Jake Davis- T.O Love
#AllTorontoEverything. That’s what Jake Davis recently posted on his Twitter page while shouting out his Canadian homies, Drake, the October’s Very Own [OVO] crew and The Weeknd’s XO homies, Lamar Taylor and Hyghly Alleyne, the directors behind Drizzy’s Headlines video, which takes us through a visual journey of the city he loves; Toronto.
What’s it got to do with Jake Davis, who comes from the East Coast? The Manhattan-born filmmaker isn’t partial to New York City. He has worked with internatinonal talents and artists; Kanye West, 50 Cent, T.I, Snoop Dogg, Nike, streetwear giants, Supreme and Toronto’s very own, Drake. “Working with Drake is always incredible,” said Davis. “His OVO team is like my Toronto family at this point.”
Somewhere in that mouthful, you’ve probably had a tune pop in your head. Now you got a taste of what it feels like to be Davis-inspired. This guy is a big music fan. His music playlist is something that contributes to his work. What’s on it? “Cliff Martinez wrote an incredible score for Drive. That has been on heavy rotation. A lot of trap music. Waka, Rozay, Drizzy, Weeknd, Wayne, Asap Rocky, Wiz. Then Anika, James Blake and anything Jamie XX mixes. I feel a lot of people are stuck in the past when it comes to music, especially in NYC. There’s so much incredible new material out there right now.” I think you guys now know what I’m leading to next. The leaves are falling and the temperature is dropping, which means one thing. October aka Draketober aka Take Care. “Take Care is a classic. I’m super proud and excited for Drake, Oliver, 40, Niko and the entire OVOXO crew. Those guys are really doing it on their terms. That’s beauty to me…Rebel music.”
With twelve years in the biz and counting, 30-year-old Davis has built a murderers’ row lineup of clients. And how? Not to sound too cliché, but he did it with a mix of passion and hard work. “Not knowing all that much about filmmaking in my youth, I thought combining my passions for music, visuals and style is what a director did. So I went to NYU (Tisch School of the Arts) to learn how to be a filmmaker. I didn’t really know any other path.”
Hell, this guy was recruited by advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, to direct a short film for Nike, while still in film school. Talk about right place, right time, big break scenario. How many film students can say they’ve directed a giant commercial project while still in school, or better yet, at all?
The scary part is, that was only the beginning. His first paying gig was working for the late Grandmaster Roc Raida. You might remember his mashup album in ‘06-‘07 with DJ Vlad called Rock Phenomenon. (Still iTunes playlist-worthy to this day). “He was the first person to pay me for films. I’m eternally grateful to him. I directed a lot of visuals for him and the X-ectioners during my NYU years. I have great memories of that time in my life,” said Davis.
Making memories is what Davis does. Creating impressions and showing off his talent as a film maker. Whether it be in the Davis’ Test Shots project – a series of short videos focusing on “An Exploration In Style Through The Lens Of Jake Davis”, – or his music videos, no matter the medium, Davies makes sure there is variety. No day is ever, nor should it be ever, the same for an artist like Davis. One day it’s a Test Shots video on Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs of Street Etiquette, and the next, directing a short film for Supreme featuring Terry Richardson and Kermit The Frog. “I like the variety of every medium I work in. After I direct a couple music videos all I want to do is make some Test Shots and vice versa.”
Davis has worked with some pretty incredible people, but no matter who he meets or how successful he gets, there are still those he has yet to shoot. “I’ve had the incredible fortune of working with so many great people, but as far as Test Shots there are a few guys that I’d love to shoot in the near future, like Robert Rabensteiner, Francesco Clemente and Nick Wooster.” As for music videos, “There are so many artists I’d love to work with. But sometimes it’s like that saying, ‘You should never meet your heroes.’ It could ruin everything.”
But perhaps his next star is closer than he thinks. Er, we mean, himself. “I’ve been requested to do this a lot. Got to figure it out. I’d probably keep it pretty classic and simple with the clothing [an “I Love NY” shirt? A Supreme tee? An OVO crewneck? Maybe an Ehlife T? ‘cause we can totally hook that up. ] and then have something really outrageous happen in the background.” (Maybe he should get all of his Test Shots subjects and group them behind him while he stunts in front of the camera, a la Headlines, anybody?)
As with any photograph, painting, film, or song, the finished product is always something we look forward to. But it’s the behind-the-scenes work and production that goes into a project, that really makes or breaks a work; Davis is no exception.
His creative process for each film- just like his clientele and mediums of work- varies. “Each film is so different but generally, the inspiration comes from my life and then I process those experiences into treatment form. From the page, I try to execute that vision onto screen with my crew.” He adds, “Sometimes, directing is more about decision making and communication. Other times, it’s about being hands on and physically operating the camera and directing talent.”
It starts off with the nitty gritty, get-your-hands-dirty type work and finally, transitions into the finished product, which is the only thing viewers care about. It’s also a top priority of the artist. Having your work connect to your viewers is one of the most difficult things to do. Even with all the success, Davis still thinks he can do better. “I think my films have a sense of honesty and humility in them. I’d like people to feel inspired after watching them. I think I have to work harder at getting to that stage.”
As for the youngin’s out there trying to make it big in this cutthroat business? “Work hard. Create your lane. An original perspective is your greatest asset as a creative.” In other words, no swackin’(For all you Jersey Shore addicts). Do you, work your ass off and come up with your own shit.
Being in such a competitive industry, I’m assuming the word ‘sleep’ is nowhere near Davis’ agenda. Besides, sleep is lame anyways. Being a NY native, this man must’ve inherited that NY state of mind, no sleep, hustle-and-grind attitude that has gotten him to where he’s is now. And it doesn’t stop there. “I’m really trying to streamline the workflow. I want everything I touch to be even better quality and more unique than what I’ve done in the past. Look out for more Test Shots, music videos, and fashion campaigns.
“I’d like to make a name for myself in the feature world. That’s a major goal of mine in the coming years.”
**Photo by Nicholas Maggio