Film producer, 36
The place could be a desert or an alien landscape with its rolling dunes and vast, canyonlike crater where men blast rock from the earth so it can be turned into sand. Tyler Davidson points to the crater’s far edge, a perch of land that has grown smaller since he was last here.
“We shot up on the high wall, way up there,” says Davidson, producer of Take Shelter, a 2011 feature film made at locations throughout Greater Cleveland, including a home in LaGrange and here at Best Sand Corp. in Chardon. “It was in some ways our finest hour from a production standpoint. There were a lot of people we needed to maneuver in a safe and efficient manner.”
Take Shelter stars Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon as a hardworking father and husband whose apocalyptic dreams are either prophetic visions or the onset of mental illness. The film grows more tense, paranoid and claustrophobic with each passing moment, leading The New York Times’ A.O. Scott to describe it as “a perfect allegory for a panicky time.” It was an official selection of the 2011 Sundance and Toronto film festivals and won the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last May. In November, it was nominated for five Spirit Awards, sometimes an early indicator of Oscar nominees.
Davidson’s involvement with the film began in summer 2009 after a friend and talent agent who represented Take Shelter writer and director Jeff Nichols sent him the script. Davidson was instantly drawn to the subject matter.
“Not only did I think it was timely and relevant given the pervading sense of anxiety that I felt was in the world at the time,” he says, “but just the idea of a regular guy with a great family, good job and respect in the community secretly coming unglued, and the solitary journey of that, struck a chord with me.”
Nichols had planned to make the film in Arkansas, but the Greater Cleveland Film Commission flew him here in late 2009 so he could scout locations. Filming began the following summer.
One doesn’t expect a film producer to live in rural South Russell, where Davidson resides with his wife and two children. But he’s made it work, hanging on to his Los Angeles cell phone number as his lone tie to the West Coast. He lived there for a while after producing the 2002 film The Year That Trembled with his uncle, writer Scott Lax.
“I moved out to Los Angeles like the instruction book says, and I had a good experience there for several years,” says Davidson, whose producing resume also includes the 2006 film Swedish Auto, which starred a pre-Mad Men January Jones. “But, ultimately, I felt this is where my wife and I wanted to live and raise a family.”
Now, Davidson is focused on his latest film, Compliance, a psychological thriller that’ll premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Beyond that, he has a handful of other projects in the works and is hopeful about Ohio’s ability to build a sustainable film industry. But he cautions that the state’s investment in the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit must be increased and the current two-year program must be made permanent.
“We have an opportunity right now to build a real, thriving industry, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Davidson says. “We’re positioned to do something exceptional here in the business.”
Most Interesting ... Films
Davidson shares three with us.