On My Own: Dexter Davis

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Dexter DavisDexter Davis, Founder & CEO, D Street Media Group L.L.C.

In an industry that requires decades of dues paying, Dexter Davis, a film producer and distributor and the founder and CEO of D Street Media Group L.L.C., has only one decade of experience. His first feature, The Reception, was made in eight days on a $5,000 budget. It debuted at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in April 2005 to highly positive reviews. Davis sold the movie’s domestic distribution rights and kept the international rights for himself—a smart move, since U.S. distribution drives the global market.

Getting started
D Street Media, the New York City holding company for D Street Releasing, D Street Pictures and D Street Medie-vertriebe GmbH in Berlin, Germany, specializes in foreign films. “We’re on track with our business plan, producing and distributing films. Our fiscal projections are on target,” says Davis.
A native of Greenville, Miss., Davis grew up in San Jose, Calif., with his parents, who were both entrepreneurs. He chose film distribution for his own line of business and in 2004 a friend introduced him to a venture capitalist, who invested $500,000 to help launch D Street Media. “Getting into distribution ensures income continuity much more than if a person was a producer,” Davis says.  

Lesson and acceptance
Davis learned a lesson about under-capitalization the hard way. He received money from Volkswagen AG, a key sponsor, for the release of a film, Summer in Berlin, but the amount was insufficient for a full-court roll-out. “If I had known I would have tried to raise more money before the release,” he says. Still, the reviews were positive and companies are offering to buy the film for “home entertainment.” That’s where money is to be made, Davis says.  Other filmmakers are approaching him to distribute their films. “I’ve become the distribution partner for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning film, Padre Nuestro,” Davis says. Having rights to a film with the “Sundance” pedigree is a big deal, he says, for it signals recognition and acceptance by the American independent film industry, he says.

Why foreign films?
Davis chose to specialize in foreign films because it’s very “niche” and has very little competition. “There is little risk and it is not as expensive as if I were to buy an English language film. I’m filling a void in this country,” he says.

Once, at an airport in Italy, he saw a business publication that advocated making more “American-”styled movies. “I was incensed at the unfairness of that,” Davis says. With American films making up more than half of the European film market, D Street Media could give world cinema or international films a chance, he reasoned. “When people ask me what language [I use for my films], I always say, ‘any language that doesn’t sound like English.’ Our films can and should come from all over the world. What better place to do it than the United States, with our huge market?” he says.

Aspiring filmmakers
Many independent filmmakers complain about not being picked up by distributors, but Davis says he had no difficulty booking theaters. He stresses the importance of networking for aspiring filmmakers and distributors and urges them to learn to save money, given the high cost of film school and filmmaking.
Davis hopes to maintain his success in the film and entertainment industry. He is looking to raise $1.5 million for his distribution company. “This is my second round of financing to be able to do better than before,” he says.