Isaac Davis ’20 knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a film director. He played with his family’s video cameras and edited vacation photos throughout his childhood — experimenting at an amateur level with different aspects of filmmaking. What Davis didn’t know was that one day he’d be pursuing his filmmaking dreams at the College of William and Mary.
“So a lot of people don’t know that William and Mary was my last choice,” Davis said. “My family lives here in Williamsburg. I didn’t want to go to a school in my hometown. Someone once told me though that we all end up here for a reason; we take that journey, take that path.”
When Davis realized that all of the great directors he looked up to had received degrees in English or film studies and he realized that the College had a film and media studies major, he was slightly more convinced. With his junior year now underway, Davis said that the major has offered him exactly what he was looking for — a chance to study great films and great directors.
But much of the experience Davis has with film hasn’t come from the classroom. He said that when he chose to come to the College, a university not known for its film program, he realized he would have to supplement his academic opportunities with ones he created for himself.
“I created a student organization, MPASO, that is an organization full of students that are dedicated to producing films here on campus,” Davis said.
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Organization wasn’t the first experience Davis had creating an organization, either. While he was working his very first job at a local Chick-fil-A, he connected with another employee who shared his love of filmmaking. What resulted was the idea behind Identity Production Studios, a company that Davis is the founder and president of.
Over the last several years, Davis has worked to formalize Identity Production Studios and now has a business license through the City of Williamsburg. On campus, he uses his company in conjunction with MPASO with the Raymond A. Mason School of Business to help its marketing department.
“The student organization’s main focus is to create short films,” Davis said. “That is the creative venue that we get to explore … develop all of those images on our own. The company is the official arm that takes care of the clients, the people … renting out certain equipment. The student organization is the more creative side.”
When Davis graduates from the College, he doesn’t plan on leaving his filmmaking business behind. Two summers ago, Davis worked in New York City on the set of “Mr. Robot” as a key grip, a filmmaking position that is responsible for shaping lighting and moving camera equipment.
“It was incredible to see how that happened, take that knowledge and bring that back down here to the student organization,” Davis said. “Not everyone in that organization is going to be [going into] filmmaking, film production, knowing what this piece of equipment does and what is its functionality.”
This summer work experience, combined with Davis’s dream of one day growing his company into a major production studio, has helped shape the rest of his post-graduation plans. Once he graduates, he plans on moving to either New York City, New York or Los Angeles, California, to continue networking and growing his company.
“A lot of people think there are a lot of steps [to take],” Davis said. “… I know a lot of people that are like ‘That’s one hell of an interesting plan, Mr. Davis.’ But why not start now? Why not have a company now? If the company is to become a major influence in the industry, why not start the process now? Part of that process is just going out and doing it and making those connections.”
Davis said he’s fairly unfamiliar with free time, as he’s regularly juggling commitments for MPASO and Identity Production Studios while also going to class and finishing homework. However, he’s found relaxation and support in his one other extracurricular commitment, the Delta Phi Fraternity. This is now Davis’s second year living in the fraternity’s on-campus house.
“One of my favorite memories was when my company had been commissioned to do a multi-camera shoot … the client that we had for that project was not at all pleasant, one of the worst clients I’ve dealt with,” Davis said. “I was so stressed out that at one point it was my birthday, three days before the production was supposed to be shot, and my mind was about to explode. I remember coming out of class and I see a whole bunch of guys gathered around me keeping me from the house. They finally take me back to the house and I go into the main chapter room and there is my family standing there with a whole bunch of balloons and a sheet cake. … I was mad going into the house that day but it turned out to be great.”
In those rare moments when Davis isn’t working on filming a video, studying for class or spending time with his fraternity brothers, he said he enjoys the time he spends just walking around campus, particularly walking around James Blair Hall, his favorite building on campus. This spot of relaxation has also become one of his favorite locations for shoots.
“Sleep is not in the picture, it’s hard,” Davis said. “What we are doing is not an easy thing to do as a student who is juggling school and the ambitions of being in a professional company. I think that the balance comes with the people that you work with. Both the student organization and the company wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the people who were giving their time and talent to make sure that I am on the right track. … I tell people all the time, everything in production is all about family.”