Davis Priestley has been interested in movies and filmmaking since he was a child, watching classics like “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Seven Samurai” and “E.T.” with his family at their Bayside home early on and later working on video projects and writing screenplays at Arcata High School. He also performed on stage with the Humboldt Light Opera Company.
“While this work was in theater, it was foundational to my development as a member of an interdisciplinary group of people working collaboratively to tell a story and put on a production,” said Priestley in an email interview with the Times-Standard.
“(HLOC) directors Carol Ryder and Valerie Bourne were early, significant mentors, helping me understand the coordination of such large undertakings,” he said. “With their belief in me, and gentle but firm pushing, I believed I could pursue audacious dreams like a career in film.”
Later this month, a cinematic dream is indeed coming to fruition for Priestley, who’s now 36 and living in Portland, Oregon. A film he worked on will have its world premiere in the U.S. Narrative Competition at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from April 24 to May 5 in New York City.
Priestley served as one of the producers of “Clementine,” a 90-minute psychological drama written and directed by Lara Jean Gallagher of Portland. The film follows a heartbroken woman who becomes entangled with a younger girl after breaking into her ex’s lake house.
Tribeca’s U.S. Narrative Competition “showcases extraordinary work from breakout independent voices and distinguished filmmaking talent,” according to the festival website, www.tribecafilm.com. “Clementine” and nine other films are vying for several awards, including Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and more. Other films in the category are “Blow the Man Down,” “Burning Cane,” “Gully,” “Initials S.G.,” “Low Tide,” “The Place of No Words,” “The Short History of the Long Road,” Stray Dolls” and “Swallow.”
Priestley — who’s the founder of and executive creative director for Revery, a creative production studio in Portland (www.revery.is) — was born and raised in Humboldt County. He attended Jacoby Creek and Arcata High schools.
“I knew I was ready for a career in filmmaking as soon as possible as a teenager,” Priestley said. “I was able to work on a car commercial and auditioned for a small role in ‘The Majestic,’ but I had my sights set on a bigger town.”
After moving to Portland, Priestley landed a job as a production assistant on the 2004 film “Mean Creek” during his first year in the city.
“This generated a couple of connections for me in Los Angeles … so I moved to Los Angeles and started freelancing in the movie and TV industry,” he said. “I gravitated toward on-set production and started training as an assistant director, with the intention of following the Director’s Guild of America multi-year training program. Opportunity called though and I found myself moving to (New York) to work on a series of reality television projects, first as a story producer and then associate producer.
“Producing was a thrill and I connected immediately to how planning and coordination shaped a story and how it was told,” said Priestley, who was later given an opportunity to work on Gus Van Sant’s 2007 film “Paranoid Park” in Portland.
“I eagerly accepted,” Priestley said. “Working on the film for half a year and back in Portland, I connected with the independent nature of creation outside the corporate structure of the industry in Los Angeles and New York.”
That same year, he earned his first feature film producing credit as a co-producer on an independent movie called “The Auteur.”
“We premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2008 and were one of the first films sold to iTunes,” said Priestley, who decided to move back to Portland and soon started a video production company called Porter Panther, working for clients such as the Cartoon Network, Intel and Microsoft.
“I began my career in corporate and advertising-based storytelling,” said Priestley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in media studies from Marylhurst University in Oregon in 2009.
After three years with Porter Panther, Priestley returned to working freelance and continued to create advertising, short films and music videos.
In 2013, he started Revery.
“We are now a team of 12 and ‘Clementine’ is our first feature film,” Priestley said. “Our commercial clients include adidas, Beats by Dre, Facebook, Google and Nike.”
Revery first worked with the writer/director of “Clementine” on a Google campaign project in 2014, he said.
“I immediately was drawn into Lara Jean Gallagher’s way of seeing the world and telling stories,” Priestley said. “…. ‘Clementine’ is a small, smart movie that perceptively weaves a universal story of heartbreak, loss and the dynamics at play in adult relationships. I absolutely loved the script and was thrilled to dive into it with Lara and my longtime producing partner, Aimee Lynn Barneburg.”
More than 9,000 films — including “Clementine” — were submitted to this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and Robert De Niro.
“Tribeca is considered a ‘top festival’ in the sense that its position in the global industry of film festivals allows it to mandate premiere status from most of its films. This means people vie to be included in the festival and thus, it generally includes projects from prestigious filmmakers and companies. It is attended heavily by the public as well as industry leaders looking for new filmmaking talent and projects to buy,” Priestley said.
“We are especially delighted to be included this year as Tribeca has achieved gender parity across its three competition sections,” he said. “This means as many female directors are competing as male — really cool!”
Priestley is also “thrilled” that his parents, Barry Priestley and Tracey Barnes Priestley of Bayside, will be attending the world premiere of “Clementine” at the film festival.
“My family has always been so supportive of me and having them in the audience means everything,” he said.
He added: “A neat tidbit — my dad’s third-grade student, Camille Carpenter, was the art director on the film. My dad introduced us when Camille moved to Portland after college, and she is such an amazing human being and phenomenal creative talent. She was a huge impact on the look of the film, helping with set design, props and styling the interior of our main location, the lakeside cabin. Her parents still live in Humboldt.”
“Clementine” will be shown at several venues during the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie — filmed in Portland and Florence, Oregon — has already received other accolades, according to a press release for the film’s inclusion at Tribeca. “Clementine” was selected as one of 10 narrative features invited to the 2018 IFP Filmmaker Labs and was the only U.S. project selected to attend the Venice Biennale College-Cinema development program in 2016. The Oregon-based production team was also invited to attend the 2017 Sundance Creative Producing Summit in support of the film.
“Filmmaking is collaborative storytelling at its most visual and moving,” Priestley said. “It creates connection, empathy and understanding around the world. Stories and human experience are universal, and thus these stories transcend borders, languages and cultures, and now more than ever we need film to take risks to deliver universal truth and art.”
For more information about “Clementine,” go to www.clementinemovie.com.