Stacey Davis is no stranger to taking risks. The talented screenwriter and attorney-by-day left her comfortable job at a large law firm to launch her own boutique entertainment law firm, representing the artists who inspire her to fire up her writing fingers as soon as her workday ends. Then, buoyed by the thrill of taking one exciting risk toward fulfilling her dreams, this driven, award-winning screenwriter decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the production of her latest short screenplay, The Sibling Code. We are delighted to learn more about today’s FACE of Birmingham, Stacey Davis!
Are you a Birmingham native? If not, what brought you here?
I grew up in Michigan in a town called Grand Haven, about two-and-a-half hours north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. When I was in law school in Connecticut, I met some folks from Birmingham, and I came down for a visit. I just fell in love with the city. The next summer, I applied for a summer associate position with a law firm here. At the end of the summer, they offered me a full-time job, and I moved down here following graduation. That was 2002. So it’s 13 years later, and here I am!
So what did you love about Birmingham?
Well, growing up in Michigan, I definitely had these preconceived notions of what the South was like. I had never traveled to the South other than Florida, and, as everyone says, that doesn’t really count. But the whole thought of Alabama and Mississippi did not conjure up a positive image. And then I came down here, and I was just blown away. I mean, first of all, it was visually stunning with its rolling hills and lush greenery, and the weather was particularly nice. And it was so much more modern than I thought. All of my biases were blown away. The restaurants were pretty fantastic, too!
What came first, law or screenwriting?
It’s funny, I feel like I have been writing and creating stories in my head for as long as I can remember, since I was a little girl, and I also always wanted to be a lawyer from a really young age. They both were always there. It’s like the chicken or the egg; I could not tell you which came first.
Why the shift from a large law firm to an independent law firm representing artists?
I had been with a large law firm as a commercial litigator for about 12 years. And over the years, I was growing and developing the entertainment law practice on the side. I reached a point where I wanted to solely practice entertainment law. I was just ready to do something different. It seemed like time to jump off the bridge, so I did! And, honestly, it is the best decision I have ever made. I am so happy now. It’s just incredible. I’m so thankful.
Was it scary?
Of course, yeah! But the possible upside was too much to not even take the chance. And I have a super supportive husband, which made it all the better.
How did your interest in film begin, and when did you know that writing was your connection to film?
When I was a kid, I was a really avid reader, and my mom is a huge film buff, so I was raised on Doris Day and John Wayne and all the classics. I mean, movies were always a part of my life. And I think reading a lot and enjoying stories just naturally led me to writing stories the way I’ve always experienced them.
You also took the leap from writer to film producer. What was that like?
Yeah, you can’t wait for someone to say, “Oh, you have an awesome script and we want to buy it for a million dollars!” You know, at some point, you have to take a different approach. I had been writing scripts and sending them out and trying to get an agent and all that, and it wasn’t working. It was time to do something different. And I thought, “Why the hell not?!” So we did!
What would you say to people who want to take an exciting, yet scary, leap of their own?
I think a recent panel for aspiring filmmakers at the Sidewalk Film Festival had a really good running theme, and that was “Just Do It.” I mean, at some point, you are going to be ruled by fear and intimidation and you just have to say, “No, I’ve had enough, and I can do this, and, if I fail, so what? At least I did it. And, if it is horrible, so what? I can learn from it.” Because that’s the kind of mindset you have to have. You can’t go into it thinking, “I’m going to make the best short film ever. I’m going to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel,” because that’s setting yourself up for failure. My mindset was, “I just have to get something completed.” So it’s a much lower bar, but if that’s what enables you to get it done, then that’s the important part.
How does your legal practice inform your screenwriting and vice versa?
On a practical level, they both involve writing, whether it’s writing scripts or writing contracts. Any time you’re writing, you’re getting better as a writer. But more importantly, it’s my clients. I see what they’re doing, their work and their art, and that inspires me. So when I’m working as production counsel on a film and I’m helping them do everything from getting the financing and drafting the deal memos to working with the talent and securing the locations, all the way through to seeing my name in the credits, it is such a thrilling feeling. And that really keeps me going and inspires me to keep writing. I want to do what they’re doing. They are doing it on a daily basis. There’s no reason that I can’t do it.
Tell us about your film, The Sibling Code.
It’s a comedic short about a brother and a sister who have to come together to plan a funeral. It’s really about the dynamic relationship between siblings and this idea that siblings are both private tormentors and public protectors. For me, personally, I didn’t always get along with my brother growing up, but if a third person came in and messed with me, I knew he’d have my back, and that is what The Sibling Code is all about. It explores that theme in a really funny way, we hope. We’re excited about it!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Every “no” gets you closer to a “yes,” and I firmly believe that, because from every rejection, I learn something new and I create something better. I think it is definitely true.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Other than Netflix on the couch with my family, probably going out to dinner with friends and family. We are fortunate to have really awesome, hilarious friends, and every time we go out with them, we just have so much fun.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
Name three frivolous or lighthearted things you can’t live without.
Chocolate, sunglasses and Michigan State basketball
Thank you to Meg McKinney for the terrific pictures of Stacey in her element at the 2015 Sidewalk Film Festival in downtown Birmingham.