Independent filmmaker and CSUF alumna Jennifer Davis values unique stories

Cal State Fullerton alumna Jennifer Davis was planning to become a children’s book writer or music teacher before she spent a day with her nieces and nephews who were visiting from Arizona. In an attempt to divert boredom, Davis decided to write up a quick story with her niece and nephew and bring it to life as a movie. It wasn’t until she went back to edit the footage that a light bulb went off, and she realized filmmaking was her passion.

Davis graduated from CSUF in 2017 and has since established her own independent company, Davis Independent Films, where she writes, directs and produces her own films.

“I like things that make people think and that’s more of what I write,” Davis said.Reading “Goosebumps” and watching “The Twilight Zone” while growing up influenced Davis’ screenwriting style pushed her toward creating unpredictable sequences within the mystery genre.

She is working on short films in hopes that she can get recognized and propel herself further in the competitive filmmaking industry.

“It’s really to get my name out there. I’m putting them all into festivals as they come up,” Davis said.

To help promote herself, Davis screened her film, “Camp Caldwell,” last summer at The Art Theatre in Long Beach.

As an independent filmmaker, Davis said the biggest obstacle she faces is funding. In an industry saturated with other independent filmmakers who share the same goal, being able to differentiate from others to obtain funding can be difficult.

“Sometimes you can find people to invest in your dream and sometimes you can’t,” Davis said.

To tell her stories, Davis has to use all of her available resources

She goes to estate sales to look for costumes and will either use her parent’s house to film or ask a friend to help her find a location. Davis even found a cinematographer for her films in one of her classes.

For the film she is currently working on, a 1940s noire, she called upon her brother, a 3-D animator, to help with special effects for features.

Davis’ progress in the film industry is a testament to her work ethic, which is noticeable to those around her.

“She always gets everything done. It’s never left in the air when we’re on set, all the details are thought out beforehand,” said Anna Bohannan, Davis’ assistant director.

Keilee Bentley, a senior cinema and television art major who helped with one of Davis’ films, said Davis’ work on set depicts how she is growing as a filmmaker.

“I always brag about (Davis). She knows exactly what she wants, how to set up and everything. It’s fantastic,” Bentley said.

While Davis doesn’t have a specific film she deems her best work, she considers each film she completes an improvement as a filmmaker and another lesson to be learned. These improvements can range from the creativity of the film itself or her patience as a director.

Although Davis would never give up an opportunity to direct a big budget film, she likes being independent so she is able to tell her own stories. To Davis, the value in being an independent filmmaker is the ability to showcase unique stories that are not normally seen.

“My mindset has been on independent filmmaking. The story for me is so important,” Davis said.

Davis’ perseverance is what keeps her motivated to be the best filmmaker she can be. Her ultimate goal is to develop her own feature film.

Within her filmmaking friend group, it’s creativity that stimulates their artistic endeavors regardless of whether or not they are making money from the films.

“I think if you don’t have the passion, then regardless if you have the money or not, it doesn’t matter,” Davis said. “You have to have the passion.”

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