Episode description:
On Episode 12 of the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast, we chat with David Painter and Davis Mawer, the filmmakers behind “The Bird of Paradise.” What started as a capstone project in DU’s film program has “spread its wings” as an award-winning short film at several festivals, including winning the first-ever Student Production Award in the Heartland Emmy Chapter. This episode explores the parallels between self-started film and theatre productions, as Kevin Douglas also shares insights from his theatre company Two Cent Lion.


Kevin Douglas (00:07):

Today on the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast.

David Painter (00:11):

Going into it, we all were on the same page of we wanted to make something that was a high caliber student film, not just labeled under the “Oh, Student film. And they’re learning.” For me, especially in a capstone class like that shouldn’t be what it’s about at all. It should be like, this is a culmination of everything we’ve learned.

Kevin Douglas (00:27):

Two alums of DU F.I.L.M. pave their own way into the entertainment industry, taking their senior project and bringing it to film festivals around the world.

Davis Mawer (00:37):

It was a simple story, but it had lots of different facets that people could connect to you. It had a core central theme that there was lots of room for interpretation and a lot of stuff, which meant there was lots of room for people to really connect with different parts of the film.

Kevin Douglas (00:51):

Today we are chatting with David Painter and Davis Mawer, the filmmakers behind the Bird of Paradise, a coming of age story that is making waves in the student film circuit. I’m Kevin Douglas, and this is the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast. Welcome to the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast. Today we have two members of the team that created the short film The Bird of Paradise. First off, we have David Painter graduate in 2022 with a film and English double major. David was the writer director of Birds of Paradise. We also have Davis Mawer who’s graduating this spring 2023 with a film major and marketing minor. Davis was the lead editor on the film. Thank you guys for coming to the studio.

Davis Mawer (01:39):

Thanks for having us.

David Painter (01:40):

Thanks, Kevin.

Kevin Douglas (01:41):

So I want to hear a little bit about the project and the process of making this short film, because I know it was a project here at DU. Is your Capstone project David, right? Yeah. And where’d the inspiration come from? How did you decide this was going to be the encapsulation of your film career at DU?

David Painter (02:00):

So The Bird Of Paradise, we call it BOP for sure. It rolls off the tongue really well. But for BOP, I actually started writing it in a screenwriting class my sophomore year. And at that point we had already gone home for Covid, so it was all online. So I remember in the class, our professor Sheila Schroeder, she also teaches the narrative capstone class, and she kind of advised a lot of us, Hey, if you’re going to write a short script in this class, this is a great opportunity to start thinking about if you want to use the script for the narrative capstone. It’s really easy. It transfers really well and all that. So in the back of my head when I started it, I was like, this could be something that I could maybe make into a short film for the capstone class. And I don’t know, I was kind of tossing it around.


I had a few other ideas in the class that I didn’t totally love, but honestly what sparked this idea was I had a dream. Okay. I had a dream about a girl standing in front of a door, and when the door opened the lights, the colors changed and the lights changed. And then when she entered the room, it was like she was a different person and the environment shifted. That was the core seat of where Bird of Paradise came from, was this idea of a person kind of changing and as they change their appearance or their personality or whatever to cater to who they’re around, the environment changes with them. And so I thought for film, that’s a pretty cool concept because we work in a visual medium and it could be a challenge, but also it’s a simple enough story to where it’s not super ambitious in that regard, but we could focus on the production production sides and make it really cool looking.


And so that’s kind of where it started from was that idea. And let me tell you, it changed a lot. I mean, from the end product to now, I know Davis read one of the first, the early iterations of the script because I wrote it obviously. When was that? 2020. And then I kind of didn’t touch it for two years. And then December of 2021, when we were getting ready to get into that class, our professor emailed everyone in that class and was like, Hey, if you have a script that you want to be submitted or selected, submit it now. So I just basically, I went back through and kind of made sure I didn’t have typos or anything like that, and I sent it. Yeah, I mean there was characters that didn’t exist. There was a lot of different stuff, nature shows. Yeah. Originally I had it as she would see her dad would be watching a nature documentary and every time she would come downstairs, the guy would be talking about a bird of paradise and all that. So the grandpa character, for those who’ve seen it, he wasn’t even written in. He didn’t even exist at all. So that’s kind of where it started from. And then obviously a lot of the writing process is rewriting and a butterfly effect, and you change one sentence and then you read it and you’re like, oh my gosh, that entire

Kevin Douglas (05:09):

Scription something later. Yeah, absolutely.

David Painter (05:11):

So there is a lot of that for the first entire of entirety of winter quarter was all rewrites and pre-production prep and changing it. So yeah, that’s kind of where it started from. And then obviously when the story changes, the message changes. And so at first it was this idea of someone changing and I didn’t really know if I wanted it to be a redemptive thing. I kind of wanted it to just be a spectacle of this is how people are, sometimes they change how they act around it for people, and that’s just how it is. And then as we started writing it more, we found a lot more heart in it and a lot more of this kind of the bird of paradise motif of a unique bird. And every different birds of paradise are different. And that was the central theme. That’s sort of what we really wanted to focus on.

Kevin Douglas (06:01):

And Davis, how did you get involved with the project? Had you worked with David on other films before?

Davis Mawer (06:05):

Yeah. Well, I was roped into it. I was in the same class. No, we worked on stuff before we started. We actually were two of the people who started the film production club here at DU. And so we did a lot of stuff through that, and that kind of led into us enjoying working together, thinking similarly creatively. And so by the time we got to our capstone class, we were like, yeah, we want to make sure we do the same film together. We

David Painter (06:30):

Had it locked in from the get go. Yeah, it’s really rare to find an editor that you click with very well. And as a director, that is a golden nugget in this industry to have someone who can read your brain and half the time be like, Davis, can we? And he’s like, I’m already doing it, which is super. It’s also great that he’s one of my best friends, so we can communicate really well. But from the beginning when we were starting to pick crews, I had people in the class that I had worked with before and we all had talked, Davis and I especially, we were like, we got to do this together because we wanted to make it good. And we knew if you can work with a team that communicates well, understands the vision from the rip, it makes everything so much easier and so much better.

Kevin Douglas (07:14):

Yeah, it’s great that you guys found that connection. I totally hear what you’re saying about the Golden Nugget. All the horror stories I’ve heard from films I’ve worked on in the past or my friends have acted in, it’s no shade to editors of course, but I’ve heard more than once, why is this film not done? Oh, well, the editor disappeared and they have all the footage and we can’t get it back because it’s

Davis Mawer (07:37):


Kevin Douglas (07:38):

Gigabytes of, do you guys all just have an island you go off to or something? Well,

Davis Mawer (07:43):

To stand up for editors here, it’s it, you can be like, it’s the same thing where if you’re working with the director and if you just don’t understand what they’re trying to say or what their vision is, there’s people whose brains can just be on the same wavelength and you can pick up what they’re putting down. And if you don’t understand what their vision is, then when you’re trying to put clips together and really assemble it, it can feel like you don’t know what the end goal is, or you don’t know where you’re going. And so that’s why you editors, including myself, can kind of go off onto their islands sometimes. It’s very

Kevin Douglas (08:14):

Collaborative. People need to be able to help each other and not just be on their own.

David Painter (08:18):

And editors have so much power, they can dictate the entirety of how the story’s depicted. And so it’s important to make sure you communicate that with, and like I said, Dave, I was very lucky to have Davis who knew what I was going for from the beginning and helped me get there because otherwise the editor could just clip it together and then it’s like, oh my gosh, this is not anything I wanted. But they did the cut it together. But it’s not, there’s just little things that not everybody has. So

Kevin Douglas (08:52):

Yeah, it’s a synergy. Totally. You got to work. And clearly the result has been resonating with people that have seen it, especially these film festivals that the film has been accepted to. That’s cool. And I saw on your Instagram, it was at the Indie Short Fest? It was at the working, what’s that one called? The Working Short. Oh,

David Painter (09:12):

Short to the Point. Short

Kevin Douglas (09:13):

To the Point.

David Painter (09:14):

And then there was one, yeah, there was another

Davis Mawer (09:16):

Bno. Yeah, bno. Big Sur.

David Painter (09:18):

Big Sur, California. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (09:20):

Okay. And B r O was in the Czech Republic. Yeah. Yeah. You guys got to travel for that one.

David Painter (09:26):

We didn’t go out there. We, it’s, it’s interesting because I know Davis and I have been kind of the main two people on the backside of this thing, making sure we still have momentum and updating the people who follow us on the festivals and all that. But yeah, I mean, we’ve talked about if we wanted to travel, because we want to go to one and see it there and

Kevin Douglas (09:51):

See the audience reaction, and

Davis Mawer (09:53):

You have to reach a certain point to be screened in person. And so we have one or two Indie Schwartz Fest really liked us, and I think there’s a chance that one could be screened at their big event, but Oh, cool. And the one in the Czech Republic, it was cool to be involved in, but if we travel, I don’t know if we would’ve even been able to see the film there.

David Painter (10:10):

Sometimes your film will get selected to be a part of the festival, but they won’t scream it at the physical thing. And so that’s kind of a gamble of, I don’t know if I want to pay a huge international plane ticket to not. So those are things we’ve had to talk about and really figure out where we would want to go if we had the opportunity. And at least for me, I know Davis, you can talk on it too, but I would want to go to one where they really liked us. Indie Schwartz, if they selected us, we won some awards there too, so they liked us. And that would be a cool one to go to and see it, and then have the people behind the scenes who saw it talk to us and all that. But in Cze, in Czech Republic, it’s like, yeah, we got selected. But I don’t know, flying out there for a day and not even knowing that screening is, it’d have

Kevin Douglas (10:59):

To be more of a full trip than just for the one. Yeah,

David Painter (11:02):


Davis Mawer (11:03):

And we have a few more festivals that we’re waiting to hear back from. We have lined up all the way until January where it’s spaced out when people notify you. And so we have a few more that we cross our fingers for that they select us and us. That would be really fun to go to. And a few more awards we’re winning too, on top of that.

David Painter (11:20):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s a roll. Constantly rolling deadlines with all these, some of ’em we applied to and we heard back within a couple of weeks, and then some we applied to way back in February, and we won’t even hear back until January of 2024. So it’s like, it’s weird. We had to wait a while to even submit.

Davis Mawer (11:42):


Kevin Douglas (11:42):

Know a lot of these, the festivals, you submit them, you submit yourself as an application process. And I’m really curious that as people who worked on the creative side, now you have to think from the other side, what’s appealing to the judges of these festivals? What is the industry looking for? And what do you feel like you’ve learned on maybe calling it the business side of this project? How have you taken the time to find the festivals? How are you marketing the show or the film? Well,

David Painter (12:12):

You want to start,

Davis Mawer (12:14):

It’s certainly a process. And that’s part of the reason why I’ve enjoyed my marketing minor here at DU is because it gives a little insight into that. But you do kind of have to market yourself. And the process was very centered around the entrepreneurship department here at DU because they gave us the micro grant, I think it’s called, I don’t know the exact name. Yeah,

David Painter (12:35):

No. It was the entrepreneurship micro grant. And our professor told us about it

Kevin Douglas (12:41):

Narrative. Can you use that for funding? For making the film or for

Davis Mawer (12:44):

Applying to festivals? Oh, cool. Because there’s festivals keep in business where there’s a $30 application fee or something. And so when you’re applying to, when you want to try and spread it as much as possible, that adds up pretty quick.

David Painter (12:55):

And by the way, that doesn’t even guarantee you get in. That’s literally just a submission fee that they tack on. And then sometimes in some festivals, it’s like a total cash grab because it will be the submission fee’s, 50 bucks, and then every category you want to be suggested for is another 30 or $40 per category. So if you want to be cinematography, directing, editing, anything like that, that’s a hundred something bucks just to be considered. It

Kevin Douglas (13:23):

Gives such an advantage to the people who already have so many resources. Exactly. When it’s the smaller filmmakers are the ones that could benefit the most from the exposure at these festivals.

Davis Mawer (13:32):

That’s exactly right. And you also have to be aware, because there’s some festivals that you could get accepted to, and it might not even, it wouldn’t be worth 30, 40 bucks because some

David Painter (13:44):

Of ’em are just

Davis Mawer (13:45):

Some are some people in their garage trying to make a few bucks. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (13:49):

I attended one in high school that we were so excited. We flew out to Hollywood for it. It was called the International Student Film Festival, which sounded so fancy and legit. And it was the janky, the website doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t, yeah,

David Painter (14:04):

I’m like Summer Times it through a production company, they’ll funnel the money and it’s a opportunity for passive income that they always have guaranteed to make. So it’s like that’s something too we have to use our discretion of. Yeah, usually. Well, if someone we have, we’ve had festivals reach out to us and be like, Hey, we saw your film. We think it’d be a great fit for our festival. And we go on their website and do our recess before we even pay them. Cause sometimes it’s like, this is oh a, yeah.

Davis Mawer (14:31):

So it was

David Painter (14:32):


Davis Mawer (14:34):

It was a little bit applying to colleges in that way where you had to, we had some reaches, we had some that we were like, we’ll probably get into this one. And some that were somewhere in the middle. And we looked at it all through this website that congregates ’em all and kind of just had to pick a set that was the best use of the grant and the best use of our time and money.

David Painter (14:56):

We were the only people in our class that applied for the entrepreneurship grant, which proved to be very awesome because we knew we could have used the money for anything, but we kind of knew that if you wanted to use it for production, that wouldn’t go very far. We already had the gear through the M F J S department, so we couldn’t do anything there. And so we were like, well, if we get the grant, maybe we just use it all for festivals because we knew that would add up. And that was the wisest decision we ever made because we had all the cameras and everything, and we actually had to GoFundMe during production just to help feed the crew. Yeah, we raised what, I don’t

Davis Mawer (15:42):

Know, it was a grand, I think. Yeah,

David Painter (15:43):

We raised a grand and all it was, we basically towards pizzas and dinners and stuff for everybody, which got eaten up so fast. No pun intended.

Kevin Douglas (15:52):

Film is so incredibly expensive. And I think you think about the production costs and the catering, but even after the film is done, I’ve never thought about that side of it. But it does add

David Painter (16:02):

Up. It’s still like, yeah, it never really ends paying for things.

Kevin Douglas (16:07):

But I think it’s really smart. You guys crowdfunded, when we were starting the theater company, I run here in Denver, we also launched with a crowdfunding campaign. And basically since then we have used that crowdfunding on the production. That production has made us enough revenue basically to get back to where we started from tickets, and then we just repeat, put that money towards the production, those tickets towards the next production, so on and so forth. Film and theater I think are pretty similar in that regard, where it’s totally, it’s like you really have to take it in your own hands to find the money.

David Painter (16:42):

And when you’re in a public sphere like that, it’s like people watch it and that’s how you make your money back. And so you have to make sure it’s also something people want to watch. Yeah. Cause if it’s not, then you’re kind of in the hole.

Kevin Douglas (16:54):

I want to talk about that. Also, I was doing some research on this, especially live action short films. And it’s changed a lot because of technologies. We all have cameras in our pocket that can shoot as high quality as what a feature film would’ve been 50 years ago or be better than that. And from 2000 to 2018, over those 19 years, there were 90,000 short films premiered at film festivals across the world. So with that in mind, how do you make a film that stands out? How do you think Birds of Paradise stands out? And as you look at other projects, what is that sort of niche or what is that angle you think will help you get into these festivals?

David Painter (17:37):

Yeah, I mean, we can kind of piggyback off each other. Cause this is something that has been a recurring topic in the entirety of this film’s journey of who’s it for? What’s it for? Why basically. And I think going into it, I told the crew when we started, I said, if this sucks, I’m not showing it to anybody.


And I meant that. I was like, if this is something that we’re not proud of, then why would we show it that? I don’t know. That’s my motto. And so I knew we all were on the same page of, we wanted to make something that was high quality, well produced, and that was a high caliber student film, not just labeled under the, oh, it’s a student film. And they’re learning. For me, especially in a capstone class, that shouldn’t be what it’s about at all. It should be like, this is a culmination of everything we’ve learned. This should be putting it to practice and doing our best at it, challenging ourselves. And so we, through the rewrites, we simplified BOP a lot. It’s not the most unique story in terms of story structure. It’s a coming of age story about a girl who doesn’t know who she is, and she’s trying to find it in other people.


And then at the end of it, she realizes that the only place she felt herself was with her grandpa watching birds. And so there was a lot of discussion in the writing process because what we would do is we would come together as a team, we would brainstorm ideas, we’d kind of figure out what we wanted to add, what we wanted to take away. And then I would go away with it and do it myself just for tonal purposes and making sure it all made the s made sense. And then we’d submit it to our professor. She’d give us feedback. There was a point, I think, even where our class gave us feedback on the script.


And so we had a lot of different people giving us different inputs of what they thought the message was and all that. And I think what it boiled down to for me was this is a universal experience. I think everyone in their life, at some point or another, maybe it’s not exactly Emma’s story and the Bird of Paradise, but it, it’s something along those lines of you don’t know who you are yet, especially in high school, and you’re trying to figure that out. And there’s no right way to do it. But you spend time with different people and then you learn different lessons. I mean, that was the rule of threes in Bird of Paradise was she has three different facets of people that she acts different around the party crowd. And then the really negative people in her life that really made her question, why am I even with these people? And then her family who don’t even know her. And so it’s be because of that, the universal side of things. I think that was one thing we really wanted to harp on, was like, this is something that everybody could relate to.

Davis Mawer (20:31):

And I think that was one of the biggest parts was it was a simple story, but it had lots of different facets that people could connect to. Lots of people connected with the grandpa character, lots of people connected with feeling ostracized from a certain group of people. And there was different, it, it had a core central theme, but there was lots of room for interpretation in a lot of stuff, which meant there was lots of room for people to really connect with different parts of the film.

David Painter (20:56):

And because of that, I think that that’s part of the reason why Emma’s a female in the story, is because for me, I truly believe that if you changed her gender to whatever you wanted it to be, the message would remain the same. And so it’s applicable to everybody. So it wasn’t about a story, story about the women experience or anything like that, a high school girl experience, although I guess some people could derive something from that. But again, it, it’s very universal. And so I think that’s also challenging because there, it’s not directed towards a corner or a group of people that we can guarantee will it. So that was also a gamble of, yeah, we’re making it universal, but we have to tell it. Well, yeah, otherwise it’s going to not stick to anybody.

Davis Mawer (21:39):

And that did come into play when we’re applying to festivals. Cause a lot of times, certain categories of film, you could have a horror film festival or something like that, which means you’re more likely to get accepted or just be a part of that whole process. It’s not

David Painter (21:50):

A comedy, it’s not a mystery. A drama. Yeah. Very basic drama.

Kevin Douglas (21:56):

I think. What, I mean, I remember seeing the film at the Capstone presentations last spring and Oh yeah, cool.

David Painter (22:01):

Thanks for

Kevin Douglas (22:01):

Coming. Yeah, I remember thinking it was so great. I was going to text you and I totally didn’t. Ok, that’s ok. But I remember thinking, did you see the film Eighth Grade by Bo Burnham? Yeah.

David Painter (22:13):

That was one of our comps.

Kevin Douglas (22:15):

Really? Yeah, comps is in,

David Painter (22:17):

That was one of our comparison. When you’re pitching it, that was one of our ones that were like, it’s eighth grade meets Lady Bird. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (22:23):

I mean, for some reason I was like, you comped Bo Burnum a ticket.

David Painter (22:27):

You can wish. No, that’s

Kevin Douglas (22:28):

Going to be amazing. No, but yeah, I mean, I love that. It makes a lot of sense. And that character, Elsie Fisher’s character and that film is female, but the awkwardness of middle school trying to fit in is something that’s very universal. So I think exactly. You guys navigated that also very well.

David Painter (22:43):

Thank you.

Kevin Douglas (22:44):

With Birds of Paradise. So yeah, congratulations on all the awards and everything so far. Thank you.

David Painter (22:49):

Thank you. Actually, this is news on the podcast. We just found out on Saturday that BOP won a student Heartland Emmy.

Kevin Douglas (22:58):

Oh wow. That’s awesome.

Davis Mawer (22:58):

Yeah. A student production award. Yeah,

David Painter (23:00):

Student production award.

Kevin Douglas (23:01):


David Painter (23:02):

Yeah. So we got submitted by the M FJS program. They nominated us to be considered. And then, yeah, we were a nominee. And then on Saturday they had a virtual ceremony and we found out National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Kevin Douglas (23:17):

So I’ll have to introduce you in my pre-recorded intro as Emmy Award-winning David Ben Painter, Davis Bower. Well,

David Painter (23:25):

Actually, yeah, I

Davis Mawer (23:26):

Wish he could.

David Painter (23:27):

The Academy was very adamant about the verbiage.

Davis Mawer (23:30):

Of course

David Painter (23:31):

They’re, because Emmy is not a student, students aren’t pure professionals, but it’s an student production award from the Heartland Emmy chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It’s a mouthful because I guess student Emmy would’ve been too easy to say, but

Davis Mawer (23:50):

Well, I think they just don’t want us going around saying we want an actual Emmy. Yeah, that would be way more difficult. It still,

Kevin Douglas (23:57):

What? Are they going to track you down? Yeah. No,

David Painter (23:59):

But it’s, it’s cool. We do get, it does have the Emmy Globe on the trophy. It’s not the guy holding the thing. But yeah,

Davis Mawer (24:08):

It’s a glass trophy. Yeah. And it’s cool. We’re very, very thankful to the academy. Yeah.

David Painter (24:12):

Yeah. We can actually say thanks to the academy. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (24:16):

Hopefully you get the heartland Oscars next. Yeah,

David Painter (24:19):

I know, right? Yeah. But anyway, that’s a very new development that we just found out about, so that’s awesome.

Kevin Douglas (24:24):

We’re super pump. Congratulations.

Davis Mawer (24:26):

Thank you. Thank you.

Kevin Douglas (24:27):

You guys both want to work in the film industry, I assume, for a living. And the concept, I was talking to my boss this morning about the starving artist lifestyle and balancing having maybe a separate income and using that money towards your art, or we talked about earlier finding the resources for your art. And both my boss and I agree that starving artists, it shouldn’t be a term anymore because, yeah, come on. It’s 2023 Art. We all Value

Davis Mawer (24:58):

And True.

Kevin Douglas (24:59):

The world goes around because the engineers who make the world run are able to take a break and go see a movie or

Davis Mawer (25:06):


Kevin Douglas (25:06):

Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. We’re all watching succession on Sundays, right? We’re all doing art or appreciate a garden some way. So how are you making a living right now? How do you hope to get into the industry? And what would you like to be doing full-time for a living in this industry?

Davis Mawer (25:23):

Well, I know David and I have talked about how once you, I haven’t graduated yet, but I’m right on the precipice of it. And once you graduate, especially in the film, you, the film industry, you kind of do have to start over. He was the director for our capstone film, and now he’s a PA on commercials and stuff. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because there’s more to learn, there’s more to soak in. And I know already just having seen him come back to our apartment and he’s like, this is what the d i t on set did, and this is what the lighting crew did it, you’re learning more and trying to build your knowledge base to the point where you can get back to be a director again, or be the lead editor on a project. When I graduate, it’ll probably end up being non-narrative product projects that I’ll work on. It’ll be editing someone’s commercial, editing, someone’s click, little promotional video, and just building that knowledge base to the point where I know all of the editing software the back of my hand and have a reel to show off and say, I’m capable and ready to take that next step.

David Painter (26:28):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think Davis covered a lot of the ground, but right now, yeah, I am a freelance production assistant. I also, like you were saying, so my thing was I didn’t really have the luxury of moving to la having my parents pay and then figuring it out. Yeah. I to right out of college, I was like, okay, I, I’m paying my own for everything. And so obviously money was a thing I had to figure out. And he can’t just make a movie and make millions right out of college. Although, who knows, BOP could go crazy.


But yeah, so I found a job through M F J S that teaches an afterschool film program up in Boulder on the weekends. Oh, cool. It’s called Real Kids. And I love it. It’s really fun. But that, that’s the consistent income that I’m able to pay the bills with and things like that. So that in the meantime, during the weekdays, I can ideally be on a set somewhere. I’ve been on all sorts of really cool commercials around Denver. Denver has a lot of stuff going on. I mean, I was on a Bush’s big beans commercial with Peyton Manning. Oh, very cool. And the dog, duke, the d Duke the Bean dog. Yeah. So there’s stuff like that. I was on a Kia commercial that aired during the World Cup. So stuff like that. But as a pa, like Davis was saying, I, I’m on these cool sets, but I’m kind of the bottom of the totem pole in a way, which is not a bad thing, but everyone has to do it.


You have to pay your dues, even in a corporate ladder, you start as an assistant and you move your way up to executives. So it’s one of those things where it’s like, I’m putting in the time right now to get the experience there and make the connections and the people that I really like hanging out with on sets. And it’s a snowball effect. If you’re chill on a set, people will hire you again. And so I’m slowly starting to work with the same people. And because of that, I, I’m meeting new people that I could hire as a crew someday, or that I could have be a producer for me or a director of photography and make something on the side that’s not related to film. But we’re all kind of in the same boat there, because we’re all PAs together. So we all get that.


So that’s been annoying in a way because it’s, I wish I could go out of college and ride the bird of Paradises momentum into the sun and never have to be a pa. But I mean, that’s, I think, how it is. And because of that, it also makes, it’s kind of a test to see if you really like it. Cause it’s, if you’re in it, the film industry, just to say that you’re a filmmaker, but you don’t actually make things on the side. It’s it, what’s the point? So we’ve, me and Davis have been talking. We want to make other things. We want to make more shorts. We want to make sketches or just funny stuff just for us that we like to make that made us it in the first place.

Davis Mawer (29:24):

And also help you just cultivate those skills. And maybe we’ll make a video that does something we’ve never done before, just so we know how to do it. Then in the future, if you’re working on something, then you’re like, oh, well, this dumb video I made taught me how to do this, and now I know how to do it. Yeah.

David Painter (29:39):

But I agree. I think the struggling artist, starving artist mentality, it’s we all the art for different reasons, and we all connect to it for different reasons. But I think when you’re not in a school sphere where it’s, you’re not just encouraged, but kind of forced in a way to be productive and create, that was one of my biggest things. I graduated and all of a sudden I was like, man, I have no one telling me I need to write anything anymore, man. I don’t have any

Kevin Douglas (30:06):

Reason. It’s not a homework. You’re not going to get a homework grade, nothing

David Painter (30:09):

On the line except for me getting it done. So that was something that took a while to kind of curb and understand that, you know, have to figure out why you really like it.

Davis Mawer (30:21):

And it’s the test of whether or not you really like it. Exactly. As if you have no one telling you like, Hey, you have to do this for a grade. And you still are like, well, maybe I should just write something, or maybe I should just find something to edit. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (30:32):

That’s one of the most powerful things I’ve taken away from DU was I think about other programs I’m thinking in terms of theater, but film I think is very similar. Yeah, the BFA versus the ba. Yeah. Film at DU is a ba, right. And when you think about fine arts programs that are acting centric or just cinematography centric or just screenwriting, eccentric or whatever niche you choose, you learned that thing and you master that craft. But when it comes to getting out of college, if you want to build up your portfolio, your resume, your real, you need to be having your own projects on the side. And if you only know how to do one thing, it’s on you to find the people that will do stuff with you. And if I hadn’t gone to DU with the theater department, which is a BA as well, we had to do the stagecraft, the building, the sets, the Oh yeah. The design elements. And now I thought I just wanted to be a writer, but now I’m also producing and marketing all of the shows our theater’s putting on. And I’m sure you guys are experiencing that too, as you brainstorm new projects and things you’re working on. Yeah,

David Painter (31:37):

We talk about that exact thing all the time.


I think that’s something that I’m really thankful to. I know Davis is too, the thing about DU and it’s film program especially, is the resources are there. I mean, we’re at a private school, they have the camera gear, they have the stuff, but it’s up to you to take advantage of it, not just in the cinematography class or not just in the intro to field production and netting or whatever. So that’s why when we were freshmen, this is how we met, was we just wanted to make stuff. And we were like, DU has filmmakers. They have that. And so we started film club, and because of that, we had three projects under our two, one that doesn’t really count.

Davis Mawer (32:22):

Lots of half projects and yeah, sure.

David Painter (32:25):

And lots of experiments of this works. And then it’s a set capacity, but it’s not nothing at stake other than you. It’s up to make it as a club if you want to make something. And so we learned a lot of things. We made a lot mistakes that we probably could have made in the Capstone way earlier on, because we took advantage of that kind of stuff. And we had the different classes, we had film crit classes, we had screenwriting.

Davis Mawer (32:51):

And the only way not to make those mistakes in the future is by, we made ’em when made a crappy horror movie with the film club when we were a freshman. And I still loved having done that to this day. But without those kind of foundational pieces, it doesn’t build up to get to the point where you’re confident in yourself and, oh, I’ve navigated this before. I can navigate it again. And it’s kind of also relevant to the post-grad world where you’re also, now you have a foundation, but you’re still trying to grow your learning base to get to a point where you’re, yeah. How to navigate it.

Kevin Douglas (33:22):

I think it’s a powerful message for people in creative fields and non-creative fields. Every single person, and I talk, it’s an entrepreneurship podcast. So I’ve talked to business owners and it’s always the mistakes that got them where they are now. And you, you’re absolutely right. I think I remember watching the Capstones and your capstone really stood out, and it’s clear that because you put in that work before your senior year project, you had the experience and you had the lessons that made that payoff. And now you’re seeing a payoff with these film festivals.

David Painter (33:55):

Yeah, thank you. Mean was, that was something that we really wanted to make sure we were rarely conscious of in the production process. It was like, we know how to do this. This shouldn’t be a lesson right now. This shouldn’t be a class. You will learn things in the capstone by default, because it’s usually the biggest short film or anything anyone’s done. You shouldn’t be learning what you learn in class on

Davis Mawer (34:21):

The set. Certainly not to say we didn’t learn anything by doing the capstone. Yeah, absolutely. Oh my God. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (34:25):

Yeah. You’re always learning. Yeah, you’re always making mistakes. If I

David Painter (34:28):

Said I didn’t learn anything as a director on that set, oh my God. But it’s the practical things that we were able to, I even when I came to film school, I knew how to use a camera kind of, but it wasn’t until I was DP on our,

Davis Mawer (34:44):

Really, really, I’ll say it. I didn’t know how to use a camera

David Painter (34:47):

Until I was the director of photography on this really, really bad horror film that we made as freshman that I finally was like, oh, right. That’s what shutter speed’s for. Stuff like that. And so it’s, those are the kinds of things people always tell you. Every YouTube video you watch, every class, it’s like, oh yeah, you really got to understand the camera, but it’s not until you do something that you want and you want it to be done, that you’re kind of, in a way forced

Davis Mawer (35:13):

To. And I talk about this all the time where Professor Joe Brown here at du, he taught me in cinematography. But then we also, after that class, went on a trip to Nebraska to film these whole crane migrations. And I learned more about using a camera on that trip than I did throughout the whole class, because when you’re sitting there and it’s dark and you’re like, I need to get this shot now, I’m like, well, I guess I really have to know how aperture works right at the second,

David Painter (35:36):

Otherwise it will be black and you will not see, and birds.

Davis Mawer (35:39):

So you learning by doing is absolutely the way to go with

David Painter (35:42):

Film and do, you’re saying it’s the same, I think it’s very similar from the theater department. It’s

Kevin Douglas (35:48):

Learned by doing. Oh, yeah.

David Painter (35:49):

Yeah. And it’s great because of that. It’s very holistic, and they give you the meat of what you need, and it’s your job to put it to practice. And so I’m really proud of us for taking advantage of that.

Kevin Douglas (36:02):

It’s a very entrepreneurial approach. Yeah, if you will. But everything about DU I’ve just found that is they put the power in the student’s hands, and you just got to take the initiative to find it. And I hear people complain that they don’t have the support. And it’s like, no, the support’s there, the fact you’re the only film students that applied for the entrepreneurship micro grant just goes to show. Yeah, exactly. There’s money to be used and to be supporting these students, you just have to know where to look for at. I’d love to ask, are there any specific projects that you’re working on right now?

David Painter (36:33):

Well, so with the Bird of Paradise, you were saying how we’ve kind of had to take on the more business end of things. Now. That’s something that we didn’t really plan for to take up as much time as it does. So we’re right now, a lot of our team has dispersed, which is, that’s totally understandable. Not everyone’s going to stay in Denver. We have some people who went to la. We have some people who are still here, but everyone’s doing their own thing, so people are killing it. Mainly Davis and I have been the kind of marketers, so we run the Instagram account and make all the graphics and stuff, and then upkeeping with festivals and updating the cast and the crew and the people who helped us making sure they are in the loop on what’s happening. So we do that a lot. And also right after BOP, when you put that much creative energy into something, for the first couple months, I was like, oh my gosh, I can’t even think about making anything else right now.


I’m so drained, which is not a bad thing per se, but it’s just, we put so much time. And I mean, there was a point where me and Davis spent six hours at his desk listening for audio pops. Just the really tedious, really tedious stuff. So anyway, after all that, there was kind of a liminal space where we were both a little bit, all right, let’s just kind of see what happens. I worked on, I wrote a TV pilot, a personal one, just to have as a materialistic piece of writing to show people, this is how I write kind of thing. I wrote that I, I’ve submitted it to one competition and it didn’t get in, which is totally

Kevin Douglas (38:06):

Fine. Which one was it? The S, was it the s w N?

David Painter (38:09):

It was outstanding screenplay. It was like an Instagram account Follow. Oh, I saw that. Which honestly, for me was more the deadline, which is kind of a stupid way to do it, but I was like, I need a way to get this done. So

Kevin Douglas (38:20):

I just got rejected for a pilot. I read for a different festival. But yeah,

David Painter (38:24):

That’s what happens. And that’s the thing too. Yeah. I mean, kind of sidebar here, the festivals we’ve gotten into, there’s a whole list of festivals for Bird of Paradise that we also got rejected from.

Davis Mawer (38:35):

So it’s

David Painter (38:36):

Obviously we’re not going to advertise to everyone. Hey guys, guess what? We got rejected from this point in New York.

Davis Mawer (38:41):


David Painter (38:41):

How exciting

Kevin Douglas (38:42):

Posting on the Instagram. Congratulations to this festival.

David Painter (38:46):

Second World, it would be kind of funny. Just show a list of all the rejections, if you like that.

Davis Mawer (38:49):

That’ll certainly be more to come too.

David Painter (38:51):

But anyway, so I wrote that. And then right now, I know we both have been working PAing a lot. Davis has his own personal clients he’s been working with on editing stuff, which you can talk about more. But in terms of narrative stuff, I really want to write a short, I have a list of just hundreds of ideas, but it’s just it. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and do it. But I do think, especially once Davis graduates and we’re both kind of in the same sphere, we definitely want to make stuff. We filmed a really stupid skit a couple of months ago, just for fun. But I don’t think we’re going to be showing that to anybody.

Davis Mawer (39:30):

Well, I don’t know if David gives himself enough credit, because it’s nice to be able to live with someone who does the same thing, because he’ll pop in and be, check out this couple page script I wrote, or just something like that, because you are still writing things. It might not be up to the standard you want, but that’s because you’re not spending as much time on it to refine it. But I mean, because people care about these sorts of things and want to still do it, it’s still happening. And so even outside of classes that I’m still taking right now, I am working with other clients. There’s a short film I’m editing that technically I’m not allowed to talk about, but Well, it makes it sound way more official than it is CIA content. Yeah. Nba, if I tell you about it, I will have to kill you.

Kevin Douglas (40:15):

Military propaganda or something.

Davis Mawer (40:18):

But yeah, no, it’s that same sort of topic we touched on where when you care about it and that’s something you’re passionate about, it becomes something where you’re like, well, my week doesn’t feel fulfilled if I haven’t touched on something like this. Or if I haven’t tried to at least make something creatively. I’ve even tried to write something and it hasn’t been good, but it’s like, well, I got to try and do it

David Painter (40:42):

Well. And with stuff, the Bird of Paradise, we were so passionate, and everyone on the team loved it a lot. And we all found a personal connection to it. And so I had no problem on a Saturday night spending five hours editing a scene from it, because I just had all these ideas. And I was like, oh my gosh. And Davis would be right there in his room and we, let’s do it. And so it is weird when you have that huge just rocket launch of a film, and then it’s like you, you’re watching it go off into space and you’re like,

Davis Mawer (41:15):

All of a sudden you click a button, you’re like,

David Painter (41:17):

Well done. It goes. So it has been kind weird adjustment to figure out. But we were saying, Davis was saying, yeah, I still write, not cause I want to, but sometimes cause I have to, it’s my way of processing things. Sometimes you put your baggage on a character and you let them carry it, and that’s how it works. But

Kevin Douglas (41:39):

It’s cheaper than a therapist, right? Yeah.

David Painter (41:43):

Yeah. So we definitely, it’s nice that we’re together because we pull that out of each other, that creative energy. And like I said, some people on our crew are still here. I mean, our DP Aaron, he’s doing a lot of work right now and we love him and we would love to do something with him again. But like I said, I’m meeting people on commercial sets around Denver and other people want to film stuff. And we might want to try with someone else I’ve met or a new friend. But we definitely want to film new things. We have a short that we’ve been kind of workshopping for the past couple of months that we both like the idea. And we have a very, very rough outline.

Davis Mawer (42:26):

A rough is the keyword word.

Kevin Douglas (42:27):

I’ve got a short, I’m writing right now. We’re filming this summer, so we should

Davis Mawer (42:31):

Talk. Lemme

David Painter (42:33):

Know. Let me know. That would be super fun. Yeah. All ad for you or something. That’d

Kevin Douglas (42:37):

Be awesome. You still, I think, need a DP and director of photography, if

Davis Mawer (42:40):

Anyone else. Yes. Yes.

Kevin Douglas (42:42):

Yeah. Who are the filmmakers in the movies that inspire you guys and maybe prompted you to even pursue this as a career?

Davis Mawer (42:52):

I know I love Edgar Wright. Yeah. I think he’s a fantastic director. And I just admire how so much personality goes into the thought goes into it to have, so every shot and every take has just so much personality and so much to say. And the Bird of Paradise couldn’t be farther away from an Edgar Ride movie, but it’s still an inspiration movie. That movie

Kevin Douglas (43:13):

With egg right Style would be crazy.

David Painter (43:15):

Would be

Davis Mawer (43:15):


Kevin Douglas (43:17):

Is What’s your favorite Mine’s baby driver? Me too. There you go. Choice.

Davis Mawer (43:20):


David Painter (43:24):

Maybe this sounds a little prestigious, but I have different directors that inspire me for different reasons, especially as someone who wants to direct someday. I think for me, one of the times that I was like, I want to make something like that, is I remember seeing Interstellar for the first time and I was like, I don’t know who the heck thought of that, but that was the craziest movie I’ve ever seen. And so I think Nolan’s storytelling is inspirational to me, and I would love to write something like that someday. I think Scorsese’s just world building is crazy. And I think he’s just one of the goats. I really love Sam Mendes, American Beauty 1917, and I really love Denville Nuv, blade Runner 2049, an Arrival, I think Dune. Yeah, dune. Yeah. I have a few opinions on Dune, but

Kevin Douglas (44:21):

Everyone does.

David Painter (44:22):

But no, I think he’s really good at taking a huge sci-fi spectacle and still making it have characters and have heart, which I really love. I think Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most beautiful movies of the contemporary era. I agree. It’s just insane. Every time I watch, it’s a breath of fresh air. But yeah, I, we really make an effort to watch all sorts of different kinds of movies all the time. We have an ongoing list of hundreds that we just write on paper, and it’s taped down our whole wall. Oh, watch

Kevin Douglas (44:55):

List. Yeah. Yeah.

David Painter (44:56):

So we’re able to cross ’em off. So we watch different stuff all the time. And I think that’s kind of the way to do it is find one that you’ve never heard of.

Davis Mawer (45:07):

Yeah. Well, and you never know where inspiration could come from. I remember we watched Old Boy, which was a Korean movie from, my God, two Kevin

Kevin Douglas (45:15):

Have it, but it’s been on my list. It

Davis Mawer (45:16):

Was crazy. But every once in a while you’re watching something that you’d never watched before, and you’re like, well, they did this specific aspect really different. And that’s something I connect with and I didn’t even know you were allowed to do. And it’s, yeah, exactly. So that’s why we try and watch just so many different things just to, it helps what kind of tools you have in your arsenal as a filmmaker.

David Painter (45:39):

Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, I guess this is a long-winded answer, but we have a lot of different directors that we both, and stylistically we share that a lot of times, most of the times

Davis Mawer (45:49):


David Painter (45:49):

There’s a few times where we’ll watch a movie and do, we’ll be like, I absolutely hated that. I

Kevin Douglas (45:53):


Davis Mawer (45:54):

It. And then

David Painter (45:55):

We’re like, well, how do we talk about it? Cause

Kevin Douglas (45:58):

I mean, it’s great you’re living with a creative collaborator because you get to just, it’s, it’s almost a, it’s a fun version of doing homework.

Davis Mawer (46:05):

It’s way more fun than doing homework.

David Painter (46:07):

Our STEM major roommate, I don’t know if he feels the same, but Oh,

Kevin Douglas (46:11):


Davis Mawer (46:11):

Totally kidding. He’s the best. He’s

David Painter (46:12):


Kevin Douglas (46:13):

We would always wrap up with a few rapid fire questions. Okay. Okay. First question is, how do you define success? And David, you go first.

David Painter (46:23):

I think it’s kind of what we were talking about. For me, I feel like I’m successful right now because I’m doing what I set out to do and I’m doing what I love. And that to me means more than the money right now is I like writing because I like it. And my biggest goal when I graduated was I want a PA and I want to still be in the film. And I’m doing both of those things.

Davis Mawer (46:45):

I would a Alberta of Paradise. I would say success comes from within yourself and whatever makes your heart feel full and whatever makes your mind feel active. And obviously you want to still be able to eat because that also helps your mind work. But yeah, just whatever brings you the most smiles in life.

David Painter (47:04):

That’s a great

Kevin Douglas (47:05):

Answer. Smiles in life better

Davis Mawer (47:06):

Than that. Sounds really deep. It’s a better answer than mine.

Kevin Douglas (47:09):

Now. Both. Great answers. Second question, and I’ll make you answer verse this time. Davis, what is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Davis Mawer (47:20):

I guess I suppose the best piece of advice I’ve gotten kind of tags along with a lot of the worst pieces of advices I’ve gotten. If that was grammatically correct, it’s that I had someone tell me that your journey isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s. And that there’s almost no way, especially in this crazy industry, for anyone to know your situation or know you. And so that tags along with a lot of the best pieces or the worst pieces of advice that I’ve gotten, which is it just didn’t feel like it applied to me. And then when someone told me that, it kind of opens that up a little bit and makes you feel a little more comfortable.

David Painter (47:57):

Yeah, I have a few. I think for me, it’s one thing my professor kind of said, and I’m paraphrasing here, but when I graduated, it was basically right out of school, find a reason to wake up every morning, especially as a starving artist

Davis Mawer (48:14):

Like that

David Painter (48:15):

Term. But there was a period of time where I was like, man, I don’t know if I should even do film because there’s kind of hitting a wall with how to get there or whatever. So for a while, my thing was I would wake up and I would just try and be like, man, how do I write this pilot? And stuff like that. So I think that for me was something, and kind of what we were talking about earlier, you have to know you like it or not it. You have to know you love it, not just as a job that you would be willing to, I would be willing to write outside of being paid to do it.

Davis Mawer (48:55):

I think both of us gave longer than two sentence answers. I hope that’s,

Kevin Douglas (48:58):

That’s a we’ll let slide this time. It’ll never invite you back.

David Painter (49:05):

Worst advice, I don’t know. I haven’t had a lot of bad advice. I think in my opinion, the worst advice is when people like the flip side of Davis, when people think that your experience will be the same as theirs and then they tell you what to do, everyone always says networking in the industry’s like crazy or whatever. But for me, it’s like it only works if you connect with the people and you’re actually friends. Like networking. Doesn’t matter if the people know you just want to use them.

Kevin Douglas (49:32):

I want to thank both of you guys for coming to the studio. It’s been really cool following the success of BOP and Best of luck as you continue with other projects and continue with the film festival

Davis Mawer (49:43):

Circuit. Thank you so much. Thank you. Kevin.

David Painter (49:45):

I want to give

Davis Mawer (49:45):

Be here. I want to give one last final shout out to Sheila Schroeder. Yeah. You was a wonderful professor on the planet. Absolutely. We would not be here without her. Yeah.

David Painter (49:51):

And thank you to the entrepreneurship program. Yes. For your micro grant. Our success would not be here without you guys. Yes.

Kevin Douglas (49:58):

We love you. We interviewed Sheila Schroer in an earlier episode. She

Davis Mawer (50:01):

Yeah, you did. I remember her talking about it. She is amazing.

David Painter (50:04):

She’s our, been our number one supporter and our biggest fan since day one, so love her.

Kevin Douglas (50:09):

All right. Thanks for coming in, guys.

David Painter (50:10):

Thanks, Kevin.

Kevin Douglas (50:14):

The Entrepreneurship@DU podcast was recorded in Marjorie Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. You can find us on Instagram at du Entrepreneur on Twitter at du underscore entrepreneur, and on Facebook at Entrepreneurship@DU entrepreneurship. At DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast. By the way. Check out Voices of experience available wherever you get your podcasts.