Name: Ashley Scott Davison
Age: Over 21
Occupation: Cinematographer + Editor + CEO
Born: Fort Collins, Colorado
Lives: New Braunfels, Texas
Let me start by saying, based on your first name, I incorrectly assumed you were a woman before we met.
I got teased a lot as a kid for my first name. In middle school, I used to get jumped and beat up nearly every other week. In fact, in the first week of seventh grade they actually placed me in the girl's PE class by mistake, which was cool with me: one guy and thirty girls. In college, I caught flack because people joked that I had a girl's name and I was in fashion design, which again was cool with me: one guy and three hundred women (laughs). Truthfully, my momma named me Ashley because she was a huge fan of Gone With the Wind. On the Tara Plantation, Scarlet O'Hara had two men in her life, there was the scoundrel Rhett Butler and then there was her secret love, Colonel Ashley Wilkes.
Speaking of names, your production company is called Iniosante. What does that mean?
That's a trade secret.
Tell us what you do.
I'd say we are "Digital Storytellers". Iniosante produces motion pictures and we do so at 24 frames per second. Our corporate clients are our bread and butter so that's where we like to focus our energy, but we're always trying to push the creative envelope and try something new. We're getting ready to develop our first official TV show this year and I've got a horror/suspense movie that we'd like to eventually shoot here in Comal County. I can't stand sitting back and coasting.
How did you get started making movies?
The first two movies that made me want to make movies were The Crow & Desperado – both brilliant films. But filmmaking always seemed like it was a fantasy job, you know, like real people don't do that for a living. After I earned a Bachelor's in fashion design at Colorado State University, I moved to Austin to work in the industry. But 9/11 happened and I realized my life needed more meaning. Not wanting to work for somebody, I started looking at other options. Then, it hit me, literally... on a Sunday morning in 2001, I stopped my truck at a red light but the guy behind was busy talking on his cell phone and didn't notice that I stopped, so he plowed into the back of me. Our vehicles had basically become one... they had to use two giant tow trucks to yank our trucks apart. Subsequently, I spent the next three years in rehab. Most of which time was waiting in hospitals, doctor's offices, clinics, etc. My body was broken but my mind was still running at warp speed, so I started writing screenplays. This went well, so I decided that maybe making movies wasn't the pipe-dream that I thought it was. I bought every book I could find on filmmaking, I think the first was Robert Rodriguez's book, Rebel Without a Crew. Every page of every book was littered with scribbled notes and marked up with yellow highlighter. When I had recovered from the accident and felt I was ready to take the plunge, I bought a camcorder and a computer and started shooting. That was 2004.
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
I'd be dead 'cause there is nothing else I'd rather be doing.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
It's learning how to balance what I do. I'm one of the lucky ones who absolutely loves my job. But because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I am passionate about what I do, I end up pulling a lot of long hours, which can be rough on my wife and friends. But my wife understands how important my profession is to me so she's my biggest advocate. Last year we were blessed to have a lot of work coming in to the office so I worked 14 hour days for 4 months without a day off to handle the workload. Filmmaking is tough. It would be one of the last jobs I would encourage someone to get into because it requires so much time, energy, determination, and money to stay fresh. As Lex Luthor says, "Its mind over matter." It can be very rough on the body when you are lugging gear around, working with casts and crews, and racing to meet deadlines, but it's the most rewarding experience when you overcome the obstacles and get the job done.
What part of your work gives you the most satisfaction?
When I first got into this business I was like a sponge, just soaked everything in. I'm pretty resourceful so I learned how to do everything on a production by myself. In fact, for years I was a one-man band. Clients couldn't believe when they realized that I did everything by myself from start to finish. However, our workload is much bigger now and there are times when we have work scheduled for months in advance so I have a talented crew that I rely on. Filming & editing allows me to be creative, which I love, but the centerpiece for me comes when we deliver the final cut of a motion picture to a client. It's awesome seeing them watch the film for the first time and go, "Wow!" That's the best part about my job.
Describe your particular style of work.
The style of work we try to produce is one which feels very real, very personal, and very conversational. The aim of our work is to create an emotional response from the viewer, to move them on a deeper level. We employ a more organic process than typical producers. You know, having a plan and a script is a good place to start, but you've got to save room for life's surprises. You have to learn to shoot from the hip if you want to capture the inspirational moments. I'm passionate about what I do and I think that shows in the quality of the work my company, Iniosante, produces. Back in film school, I was prepping my final project for the semester and the day before we were getting ready to shoot, the entire cast flaked out. So I had to scramble with less than 24 hours before the shoot to pull everything together. I shot it with a new cast of friends who were not actors at all, cut it together, and it turned out being the headlining film at the student film festival that semester. Improvisation is so much more real than a concrete screenplay. The experience taught me to think fast on my feet and moreover, how to direct and coach normal people on camera so they deliver believable performances. In producing corporate films and commercials for our clients, we don't normally work with Hollywood trained actors, we work with normal people who just happen to run a successful business. When you give people who are not professional actors a script to read, their delivery comes off 2-dimensional. Through my experiences, I've learned techniques where we sit down with our client in a comfortable interview setting and just talk naturally. When we edit all the pieces together it comes off like a truly stellar performance- and best of all it looks natural and believable.
What talent or ability do you possess that makes you good at what you do?
I have the knack to focus and tune out most everything, which enables me to get a ton of work done. Without this ability I wouldn't be able to do all the hours of editing that is required to see complex projects to fruition. Editing is a process that requires a lot of patience, a lot of focus, and a lot of determination. But I've been editing professionally for almost a decade now so it's a skill that I've worked, literally, for thousands of hours to develop. Same thing goes for my work in cinematography; I am constantly studying what others are doing and then I stay critical of my own work. I'm willing to take calculated risks and make mistakes because ultimately that is the only way I can grow. I was blessed with good communication skills, it wasn't something I learned, just the way I was made. I'm comfortable talking with the janitor or the CEO of a company. I couldn't sit down with people and develop that sense of trust that yields solid performances on camera without this ability. People have to trust you to open up to you. At the end of the day what this business is about is people.
What 3 words would your friends use to describe you?
Determined. Spiritual. Creative.
Give us your take on still photography vs. motion pictures?
Oh wow, these are two totally different tools for two totally different purposes so I wouldn't pit one against the other. There's a place for both in the toolbox. Still photographers can make some of the best cinematographers because they better understand composition and lighting. My Assistant Director, Matt Chase, was trained in still photography so he has an excellent eye and gets the technical aspects of a shoot. He's been working for me since 2010 so he understands how I like to shoot and what Iniosante's clients are looking for. Matt is meticulous about improving his cinematic techniques which you have to do if you want to be successful. Capturing motion provides it's own set of difficulties, you're not just freezing a moment in time. You have to be cognizant of the overarching story you are wanting to convey, every detail has to systematically mesh together.
If your career was a movie, what part of the story would it be in right now?
The second act.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
If I was the casting director, I'd say Harrison Ford. But, not Harrison Ford now. Harrison Ford in 1981, right after he did Raiders of the Lost Ark and right before he did Bladerunner. My wife thinks I look like Bruce Willis or Jason Statham, which is wishful thinking on her part (laughs).
Whose work do you admire?
Inspiration for projects comes from many sources, so the palette is ever changing. Philip Bloom is a cinematographer I've met a few times who does fantastic work. I've met many "famous" people (Quentin Tarantino, Katy Perry, George Bush, etc) and the truth is they are just people like you and me who just didn't give up when life got difficult. My Old Man used to say that success is when opportunity and preparation meet. It's really true. The people I admire stayed in the fight when others would quit.
What haven't you done yet that you've always wanted to do?
I want to shoot for National Geographic. I want to go diving with sharks. I want to see a volcano erupt. I want to visit Israel and see the roots of where my faith began. I want to continue to expand Iniosante to become one of the leading providers of quality HD motion picture content in the state of Texas.
What are some of your favorite projects?
Probably my favorite film is one we did in 2007 called Ragdoll. The story is about this doctor/missionary who is thrust into scary circumstances in Africa and has to trust in God -- who totally provides. My wife played the doc and we shot the interview on the light-rail in Denver, turned out very kewl. Another is one of the first films we cut for the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch (we've cut three to date). I grew up on tennis as a kid and my Grandmother and Aunt were huge tennis fanatics, so we never missed a Wimbledon match. Being able to meet and work with Newk was a real honor, actually the first time I've ever been nervous working with a client. But Newk is awesome and makes you feel like you're part of their team-family-team. Last year we worked with Toothtime Dentistry here in New Braunfels to create a viral video called the Mystery of the Maharaja's Tooth and it was a ball to throw together.
What are you working on now?
We're producing an awesome historical video tour for downtown New Braunfels called, Footprints in Time. Judy Young at the Convention and Visitor's Bureau has been instrumental in making these come to life. The first phase of the tour has over 30 videos in it that include some recreations and even a few ghost stories. It has really been a thrill to put this project together as the research has been fascinating. Some of the stops on the tour were literally just an address- so we had to work to find the right story to tell. I'm stoked to say we have an ever expanding client roster too, such as Whole Foods, HP, Christus Santa Rosa, Schlitterbahn, The University of Texas, GVTC, The Discovery Channel, Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC), The New Braunfels Chamber, Gruene, Property Professionals, Communities in Schools, among many other top-notch companies. We're getting to the point where we have to be selective about the motion-picture projects that we agree to undertake. Honestly, my wife and I have been incredibly blessed by New Braunfels. We moved here in 2007 not knowing a soul. We've worked hard and gotten involved but our success wouldn't have been possible without the amazing support we've received from this community. I am beyond thankful for the people in New Braunfels and the way this community has embraced us as family.
For the geeks out there, what kind of equipment do you use?
We use Canon & Panasonic HDSLR cameras, these can be both a curse and blessing to work with. Our Kata bags & Pelican cases have Zeiss, Voigtlander, Nikon, Canon, and Leica lenses in them. We edit on Macs and we used to use Final Cut Pro though now we are moving to an Adobe workflow. The iPhone and Dropbox are essential mobile tools. We use Lowel and Litepanel lighting products; Sennheiser, Rode, and Tascam gear for audio; and our sticks (tripods) are either Cartoni or Manfrotto. We use Kessler sliders (dollies), steadicams, camera cranes, underwater camera cases, and even a micro helicopter for aerial shots. Of course we have plenty of grip equipment like c-stands, flags, stingers, ladders, etc.
What are 3 things you can't live without?
Through this process it can be a struggle to maintain my priorities, which are my faith, my family, and my filmmaking. Holly (my wife) is my secret weapon and she keeps me focused with work when I run off on creative tangents. She's finishing up with PA School (Physician Assistant) down at UTHSCSA and I'm so proud of how hard she works. If you were to ask four things I couldn't live without, then you could add chocolate in there. Oreos are also pretty high on the list. I have a massive sweet tooth.
Do you have any pre-game rituals, superstitions, lucky charms, etc?
Well, prayer is one of them. I hit a pretty rough patch in 2010 and a good friend of mine named Brian Sky, a Native American Indian who was my youth pastor when I was a kid, called me up and told me that he realized I needed my own personal Bible chapter: Psalm 1. So I memorized the chapter and every morning when I get up and have my coffee, I recite it to myself – kind of gets my compass pointed in the right direction before tackling the problems of the day.
What else are you into?
Scooters. The Mrs. and I have two Vespa-like machines and we love riding up River Road to Canyon Lake. Running and working out is how the stress gets dealt with. We have a crazy lab who digs playing in the Comal (river). Honestly, I don't have a lot of free time, that's just a healthy symptom of being a small-business owner I think.
Describe your work with the city of New Braunfels.
I'm in the NB Chamber of Commerce and graduated from their Leadership Class in 2009. This class is a brilliant way to encourage a deeper involvement in our community. Being interested in Downtown New Braunfels, I applied for the Main Street Board, served as Vice Chair last year and am currently the Chairman of the Downtown Development Board. It's really an honor to be able to work with other board members who care so much for our community and work hard to create new avenues of growth.
Were you FOR or AGAINST the Non Disposable Container Ban?
I'm for celebrating our heritage and growing New Braunfels.
My Old Man made me believe in myself and stick with this career early on when I wanted to give up. My baby brother who gave me $5,000 back in 2004 to buy the equipment to launch my company. My loving wife for letting me be me and make mistakes along the way. My momma for passing on her love of movies. And, my assistant director for working his tail off. These people help make the magic happen at Iniosante.
Check out Ashley's work and portfolio at www.iniosante.com
*Photo courtesy of Ashley Scott Davison