The Future Is Now: Emmy Winner Jonathan Davila of Diamond View On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Filmmaking
It’s OK to not have all the answers right away. When we were first getting Diamond View off the ground, we put ourselves out there to network as much as possible. We learned to reach out to peers and other business leaders to further our understanding of how to best navigate new circumstances. As a business leader, your best resources are often other business owners.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Davila.
Jon is the President of Diamond View, a five time Emmy award-winning creative video agency with notable clients like the Atlanta Braves, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Jack Daniels, Hyatt and many more. Since its inception, Diamond View has been focused on creating a place that uses its gift of video as a force for good. They believe the stories we tell today shape the world we live in tomorrow. Jon graduated with Honors from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science. Early in his life, Jon explored a career in medicine based on his experience of donating bone marrow to his older brother as he battled leukemia. However, Jon’s path to a degree in Medicine changed in 2010 when he partnered with his best friend and CEO of Diamond View, Tim Moore, who convinced Jon to quit his job at a local hospital to pursue a business endeavor in professional video production. Today, Diamond View has 27 employees and an 10,000 square foot studio in Tampa that serves as Diamond View’s headquarters, as well as satellite offices in Atlanta and Miami. Jon is also an active supporter of the USF Alumni Association, a founding member of The Tampa Foundation, and a Judge for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jon lives in Tampa and is married to his wife of five years Olivia Davila. Together they have a puppy named Jax.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began my career in the medical field working as a Unit Coordinator at a local hospital. One day, my best friend and college roommate, Tim Moore, convinced me to quit my job and launch a professional video production company named “Diamond View Studios” alongside him. He jokingly wrote my resignation letter for me, I handed it in, and Diamond View was launched that same day. Since then, I’ve grown with the company and currently sit as Diamond View’s President.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’m not sure what tops the forged letter of resignation, but one other thing that comes to mind is the purchase of our headquarters in Tampa, Florida. This building sat vacant for years as a foreclosure after the 2008 recession. Tim and I drove by it every day on our way to classes, and woulday to one another “watch…one day we’re going to work out of there,” sure enough, just a few years later, we were in a position to purchase the building. Over the years, we’ve transformed it into a space where great ideas can flourish and an environment that inspires our employees and visitors alike.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Currently, we’re building out a new 10,000 square-foot virtual production studio called Vū that’s equipped with the most technologically advanced gear for extended reality. Essentially, virtual production refers to the combination of physical and digital elements to create hyper-realistic environments, and it was recently popularized by Lucasfilm’s hit Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.” Unlike conventional filmmaking, virtual production removes all creative boundaries and allows you to shoot anywhere in the world, allowing us to produce content more efficiently and safely than ever before.
What makes it so impactful for the industry right now is that it allows us to produce content more efficiently, saving time and money, and helps us mitigate risks associated with travel and uncertain circumstances. It will also help people long-term by democratizing film in the sense that with virtual sets any filmmaker in the world could have access to it, not just, say, Hollywood studios with deep pockets.
How do you think this might change the world?
The biggest long-term effect is the power of this technology to democratize the film industry and create new filmmaking hubs like Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta, across the world. With virtual sets, any filmmaker in the world could potentially have access to a scene or environment without the cost of what would normally coincide with building a set or traveling to the location. Also, because virtual production incorporates so many different technologies across several industries, it provides the opportunity for experts and industries to work together, and potentially creates entirely new jobs and skill sets.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Virtual production technology has really changed the film industry for the better. But, like with any new technology we need to continue to be conscious about how we use and implement it. Uncle Ben once said “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Really, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is what accelerated our adoption of this early technology. In March 2020, our on-site projects were getting cancelled left and right and we had to get creative with how to continue shooting. It started with a small investment in an LED wall for our in-house studio, and quickly led to a larger investment in an entire space dedicated to this type of technology and filming.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The technology is new and efficient, it’s only a matter of time before widespread adoption. Right now we need to keep producing content with virtual production to prove that it’s just as effective as shooting on location, with several added benefits as well.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’ve been marketing heavily through national media outlets, trade publications, as well leveraging social media and email campaigns. One thing that’s unique about publicizing Vū is that the concept is so new we have to focus on educating our audience on the technology and what it can do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m so grateful to my business partner, Tim Moore, for being an inspirational leader and the hardest worker I know. Tim is a guy who dreams big, but hustles harder and somehow still finds the time and energy to be an awesome dad to his two young boys, Maddox and Bentley. He doesn’t just work hard, but he lives life hard, and there’s no one else I’d rather work with and learn alongside than him! I’m also forever grateful for the physicians at the hospital that I worked for who helped guide me into a future that I never saw coming; they saw in me what I hadn’t yet seen in myself, and that’s something no “thank you” could ever fully encompass. And lastly, for my Mom and Dad; my parents never graduated high school, but worked tirelessly to provide for our family of 5. They taught me what it meant to work hard and instilled it in me from as early on as I can remember. A person’s work ethic is often a result of the work ethic of those around them and I’m very lucky to have had such role models in my life to grow me into the leader I am today. It takes a leader to make, inspire, and build a leader…and a great one, at that.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Here at Diamond View, our motto is to use “video as a force for good”, and I’m proud to be a part of that. We aim to create content that inspires the masses because we are fully aware of just how powerful a video could be. We’re fully committed to being the “good” in the world and recently became BCorp certified which is considered to be one of the highest standards for social and environmental impact and has a rigorous selection process to certify companies that are doing good at scale. Diamond View also created a 501c(3) arm known as the Tampa Foundation, which aims to inspire Tampa Bay with positive, public art and murals that showcase empowering messages. These murals can be found all over the city, as well as in underprivileged schools and communities, in order to encourage people to believe in themselves. With Vū, we also have the unique opportunity to be the first to introduce this cutting-edge technology to the next generation of students and creators. As part of phase 2 of construction, we plan to build a smaller, secondary virtual production studio designated for use by local schools, universities, and educational programs. We feel that this will put our community a step ahead by producing and retaining top talent across many industries.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s ok to not have all the answers right away. When we were first getting Diamond View off the ground, we put ourselves out there to network as much as possible. We learned to reach out to peers and other business leaders to further our understanding of how to best navigate new circumstances. As a business leader, your best resources are often other business owners.
- It’s ok to not be an “expert” when you start. Trial and error taught us everything we know here, and we’ve self-taught along the way. There’s several times we’ve faced creative or logistical challenges, but we like the pressure because it forces us to innovate which ultimately sets us up to be ahead of the game down the road.
- Failure doesn’t mean defeat. It’s important to be transparent with your team and help them not to feel defeated when something doesn’t go as planned. Throughout the years, we’ve made mistakes where we lost bids or lost footage. But each of those missteps taught us a lot about perseverance and bouncing back with a better strategy for next time.
- Be prepared to sacrifice, early, often and at the most inconvenient times. A ‘startup’ really requires a ton of attention, time, and effort thus making it difficult at first to find balance. In my early days at Diamond View, sometimes the trade off would be not leaving the office until 2 in the morning, or sacrificing 2–3 hours of sleep on the weekend to not miss a birthday party but still be able to do these things and while putting in the maximum effort at work every day.
- Read these books. The One Thing, Delivering Happiness, and Tools of Titans. I think reading books about business and company culture will spark ideas on how to navigate issues at work during the startup phase specifically. They gave me some great tools to help build a strong company culture at Diamond View.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire any movement, it would be a positivity movement. Nowadays, especially in light of the past year, it seems like we’re trapped with consuming negative content. You turn on the TV and the news tells you about rising COVID-19 numbers, you go on social media and see a new social injustice, you hang out with your friends and all anyone can talk about is the pandemic. It’s easy for negativity to become all-consuming and, in turn, it negatively impacts us at the core mentally, physically, and emotionally. Mental health is crucial to overall health; besides the need to be emotionally healthy and happy for sanity’s sake, it is also proven that poor mental health can evolve into physical health issues. The people of the world deserve to be happy and healthy and with the right dose of positivity, it can change someone’s entire day, year, or life path.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We’re not there yet, but we’re coming.” This quote, in particular, is significant to me because we had it written on a piece of wood in our very first Diamond View office. It served as a reminder that we’re on our way to great things, and with a little hard work and determination, we can achieve it. The same piece of wood has traveled with us to every office since. It reminds me of what we came from, all that we’ve achieved, and what’s still to come.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Here’s an opportunity for a VC to invest in the future of the video production industry which earned over $96 billion dollars in 2019. Feature virtual productions such as “The Mandalorian” have proven to be wildly successful with highly anticipated releases. Additionally, no other studio in the world has built what we’re creating with Vū. It not only features one of the largest LED volumes in the world, but it’s also the first XR studio open to commercial production on a regular basis. Like we like to say, “if you’re not first, you’re last”, so it’s extremely important to stay ahead of the curve and keep a competitive advantage.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can keep up with us on our website, DiamondView.io, on Instagram @diamondview, on YouTube at DiamondViewStudios, on Twitter @Diamond_View, and on Facebook at Diamond View Studios. We also just launched Instagram for Vū @vustudioofficial
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The Future Is Now: Emmy Winner Jonathan Davila of Diamond View On How Their Technological… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.