Forget the internship with Martin Scorsese or his time working for NBC; Jonah Tulis ’04 credits much of his success as a documentary producer and director to his time spent behind the camera at Colgate’s CUTV.
“We had a regular segment called the ‘Chopp Factor,’ where we would randomly rate the president for no particular reason,” says Tulis, who fondly remembers Colgate’s former president Rebecca Chopp being good natured about the show, which was called, Gateline. “We even had someone challenge her to a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.”
Tulis is a Chappaqua, N.Y., native who created his own major focused on film and music, before the University established a full major and minor in film and media studies.
“I took a lot of film classes,” he says. “They were definitely more art focused, but when I was there, I realized they were all the classes you needed for a film major.” He also helped out with directing live basketball games for Colgate athletics.
After graduating, Tulis worked on a number of comedy projects as a writer and creator, but it wasn’t until his 2020 release of Console Wars — which pulled back the curtain on a legendary feud between major video game makers Nintendo and Sony — that he found broad audience success.
Financing for Console Wars was thanks in part to Tulis’ connection with actor Seth Rogen and producer Scott Rudin, yet it would spend eight years in production before it was released. A North Korean hacking scandal halted production at one point, and it was ultimately released by Paramount+ as the first-ever original documentary to be streamed on that platform. (There was actually a Hollywood Reporter article called “How Console Wars Took a Winding Path to the Screen.”)
Console Wars was released directly to streaming services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The subject matter quickly helped it become the number one movie in America for a time, and it also shot to the top of the viewing charts in Japan. With millions of streams and some critical acclaim for his documentary work, Tulis embarked on several new projects, including directing GameStop: Rise of the Players, which was released in 2022.
That documentary was based on a highly publicized bout of stock market activism where video game fans snatched up lagging GameStop shares in an effort to punish hedge funds betting on the decline of the company. The resulting fallout crippled at least one hedge fund and even halted trading of the stock by some online investment platforms.
While there have been several documentaries examining the GameStop stock story, Tulis was the first to release, having put together the entire documentary in under eight months. NEON distributed the film to 300 theaters nationwide, and the documentary can now be found on Hulu.
“Which is crazy,” he says. “The film came out one year after the day that the buy button was taken away on Robinhood [a popular stock-buying app].”
While it remains too soon for him to talk about them yet, Tulis has several new projects in the works, including a true crime thriller, biographical films, and several scripted projects.
He says nothing compares to the experience of making films.
“It was really years of refining my craft and thinking about how to tell our stories best that got us to where we are today.”
At Colgate, Tulis played the string bass in the orchestra.