Davis Woodall '10
Loyola University, bachelor's in music industry students, minor in film studies
Directors' Guild of America Assistant Directors Training Program
Occupation: Assistant Director for films and TV shows in New York; Projects worked on include Blacklist, Elementary, and two films set to be released in 2019 - Martin Scorsese's The Irishman and Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix
St. Andrew’s always respected individuality and autonomy in the students, even from an early age. I remember coming back from Christmas in ninth grade and being surprised with a new policy that would allow un-proctored study halls for ninth graders in good academic standing. I had worked hard the semester before and was granted a spot on the new list of ninth graders free to roam during their free study hall period. It was such a maturing moment for me; not only had my hard work earned recognition I didn’t think I was working toward, but it also showed that I had earned the trust of teachers and administrators to continue working at a high level without someone having to look over my shoulder. Most importantly though I felt respected, and that kept me motivated to continuing working hard for the sake of working hard and not just because someone was watching.
The other side of autonomy is accountability, and I learned a lot of that while playing baseball for Coach Mark Fanning. One of the most organized people I’ve known in my life, Coach Fanning had everything scheduled down to the exact minute. During practices, you always knew where he expected to you to be at any given moment, and if you weren’t there, he’d let you know about it. One time, we were scheduled to have team pictures before practice. Two of the younger players were late, and Coach Fanning gave them an earful about it, at one point saying, “y’all could probably translate the Bible from Latin but you can’t show up on time somewhere?” The rest of us were snickering in the back, but he was making a great point that other St. Andrew’s faculty stressed as well: with the extra independence comes a greater expectation that you’ll do what is asked of you. Coach Fanning and St. Andrew’s were preparing us from an early age to be self-disciplined, reliable adults.
The path to my career started in Mr. Kitchings’ Film Studies elective my senior year. Until then I had never thought about filmmaking as a truly creative art form; but once Mr. Kitchings’ taught us to “read” a movie like you would a novel or short story, looking for themes, symbols, and motifs, I began appreciating movies in a whole new way. That elective drove me to take a handful of film courses in college, including technical courses about the logistical steps to actually producing a film. Once I graduated college, I focused my attention on finding work on movie sets and have since established a very rewarding career in the film industry. My love for film and the business of creating can be directly traced back to afternoons in Mr. Kitchings’ classroom, taking notes on camera movement and actor placement in classic movies.
This is the beauty of St. Andrew’s: the focus on the individual student and what makes him or her succeed. I was not the fastest reader, but I really enjoyed my English classes. Having the opportunity to take what I was learning in those classes about understanding a story and applying the same techniques to films opened up a whole new world for me, one in which I eventually built a career. The faculty at St. Andrew’s has an uncanny ability to first pinpoint what makes a student tick and then put him or her in a position to fully realize that potential. Whether it’s athletics, the arts, scientific fields, or any combination thereof, there is are infinite opportunities to succeed and plenty of resources to help a student get there.
The caveat though is that the student has to ultimately make those steps to achieve success, and that’s where St. Andrew’s truly sets itself apart. St. Andrew’s teaches a student not only to succeed, but how to succeed. Independence, maturity, and self-reliance are taught alongside the periodic table and Spanish verb conjugations, so that when students graduate from St. Andrew’s they can continue through life as capable young adults.