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News Every Day |

I've been an actor on Disney Channel and cast shows for Netflix. Now I'm an executive producer — here's how I networked my way through Hollywood.

Dru Davis
Dru Davis.
  • Dru Davis is an executive producer for "Monica," which aired at the 2022 Venice Film Festival.
  • He got his start acting on kids shows and networked with casting directors to change roles.
  • He says going above and beyond and cultivating relationships helped him get into producing.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dru Davis, a 28-year-old executive producer in Los Angeles, California, about his job. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The applause for "Monica" was deafening — 11 straight minutes of the audience heartily approving of the film we'd poured our souls into. 

I've been in the film industry my whole life and loved every moment of it, but standing in the crowd at the Venice International Film Festival, for a screening of a film I helped produce, felt like a true full-circle moment for my career. 

Filmmaking has always been in my blood. I was born and raised in Santa Monica, and my parents inspired me with their work on the executive and creative sides of Hollywood. I even had a filmmaking fairy godmother in my actual godmother Tina Treadwell, who was the vice president of casting for Disney from 1997 to 2001 (she was the casting genius behind Disney shows like "Lizzie McGuire" and "Even Stevens," among many others). 

I learned so much from Treadwell over the years, and I'm grateful for her tutelage. My parents also always encouraged me to follow my own filmmaking dreams, so I dove in headfirst. 

My first big acting gig was a role on Disney Channel's 'Wizards of Waverly Place'

I was 15 years old. The entire cast was so welcoming and kind. I bonded with Jake T. Austin, who played the younger Russo brother Max, and I appreciated how Selena Gomez was genuinely down to earth with a great sense of humor. I found myself fortunate enough to have a similar positive experience acting that same year in an episode of Nickelodeon's "iCarly."

I'd grown up surrounded by family in the industry, and now I was finally making a name for myself. For aspiring actors out there, some of the most vital things I learned from my acting experiences were how to listen, how to understand my environment, and how to also be in the moment. 

The other thing about Hollywood is that there are so many opportunities outside of acting for aspiring creatives where you can feel creatively fulfilled, even if you're not in front of the camera.

I wanted to try other roles in the filmmaking industry, so I became a casting director 

There's no magic formula for finding opportunities in Hollywood, as everyone's experience and story is different. I recognize that I was fully immersed in this industry from the start. However, even with a network, I still had to work hard to prove that I was just as capable as the people I'd grown up around.

When I was still acting as a young teen, I was constantly in the offices of casting directors Barbara Fiorentino, Danielle Aufiero, and Amber Horn, trying to learn as much as I could about their side of the industry. We garnered enough rapport with one another to the point where I felt comfortable reaching out to them about working for them, and they agreed. 

Casting directors are so vital to a film or television show's success, and I was eager to learn more about that side of the creative process. It was thanks to those three women that I was hired for my first casting job for the movie, "Elle: A Modern Cinderella Tale." From there, I went on to cast talent on shows like "The 100" on The CW, "UnREAL" on Lifetime, and "Altered Carbon" on Netflix. 

There's this notion that everyone is out for themselves trying to "make it" in Los Angeles. The thing is, every single film and episode of television you see is the result of huge team effort. Top names in the filmmaking industry got there due to their hard work and dedication, and their willingness to learn from other experts in the industry. 

Thanks to one of my professional business contacts, I found my passion in executive producing

When I was still casting, a friend of mine came to me and asked me if I wanted to invest in a project, or if I knew of any investors who would potentially be interested in being financial backers on a project in development. Once again, I embraced the new opportunity. 

Creativity can only get a great script so far without financial backing. That's where executive producers come in: They're tasked with taking care of the financial aspects of the projects. Essentially, they ensure that the project can be properly financed in order to honor the writer's vision — and in a way that's monetarily feasible for everyone involved. I established myself as a reliable executive producer on multiple projects, including "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

Day to day, I sift through project offers that I'd consider backing with my private-equity sources, in addition to managing groundbreaking talent I represent through my own talent-management agency, Artistic Fortune Entertainment. After all, I'd been fortunate enough to craft my own career thanks to the tutelage of mentors who believed in me, so I feel passionate about using the experience I've gained over the years to help others in the industry. 

One of my producing colleagues sent me the script for "Monica," and it gripped my heart from page one. I was proud to lend my name to this project because it felt like an opportunity to be a vehicle in many ways — to give room to expound on real and meaningful conversations in the world. 

Anyone who wants to break into this business has to be willing to do several things

You need to put in the hard work, dedicate yourself to learning from others in your field, demonstrate that you can get tasks done to get a film or TV episode made, and go above and beyond what you're asked to do on a project.

Most importantly, believe in yourself and what you can bring to the table. Nobody will invest in you if you don't believe you're worth backing. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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