COLUMBIA — Cole Nowlin really wishes he could go back in time and change at least one thing.
“I kinda screwed up,” said 10-year-old Cole with a downward glance and a slight shoulder shrug. “I wish I could have been nicer to my girlfriend.”
Since his breakup, Cole said he’s learned a lot about how to treat a girl. If he could do it over, he would pull out all the stops — hold open the door; have long, lingering conversations; buy roses to show how much he cares.
Cole stars in a short film called “The Extra Mile” that has racked up more than 400,000 views on YouTube in little over a week. It is the creation of three MU students — Dan Woodward, Clint Cannon and Nam Cu, who produced it for a class assignment before it went viral.
Cole, who attends Hallsville Elementary School, plays the part of a young gentleman, addressing callow college guys on the art of attracting women. In three minutes, he shows how to invite a girl to dinner, engage her in conversation and take a long walk blowing dandelion seeds.
He also gives away at least a dozen roses randomly to surprised women around the MU campus, where the film was largely shot.
"Don't just be a nice date," he advises. "Be a nice guy."
Wake-up call for college students
The video could serve as a wake-up call for college men who don’t show women enough respect, said Cannon, a sophomore.
“A lot of the comments on the video were, ‘Oh, his mom probably made this,’ or, ‘a girl made it,’ or, ‘an old single guy made it,’” Cannon said. “No one really suspects that it’s a bunch of guys trying to get other college guys to just be a little bit nicer.”
Cole said he learned his manners through stories of his grandfather, who died before the two could meet. According to family, his grandfather was the definition of chivalrous — kind, sweet and thoughtful.
In the video, Cole wears a tuxedo with a vest and bowtie. At one point he adds a ball cap to play a bit from Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" on the ukulele.
“My mom went out shopping and when I came back from school, she gave me the tux,” Cole said. “I was like, ‘Am I going to look like James Bond?’”
The filmmakers discovered Cole through TRYPS Children’s Theater to find the actor for their video. Cannon said as soon as they met Cole they knew he was a perfect fit.
“Cole just nailed it,” he said. “He was dancing and everything before we even asked him to start, so we knew he was the right kid for the video.”
Cannon said a script was prepared, but much of it changed over seven days of filming.
“A lot of the time he would reword or say something that fit very perfectly with the video, and so we would say, ‘Wait a minute, say that again,’” he said.
“When it caught attention nationally was just unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting it,” Cannon said.
Family takes it in stride
Cole’s mom Tammy Waltz-Nowlin said she didn’t know how to react when another of the film’s producers, MU junior Dan Woodward, told her the video went viral.
“Until all this happened, I was kind of computer illiterate,” she said. “I just got on Facebook.
"I had to ask him three times to say it. He said, 'Let me put it in layman’s terms — Cole is YouTube famous.’ ”
She said agencies have expressed interest in representing her son, before and after “The Extra Mile.” Many require actors to move to either New York or Los Angeles, a move she’s hesitant to make.
“Whenever Cole’s ready, and whatever makes him happy,” she said. “I always leave it up to him.”
She said her son's priorities are the same as they were before he became a YouTube star. When she picked him up from school after the video launched and mentioned his sudden Internet fame, she said his reaction was typical.
“Wow," he said. "What’s for dinner?”
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.