Creatives Offscript: Davis Priestley, Revery


By Assemble

September 14, 2022

Davis Priestly is the owner of Revery and producer extraordinaire, having touched almost every type of content and storytelling. Davis has produced everything from TV shows such as Project Runway, to feature films like Clementine, to branded and non-profit work for the likes of Nike, Pharrell Williams and more. In this episode, Davis takes us through his journey of breaking into the film industry at age 13 and making a name for himself ever since.

Find this episode on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Also available at Creatives Offscript.

Nate Watkin: Davis Priestley is the owner of Revery, a global storytelling studio based in Portland, Oregon. Since getting his start on film sets at the age of 13, Davis has done everything from working as a producer on Project Runway, to premiering his feature film Clementine at the Tribeca Film Festival, to helping launch Pharrell Williams' Black Ambition non-profit. He has touched almost every format of content and storytelling and has launched films, ad campaigns, and even entire production departments. Welcome to our show, Davis.

Davis Priestley: Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Nate Watkin: Yeah, absolutely. And so, interesting thing about you is that you got your start on film sets, in LA, in Hollywood at the age of 13. Would love to just hear the story of how that happened and how you landed your first job.

Davis Priestley: Yeah, I was bit by the bug pretty early. It's the only thing I remember really ever wanting to do, work in movies. And I was lucky to have a dad that was interested in sharing a lot of different film with me. So I was watching things like Seven Samurai at eight years old, I don't really know how I made it through that, but it became a favorite film. And there was a commercial shooting down the block from my house and I walked over there and asked if I could help. They put me on craft service. I remember I was doing some baby carrots, I think, and did okay. They asked me back the next day. This was the 90s so I think it was okay to have a 13-year-old on set. And I worked a couple days on that commercial. Maybe the coolest thing was they gave me a walkie talkie and $100 at the end of it. So it was a good start, and I just loved being on set.

Nate Watkin: Nice. And did you continue working through your teenage years on set? How did that evolve?

Davis Priestley: Yeah. I had a unique approach to my teenage years. I found myself pretty disinterested in school, so I opted out of that early on, and my parents were really supportive of that as long as I got my GED and started working. So I left high school and was writing a lot. I was kind of, I think, in that classic early phase of loving the idea of movies, and not quite sure what my fit in it would be. So I was writing and making a lot of projects myself as a teenager, working on other people's small things. And wasn't until I was about 17 that I got back on a film set and got to actually be an intern through 30 days of shooting.

Nate Watkin: Wow. That's a really interesting story. I mean, I was never a school person either. I definitely struggled with the format and I think always wanted to just get started with my life and with my career and my ambition. Is that a similar feeling that you had at that age?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, I think very much. I just felt in high school that the opportunity was out there, and not here. And I felt really directed and driven and excited about getting to it. And I should say, on top of that, because it is an interesting part of my story that I'm gay, and in high school I started really identifying with systems and inequality and just feeling like I want to be part of a world that I can help make and build and find my people and get out there. And that was a way that I feel like filmmaking and storytelling really cemented for me, that there was a love of the magic of movies, but the more that I focused in and studied and connected with filmmaking, I recognized that a lot of what I was seeing was representation, and the way that stories can create connection and you can see yourself on screen and to build communities through them. So it was this neat marriage of the love of the art form and the craft of filmmaking, and then the incredible power that they hold to tell stories and connect the world.

Nate Watkin: That had to be scary though. I mean, dropping out of high school, especially nowadays, I feel like dropping out has been a little more glamorized after the Mark Zuckerberg's and these types of stories. But I mean, back in the 90s, it was just like, you go to college, you get a job. I mean, that had to be a pretty scary time in your life. What was your thought process at that time?

Davis Priestley: I think I was so driven on getting out. I moved out, I got an apartment. My parents were truly supportive. I know it's not a parenting podcast, but I always give them credit for, "If you get the GED, you get a job, you take care of yourself, we will support you." And they knew I was passionate about it and ready to work, but I moved into that apartment and shut the door and off they drove. And I remember not having any clue what I was going to do next. And there was definitely a sense of, "Well, wait a minute. I only took this plan so far."

And it's interesting because the next opportunity that I got, I was working in a coffee shop, and I ended up being the wardrobe designer, costume designer for a film, talking with some teammates. And I just politely introduced myself and asked if they thought there might be an opportunity for me on the project, and they were kind enough to introduce me to the production team and that was the next film. So it was just that early building and really scrapping it together. The apartment didn't last, turns out I couldn't afford it, needed to be on couches. I did that for many years, two or three years to start in LA, a lot of surfing and house sitting and just started piecing it together and building it.

Nate Watkin: Wow.

Davis Priestley: I will not pretend to not be afraid though. I think that it's important to recognize that there wasn't a huge safety net for me there. It was good. I was out there and I needed to make it happen or not.

Nate Watkin: What age were you when you first, I guess, left your parents home and got that apartment?

Davis Priestley: I think I was 18 and a day.

Nate Watkin: And what was your goal at that point? I mean, it seems now you've moved into producing, but initially were you thinking of directing, or what did you want to be at that point in your life?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, I think that I was just defaulting to the idea of writing and directing from I want to participate in great projects and be working on films that I care about. I really credit early opportunities in production to help me see departments and work across departments, meet some really incredible people, really generous mentors that got me opportunities and challenged me. I worked for probably two, three years, I was PAing a lot and had an opportunity to start moving into AD track, and thought that I would pursue the DGA training and go second or first AD formally and work my way up in production in that respect. But the early experiences of running talent and running a set like that really connected me into the bigger picture of how things are made and how energy and people are collected and what it takes to get a project like that going.

So, that's where a connection into, maybe, I would say that for me, producing is about what's possible, and a passion for pushing, like what could we do and what could we create and how could this happen? And through ADing, I felt like I started to really see that, it's as simple as someone believing and taking that first step and projects can come as a result.

Nate Watkin: And are you talking about the initial idea and the vision of the story, or more so the collaboration with the director and bringing their vision to life and their ideas once they're in the mix of the film?

Davis Priestley: Maybe a little bit of both. Definitely what I connected to being on set in an AD capacity, whether you're in the trailer, writing the schedules, putting the Gs out or running set, you're really in the eye of that storm, and so close to the director and the writers and the creative vision. And that was, I think, the unlock for me about where I really felt like I came alive and loved that hand in hand kind of like the trust and the healthy debate that you need and that dynamic between a director or show runner, etc. I think to this day, that's what I consistently am pursuing, is what's the next creative challenge and where's the next great idea and how can we make it happen?

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I saw you worked on Entourage, one of my all time favorite shows. Was that early in your career or what was your role on that show?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, I was a production coordinator early, that was probably four years into LA. I got that opportunity and that was neat for me because I had been around enough that I was starting to understand the power dynamics, the politics elements of the studio system that are a pain in the ass, and slow things down and inhibit creativity. And so I started connecting to projects that were a little bit independent in nature and of course Entourage has plenty of establishment behind it, but that first season was really run in an independent way. And it was cool for me to be part of a small production team and just real access right into the creators and the writers' room and everything that was happening.

Because I think as an older, more experienced person, I recognize how much they were trying to do with the resources that they had on that first season. It was a cool opportunity. I will also say it was a dynamic and challenging environment to be in, really hard driving culture there. And that was good for me too, just to recognize the demands that can be placed on people and how to try to keep some balance within your department and your team and make sure that you're pushing and hitting the marks that are expected of you, but trying to create a little bit of an ecosystem where there's sort of more family energy happening and some support.

Nate Watkin: And would you say that culture is pushed by HBO or was it the specific production that was running?

Davis Priestley: I don't know, because the only other HBO work was Project Greenlight, which was a super interesting experience as well because I was on the film crew side of that. So suddenly there's TV cameras tracking you being a second AD on a three million dollar horror film, and that culture was incredibly different in all the ways than Entourage. But what I do know about Entourage is that I really responded to, I hadn't been around a writer's room like that. And that was really fun just to see the way that there was a drive and creative aspiration and some competition in a cool way, really neat to see people pushing for what they could do with this pilot season.

Nate Watkin: So you continued freelancing in LA, you worked really the gamut, assistant director, LP, UPM, producer. And it seems like you really broke out into your career and started working with a lot of great companies, agencies, brands across the board, but in that early part of your life, what would you say the biggest struggle you had to overcome was?

Davis Priestley: Let's see... I like that question. Yeah. Okay. So I think in the early part of my career, the biggest struggle that I was navigating was a sense of who am I within this industry? And where do I want to apply my ambition, and how am I going to believe in my dream? I need to formalize it a little bit more. I really enjoyed getting a range of experience, but as a result, I think by my kind of mid-20s, seven years or so into working on sets, I felt a little bit confused about what the right next step for me would be. And I did feel burned out on LA. I felt kind of the community that I was in was very driving, ADing movie to movie didn't feel like it was adding up to something for me. And I knew that I wanted more and I wanted to have more of a sense of ownership over my career, and what could I build?

That story led me to pack everything up and think that I was moving to New York. I had just finished Runway out there and thought maybe I would spend some time looking at more TV or doc world, taking a break from features, but I got a call and an opportunity to work on a Gus Van Sant film in Portland. And I had done a couple projects, indies up there, and really loved the opportunity. So I took it, and doing that film with Gus was a really pivotable moment in my career. Neil Cop was a young producer at that time on that project and David Cress, and they created a team and a culture around that movie that was remarkable to me. I just really felt like I was getting a master's or something. I knew production, but here I was really understanding how to make a good movie, and that experience and the connection into the Portland independent scene just really felt like this is it. I didn't really know what it was, but I felt like I can do something here.

And so I started kind of splitting my time and not really sure am I moving to Portland, but I'm working all the time in LA, and eventually put up some roots in Portland. And in Portland at that time, there's not a huge film community. TV and film wasn't happening to the degree that the last decade it's stepped up in the state. And so I kind of quickly learned I better diversify what I'm doing. And that was actually early push into doing more advertising projects, commercial-driven projects. And in Portland, of course, with Wieden and Nike, you've got this huge talent pool and energy happening around pretty great advertising. So early opportunities there were this kind of digital transformation. One of the first briefs that I got was Nike saying, "There's a thing called Instagram and we need content for it. What can we do?" And those were the early days of what became Revery is looking at again, how can we gather like-minded people under the mission of what's possible to create and get after non-traditional solutions and connect the thinking closer to the making.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And I should have asked you at the top of the call, but where are you from originally? Where were you born?

Davis Priestley: I grew up in Humboldt County, Northern California. So north of San Francisco by some miles for sure.

Nate Watkin: Got it. So moving to Portland, did it kind of feel like moving home? Was it kind of the LA things over, I'm going to move back to where the roots are, or was this a whole new adventure?

Davis Priestley: I think that it's a little bit of both. I think that there was a comfort in Portland. Portland is kind of a big small town, and especially 10 years ago, even smaller. One of the things I used to say is there's nowhere for a guy to buy jeans in Portland. And that was kind of the truth. It's like, where does anyone buy a pair of Levis in Portland? But I think that slightly smaller is one way to put it. But what Portland really connected me into was what I continued to feel in Portland is that there is a true community around filmmaking.

And I really just responded to the way that people supported each other making independent projects, and the Gus film, we had a proper budget, but it felt like there was something more happening, that people were really invested, and that it was a community of true artists that believed in him and gathered around that opportunity and put themselves into it, their passion, their talents, and that felt like a connection into kind of the magic of filmmaking. Whereas LA started to feel like a job, like a clock in, a clock out, what's the next project approach rather than the dream, the passion, the magic.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. It kind of mirrors similar sentiments I've heard of about the Austin filmmaking community. Would you say there's kind of a similar vibe there in Portland?

Davis Priestley: I've heard the same. Yeah. Some of these smaller communities, I actually have some friends out in Boston that are making movies and I helped them a little bit with a project they shot last year, and it was fun to do some of those crew conversations. And I think that these smaller spots, it's interesting, we should not talk about macro economic trends, but just looking at where it's affordable to live and make work as an independent artist, there's some challenges with New York and LA. However, I think it's critical that you spend time in New York or LA. I absolutely got my college degree, so to speak on those sets and continue to. Revery has an office and employees in Los Angeles, I'm there every month. It's an important, critical part of this industry. And it's the delta that the river flows through and you cannot separate it. It's an important place. I think it's really a rad privilege that I have now to live two hours up north and get to bring projects through and have a relationship in both markets.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I agree completely. I mean, I think it's also just a matter of seeing and understanding how the best of the best do it. Right?

Davis Priestley: The innovation, the talent, yeah, absolutely.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And then you could take that home with you, take it to whatever market you end up in, but just understanding this is how Hollywood, the best film community in the world, operates.

Davis Priestley: And after the last decade in Portland, sometimes I wonder if anyone actually lives in LA anymore, because everybody up here is 818 or 310.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Right, right. And so at some point in this transition, you became an executive producer at Instrument. At what point was that in your career?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, I was freelancing and kind of piecing together an identity and an approach to what freelancing in commercial production in Portland and LA would look like. And I knew that I didn't want to freelance. I also knew that I didn't want a job. And I think I was kind of dragging my feet around what I was going to start. I was at a Christmas party for a friend's production company, and really creepy, Toby Grubb, if you ever listened to this, reached out from the darkness and tapped me on the shoulder and explained that Instrument wanted to start a content capability. And if I had any interest in coming in to talk about it. It was a tremendous opportunity and getting to work with Justin and Vincent J.D. at that time, this was 2011, I think. I think I was something like the 20th employee, and in the time that I was there, which was under two years, they hired another 80, 90 people.

So it was an incredible couple of years to watch that type of growth and passion. The skill and talent at that place was insane. And I really was handed a golden ticket, and in the chocolate factory of, I got a year and a team to make projects to demonstrate the capability. And it wasn't until the second year that there was any expectation that we would start touching client work. We did do some stuff in the first year, but really it was magic. I think we had about 10, 12 people, and it was a mix of filmmakers designers, technologists. We had developers and a tech director on the team and what can we do? And that was a cool look into how technology can empower a story experience, you might say, and continues to be something that I'm really passionate and excited about is what is the future of storytelling and how can technology increase the sense of magic in the way that we experience a story?

Nate Watkin: And so you're hired there to build out, as you mentioned, that content production capability, how does one do that? What did that look like building an entire production arm or team from scratch, and what was the specific hires processes? How did you go about that?

Davis Priestley: My first order of business was to really work with the partners to understand what they wanted out of the discipline and why they were adding it. And so I really focused there to start and I wanted to build slowly knowing that we were creating our own model. Early on, there was decisions around this isn't a production company. We're not rostering directors. This is about in-house making. This is about content production, not TV. That's funny, right? I think around that time content as a word around this industry was starting to emerge and a real shift away from the focus being broadcast. Nike was an early client, an instrument, and there was an awareness that things like Instagram were demanding storytelling. So some of the nuts and bolts of those first quarters at Instrument were just around identifying the output. I'd like to give a lot of credit to the strategy and the capability of those partners, knowing what they wanted to build, understanding their client base and their targets.

So there was early awareness that several of the established relationships there, for example, Nike or Levi's, Google, all had content meetings that the discipline of that organization was let's build it first, and then trust that they'll come in. I would say with deep love in my heart for Truen Pence, that was an interesting, early thing to navigate. After accepting the job, spending a month or two just doing the groundwork, setting up some planning and what is this going to look like and how will we build? The leadership at Instrument handed me Truen Pence, who was a designer that sat on another team across the agency, and said he has some experience and interest in filmmaking. And we think he should join your team and be a director. It was a really smart move in hindsight that I didn't realize at the moment, but I think part of what it was, was a little bit of a test.

What can you do with some talent and some interest, and that married really well with the opportunity to push and create projects internally, and in a really big testing environment. So Truen and I, over a series of meetings, had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better, but I really was calculating we better get something greenlit and into production quickly. So I challenged him with, I think literally I said, "What do you want to make? Can you come back in a week with some ideas?" And we spent the second week polishing them up. We pitched to the partners, they gave us a little bit of funding and some resource. That project turned into the Build film, which you can still check out thebuildfilm.com, but it was a really incredible opportunity to make a documentary. But hey, we're sitting on a team with technologists and designers, let's make this an interactive web film that really challenges what can be done on the internet in 2012 or 2013, whatever that was.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. That's a bit ahead of its time now. It seems like that's has now become the norm with these interactive experiences and everything, but that was probably right around the time when you're really starting to blend these online experiences with traditional content, right?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, absolutely. Some of the innovation, not being an engineer myself, but some of the innovation that was coming out of that team was incredible. Something that might seem simple to me just as a filmmaker, but was a huge deal was they coded the entire 20 minute film into 24 images a second. So that anytime you paused, you could interact and manipulate a frame out of the film within the web browser in real time. And I probably will die not knowing really how complicated that was, but it was an innovation that was then immediately applied across that agency and showed up on other projects.

Nate Watkin: And so after Instrument, you go on to found Revery. What made you decide to take that entrepreneurial leap?

Davis Priestley: Coming out of Instrument, I just wanted to return to freelancing. I really felt like I was fired up, and again, had gotten my masters, just my butt kicked in the best way and was so just kind of at the height of passion for the industry, the background of having gotten to make films and work on big things as an AD. And now what felt right was all of the opportunity that was starting to collect in Portland. Google had arrived. Nike was there, Adidas was there, there was this explosion of growth happening that I think was really pushed by social media and innovation and content demand. The rise of web, a digital transformation for corporations. And suddenly every call that I was getting as a freelance producer was, "Hey, we're a brand team. We're a design team, we've got a content brief, and we don't know what to do."

And I really recognized this need in the market for a non-production company, a production consultancy that was able to partner early in a project and just provide some advice and pathway and passion. What can we make? How could we get after this? And so we started building out a kind of nontraditional production model that wasn't about rostering talent so much as creating a scalable network of production service. And so early on goals were to bring a lot of capital access into Revery because clients didn't understand cash flow of these types of projects. That was an early key was to be able to support with how do we move money quickly for you to get after this? Other kind of important elements were none of these teams had business affairs. So things like legal guidance and signatory advising, there were a lot of high end complicated issues that we needed to be able to provide some consulting and support around just because we were working with 10 years ago, clients that didn't have a lot of experience in content production.

Nate Watkin: And by the cash flow element, do you mean a brand team would come to you and since they're not working with a traditional agency or something, you were basically helping them manage, hey, here's how you pay for production and make sure vendors get paid on time, this sort of consulting?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, absolutely. And then who knows if I even want this to go to print, but part of what we were doing was you need to get your client to give you an advance, and sign here, because we will advance it for you so you don't miss this prep window, and then let's make sure we get paid back. But I think it still continues and it's probably at some level just a drumbeat of the industry, but the opportunity that a lot of us, most of us have a really beautiful camera in our pocket. And so we can make something pretty beautiful and successful in a lightweight, we might call it nimble way, AKA, hey, my cousin could do it kind of energy. But the business side of this industry I have found can really challenge newbies, just not understanding the legal risk or compliance issues, employment law just in the last year or so. I won't get too specific, but really large opportunity. And there wasn't an awareness of what signing the SAG actors would do to a project.

So that type of navigation continues to be, I think an important part of how we work with clients. Our goal is all about solutions and let's reduce stress and provide a pathway to solution and success on our project. But a lot of that is upfront consulting. We actually kind of have formalized a whole component of our service offering called production planning. And honestly it's a loss leader for us, and happy to do it, but it's like, let's just talk early and understand what you're trying to do and be embedded with you and really integrate in with your team, creatives included on how we might accomplish that.

Nate Watkin: So I'm really curious about your production model. So it sounds like you don't have a roster of directors and you operate more as a production consultancy, but then you have a network around the world of creative teams or directors that you bring into projects. Would just love to hear more about how Revery operates.

Davis Priestley: We kind of are a two part studio, fairly traditional creative studio, where we might take on the creative challenge through making and delivery. And that is supported by we're about 25 now between LA and Portland. And that's a mix of of course, producers and creatives, as well as makers like After Effects artists and editors, designers, large design departments. And then fairly traditional kind of production service side of the business. However, our foundation is creative production, and the demand to work at Revery is that you are someone who believes in the art and the magic of filmmaking, and the highest respect for craft and quality. So everyone, and I really mean this, from the finance team through operations, producers and creatives, we have the expectation that we are all working in sync to achieve the highest ambition for a project.

That can look a lot of different ways. And that is hopefully one of our most valuable components for a client is that we can completely design an approach to a project based off of what's best for the project and for the client, whether that's an agency or a direct to brand, whether that's some of the team has been built, it's not unheard of for a director to be brought to us with the project. And we build around them. By and large, we are continually investing in our global network of established as well as emerging or unknown talent. A lot of our relationships are independent directors and creatives. However, a decade plus in the industry, we also work with a ton of rostered directors that are happy to jump onto other projects and really friendly relationships, non-competition between different production companies.

Nate Watkin: Interesting. Do you work through the production company in that scenario or is it something where the production company signs off and says, "It's okay for X director to go work with Revery on this job."

Davis Priestley: We do bring everything through Revery, but the founding values at Revery are people, love, and stories. And it's really that simple. Our focus is always on people at the core, not only how we're treating people and how we're building a sense of community around every project and the operations of the day-to-day Revery output. But moreover, Revery really wants to be a destination for artists to make their best work. So my goal continuously is to find the best projects and pull the best people in on them. And I'm happy to partner in any way that accomplishes those goals. So a lot of the approach is very direct human to human contact relationships, mutual investment, kindness. And as a result, there are hundreds of talented people in a database now at Revery that we have been so privileged and lucky to get to work with over the years and have deep respect for, and really want to honor them. If we're going to reach out, this is something we really think is right for you. Let's connect with your team. Let's confirm that this would be a good fit and get you over here.

Nate Watkin: And I guess what I was alluding to there as well was if you're a director that has a rep or is on another production company's roster, you find ways to work with that director, if they're right for the job is what you're saying.

Davis Priestley: Yeah. Every situation is unique. Not all directors are available, and that's completely appropriate. I totally support that. It's definitely an important part of working with without a roster is our awareness of being the friendly partner in the market rather than the aggressive or competitive energy that I just don't have any time for it. I'm just not interested in it. I think there's plenty of work out there and that the goal should be lifting everybody up to make their best work. So yeah, there are some people that I don't think I'm calling Chris Nolan on the spot anytime soon, but I do think it's all about relationships. And also I have not mentioned and I'm remiss not to, but the role of EPs and company owners out there and all of the hard work they're doing to continually develop and nurture their talent. And that's an important part of teamwork and being friendly across the lines.

Nate Watkin: Yeah, it is interesting though how the industry has begun to shift. It used to just be this very top down model essentially, where you had your roster that was very protected and guarded. And if anybody wanted to touch your roster, they had to work with you. And it seems like while that still is the case, the landscape has shifted so much. So it's just interesting to hear how you navigate that, those intricacies.

Davis Priestley: Yeah. And we really feel that. I mean, I think that every year it continues to move into a little bit of a looser collection rather than strict lanes.

Nate Watkin: And you've got a client roster, I think that would make any production company jealous. You've worked with Google, Nike, Amazon, you name it. But I think one of the projects that's really cool that you all worked on recently was the nonprofit project Black Ambition with Pharrell. Would love to hear just a little bit more about that project and how that came to be.

Davis Priestley: Yeah, that was an incredible opportunity for us to get to partner with them on their inaugural year, they were looking for a content partner. They kind of knew that they needed maybe something a little bit more than that, but because of the opportunity to have worked together before, there was just a non-guarded way to talk about what type of partnership might give them the best support and launch them successfully. So what was formalized was this really tightly integrated team. It was started with about four or five core people on the Revery side and matched on the Team Yellow, the team behind Black Ambition side. And from there grew, at one point, I think we had 25, 30 people around America working on pieces of that project. But over five months we put these teams together to not only create content to support and sustain the launch and kind of the marketing aspect of getting the organization out there.

But what was actively happening was running this simultaneous competition to attract black and Latinx founders, make selections, and then get them into the mentorship program that culminated in the two day demo day and award ceremony. So Revery's role was early on strategy and design and building out that content library as well as all of the live and virtual event production that needed to happen. The prerecorded content, the evergreen content library, that was the kind of mentorship education component to the program. And then running that ultimate two day live event, which was incredibly challenging in the best way, to put together that scale of content, technical backend, all of the live cues, and the caliber of artists that were participating and the reach and ambition of that culmination.

And ultimately, everybody in our war room over those two days couldn't not cry with the energy that was being created and that community of people and the caliber of talent and ideas that they were putting out, and this culmination of sense of gratitude of, yeah, this is the magic of why you do this. This is what is possible through storytelling and filmmaking and look at what has been built and how lucky are we that we got to jump on here and go for this ride? And then we all took a month off because it was a little exhausting.

Nate Watkin: Yeah, yeah. Such a cool program and nonprofit that was launched there. But yeah, I understand it looked like there was over 10 hours of content produced for the library, then you're producing the live event as well. And then also probably the promotional assets to tell the whole story at the end of the day. So sounds like a massive undertaking.

Davis Priestley: And a big capability at Revery is how can we do this with respect to the resource that you have? And that set us up to be a really strong partner for them as a nonprofit, without a lot of money, let's bring creative production to the table and makers to think about what's the right spend for this asset? Let's think outside the box and not send the Alexa crew to New York. What if we ship them an iPhone with a shoot at home guide, helped them with some pre-light, made sure that they got some coaching on performance and do it all virtually. That type of approach, I think allowed us to really over-deliver and put the money, the resource, the time into what was really going to move the needle for the organization with ambitious goals around launching careers of black and Latinx founders and creating a new economic engine around an underrepresented group.

So that's a good shoutout, I think for why Revery was a good partner for them because we're not just reserving that point of view for nonprofits, that's every project, is what's the ultimate goal and the creative ambition here? And what's the best way that we can get after that. And oftentimes in production that does require a big spend production is not a cheap thing to do, but I think more and more, there is a demand on all of us across from marketers to PAs on set, to be aware of the content demand is only increasing. I need more for less and to truly be a partner in that rather than standing in the way of embracing, how do we connect with an audience what's the right way and how do we honor the resource that's available for the project?

Nate Watkin: And maybe an advantage of not having a roster, right? Because if you got the director of roster, then it's like, oh, we definitely want the Alexa. We want the best cinematographer. We want to get something for this director's reel, right?

Davis Priestley: Yeah, no, it's interesting. Because that's a core reason. I get the question all the time. Why not a roster? Because I'm saying that my career is dedicated to what's possible. Like, "Hey, creative, what do you want to do? Let's go do it." So why not a director roster? Why have I not attached my career to a half dozen, a dozen individuals that I respect and admire? It's often on my mind. And the reason is really simple. If you want to be positioned to take on a challenge and be part of the solution of what's possible, I can't get the Revery wagon hitched to a narrow roster of talent. That means we're working for them and not the story. Ultimately we really like being in the position where we're in service of the story and the client, and sure we'd love to win an award or play with the new Alexa, but this is really about that story success, the client's ultimate success, and that's the only way that all ships will rise.

Nate Watkin: So I'm going to jump into a few personal questions here. First of all, what are you reading or watching these days?

Davis Priestley: You know what? I just finished the Second Mountain by David Brooks, and I don't always love what David Brooks is writing, but I really responded to this one. I think it was right for me at this time. I did just have a kid, Revery's going to be 10 years old, thinking about what is my sole practice in the second half of my career, and really wanting to make sure that I'm working every day to make a platform for what's possible and making the world a little bit better. So that book really connected with me. And interestingly, I also just, don't tell my team, but I just cut out early a week or two ago and snuck home and watched Joachim Trier's Worst Person in the World, which was the finale of his kind of more than a decade long Oslo trilogy that I just so loved, Oslo, August 31st, and Repose and those really beautiful films.

And then getting to finish, it's in so many ways, a really different film, but fits so beautifully in that trilogy. And the fact that he made it so many years later, I was really moved getting to watch that and really be thinking about 15 years of his life was making these projects and you can just see the themes and the artistry and him developing. It's powerful trilogy and really beautiful film.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I need to check that out. It is incredible when you see people commit their life to a piece of artwork like that, who was the director out of Austin? His name escaping me now, but did the film that was filmed over 10 years with the same actors.

Davis Priestley: Oh sure. Yeah. That's funny. Yeah. He has been a little quiet the last couple years. Before Sunrise, right?

Nate Watkin: Yeah.

Davis Priestley: Well a mentor of mine is really close with Patricia Arquette and it was interesting for me because that project was happening early in my career. And so I was kind of aware of that, that every year or two, they were going back to shoot more and I couldn't get my head around it as a young person. Well, what kind of film is that, that every two years you go shoot a little bit? And then as an older person to see the film come out and realize, whoa, that vision, that commitment, that discipline, that building. I think that that's a nice way to also talk about how my role as an EP or as a producer, as a partner to artists and creatives, I think is really founded in this how can I help you show up how you want to? What do you want to say and how do you want to say it and let me reach for it with you.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And outside of work, what's something that you're really passionate about?

Davis Priestley: Something that I'm really passionate about as I've kind of spoken to a little bit is what does it look like to build strong communities, and build connection and put a little bit of good into the world with our actions and the way that we go through life. I really want that to continue to be part of what Revery is about. And I don't just mean nonprofit work. I mean the way that we build our teams and support our staff and hopefully create really good jobs for people that support families and good lives. So personally I'm always looking for a way to show up in my own community. And I think of that sort of as my physical backyard in the neighborhood that I live in, but also looking at the global film community and what a beautiful thing that is to be a part of, that you can drop in anywhere in the world and you speak a similar language to someone else, storytelling through film.

To give you another answer, I really like cooking for my family, and that's been a neat thing, adding a kid into the mix and navigating continual meltdown, which is trying to work in this industry and run a creative studio and have a toddler, but it's fun to get home and be forced to unplug for a couple hours before bedtime. What are we going to cook? Let's make it together, and just have that phone off time.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. How old is the toddler?

Davis Priestley: 22 months, will be two here shortly. How about you? Do you have kids?

Nate Watkin: No, no kids for me. Not yet.

Davis Priestley: Delay as long as you can.

Nate Watkin: Congrats. It's a great, great thing. And what's next for Revery? I mean, I know you just produced a feature that premiered at Tribeca. I believe that was produced through Revery as well, if I'm not mistaken. Do you see it evolving? Is it just any form of storytelling or are you looking at more features? Where does Revery go from here?

Davis Priestley: Yeah. Revery continues to be ambitious about what we can do in the next decade. And right now we're in a really neat position that we've got some really incredible clients and really strong, bonded team in-house. A lot of ambition about what we can tackle together. We're loving the opportunities that we're having right now to do serialized storytelling. We did a series for Nike last year around non-professional athletes. That was a huge passion project for everyone and really resulted in some beautiful storytelling and amazing connection. We're doing a project right now for a tech client that I think has incredible potential and looking at a couple other brand-supported projects that are non-traditional advertising, and that's a pretty fun place to work.

Another area that has been incredible to be developing is our brand design capabilities and really working in how we can tell a story across mediums. So maybe we're working on a film component, but there's going to be podcast and a digital element that might be an interactive kind of design-based experience. And that type of multiple channels storytelling is really exciting for sure. I think again, where technology can start to come into play can only raise the potential and possibility there. And then absolutely looking at features. We've got a couple projects in development right now, a narrative feature. It's funny. My doc friends like to point out docs are narrative too. We've got a documentary coming together, and have some passion, admittedly, early ideas around an original episodic project.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Sounds like you got a lot on your plate.

Davis Priestley: Staying busy, yeah.

Nate Watkin: Exciting stuff.

Davis Priestley: It's nice. The other thing to shout out is that there are 25 other people that make it work every day. And that's incredible for me to just Rey started in a cliche, me in a garage and nine years later, 25 of us that there's other people kind of breathing life into every day and challenging me as to what we should get after and how is incredibly rad.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Well last question I usually ask, what advice would you give to a 20-year-old you, but I guess in this scenario, I'd have to ask a 13-year-old you, what would be the advice you'd give yourself at the beginning of your career?

Davis Priestley: I got advice early on in my career to not have a plan B, and that's something that I've stuck really close to is if you believe in yourself and you believe in your plan, A, why would you ever need a plan B? I think that believing in yourself is an important thing. And I struggled with that a little bit. I think as a gay person, I felt like I was unsure of who I was. And on top of that, I wasn't sure that I was wanted in the industry or that my contribution would make an impact and gaining confidence slowly but surely I would hope that for anyone that there's confidence there. Some really practical advice that I would give people is to understand what you want and to ask for it.

And you never want to be pushy or annoying, but I think consistency is key, and developing relationships slow and steady, building, staying in touch with people, and continuing to communicate what you want will pay off. I really love it when someone submits a resume or sends a project over and says, they're interested in working together. I encourage them to keep up with me and keep sending things and they do. And a lot of the time we end up working together and building a relationship and it goes from there. I think that's an important part of the industry. And I would really want to encourage anyone to believe in yourself and just put it out there and stay connected.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Two really great pieces of advice there. Well, thank you so much for joining us, really enjoyed this conversation, and it's great chatting with you.

Davis Priestley: Yeah. Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.


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