wanted to be producers here in Hollywood so I asked them to produce my show and then finally my editor, Derek Bauman (who also serves as producer), his dream is to edit films but like any job you work your way up. He had helped me with my feature film Instant Dads and he also worked on shows like Dancing with the Stars. I told him about my idea and he loved it. So with the team assembled we created our format and started soliciting my clients.

The idea was that I would ask clients to be on my show, since most of them have always told me that if I needed anything to just ask them. I never abuse my relationships with people so I have never really asked any client for much of anything. This was my chance to get some great names and celebs to be guests on my show and hopefully get viewers to tune in. Our first guest was Doug Jones, he was gracious enough to actually get out of filming a TV show early one day to come down and be our first guest. He was THE WAY to start things off with a bang and I am forever grateful to him.

One Wednesday August 4th we will be proud to air our 20th episode featuring a taped interview with actor Kenny Baker from Star Wars. We're excited because Kenny is not able to travel to the USA any more, so when I was in London a few weeks ago I asked Kenny if he would do the interview for me. I've known him for years and he was very gracious and agreed. We've learned a lot doing the show. We've been blessed to have great guests such as Billy Dee Williams, Ernie Hudson, Dave Barclay, Mark Ryan and many more! The best thing about our show (which the fans have stated to us time and time again) is that unlike other talk shows who only give celebs 10 minutes to talk, we make the whole show about the guest. You learn so much more about the celeb, seeing deeper into their personalities rather than it just being about pushing a new film or TV show they are starring in. We wanted to be able to have the celeb tell our audience things that other talk shows do not usually let them share. We also opened up to the viewers and let them send in questions.

My favorite part of the show is the game section. Sheila and I try to come up with a fun game to play with each guest. The game can be won by either the guest or Sheila and I and we are playing to have a viewer win a signed 8x10 of the guest. The games are unique on every show and we try our best to gear the games towards something having to do with the celeb. For example when Billy Dee was on we had him do a blind taste test for COLT 45, when Ernie Hudson was on we had him making a Stay Puft Marshmellow Man out of real marshmellows and when Mark Ryan was on he and I had to battle out transforming a BUMBLEBEE toy from the Transformers film (I think that was my favorite episode). The best thing about the games and that we in NO WAY prep the guest. We are 100% spontaneous! We only tell them before we go live that we will be playing a game and that they need to just go along with it. The game is revealed to them at the same time it is revealed to the audience. This has made them games so much fun, and for celebs who have seen previous shows before they come on, its one of the parts they are actually waiting for!

What's next for Coolwaters Productions and what's next for you?
I never stop and I have numerous things in the works. On the PR/Management side I have new clients who will be announced soon and who will be making first time appearances at conventions. On the production side we have Instant Dads being released on iTunes very soon and of course have several projects on the works (one of which we actually pitch to Lionsgate). On the LIVE web show side we are actually going on summer hiatus and will be back this fall with a slightly new format and some new surprises! I have lots of things cooking all at once so that we can have something come to a full boil and move forward with it! I would invite readers to visit and for up to date info of course.

A big thanks to Derek Maki of Coolwaters Productions for taking the time to share his story with For more information about Derek or Coolwaters Productions, visit

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