Member Profile: Behind the Camera with Dave DiVerniero

By Angela Kokinakos

Michelle Obama said, "There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made." Dave DiVerniero is definitely going to be the one making history, or filming it, or making a documentary about it, or writing a television show about it...

As someone diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), who always had trouble staying focused on anything for very long, Dave has cultivated an ability to commit to things and see them through. This skill supported his success in his dream job. In a world where many people fall into work they have no particular attachment to, Dave has built a successful career in the highly competitive field of visual media production.

Having been a producer and editor of television, film, and advertising for almost 15 years, Dave has worked extensively in documentary films and docu-style television shows like Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, The Biggest Loser, and Mythbusters. He has also had the opportunity to work for some of the biggest clients in the advertising world, like Facebook, TJ Maxx, SunTrust, and Amazon. He eventually co-founded and ran a video-production related start-up for three years, but found, like so many other entrepreneurs, that he loved doing the work, but not running the business.

Dave is comfortable operating without a net. Founding a startup, freelancing, backpacking alone for months with no agenda, and generally trying new things that have the potential to almost certainly make him “look like an ass” is just how he rolls, which is not surprising considering his New York origins. When Dave was growing up in Queens, ethnicity and ancestry meant a lot to people. The neighborhoods were often still divided by ethnic groups and many people were invested in celebrating their particular holidays, food, and other cultural markers. His mother's family is Irish and his father's family is Italian, but being a mix, especially of two such iconic, dramatically different, and often antagonist cultures, left him on the outside of both groups, where he became comfortable forging his own path. These formative experiences generated a personality that can understand multiple perspectives; Dave is relentlessly creative. And not just in his job, where creativity is part of the product, but with problem-solving and interpersonal relationships.

Working in entertainment meant a relocation to the west coast, and Dave has called San Diego home for the last few years. However, he can never stay in one place very long and is always open to new opportunities. One of them will not be parenthood, though, as he and his wife are intentionally child-free…unless you count their dogs. They are currently fostering a mother and five puppies, which is way more than a handful. “It's exactly as amazing and exhausting as it sounds,” Dave says.

As a Producer and Editor in the commercial production department, Dave works on broadcast ads, promotional material, and programming; writing copy, project managing, providing creative direction, and editing in different measures according to the project. It was very important to him to have a position permitting creative direction of projects, as opposed to typical project management. As a producer, he’s honed his writing skills crafting story string outs, narration, project development, and straight copy. Dave is passionate about his work and intends to keep going in ever-increasing scope and quality. However, if he got the opportunity to return to documentary film or narrative TV, he’d jump on it “in a heartbeat.”

“I'm open-minded and I have the ability to be, to some degree, objective. This may not sound like a big deal, but in my experience, people tend to be hopelessly mired in their own point of view. Someone truly open-minded is very unusual.” His curiosity led him to become a Founding Member of The Gordian Knot Society. “As someone with a somewhat specific and narrow set of skills as well as someone who believes in the power of specialization, the idea of working with a passionate and talented team was ideal,” he said.

The issue Dave is most interested in addressing is environmentalism, specifically sustainability and conservation, though he is eager to get involved with projects addressing the overlapping issues of income inequality and social justice. “Fairness is very important to me. That people get treated equitably, that everyone has similar opportunities to live the life they want to live, that some sort of socially imposed karma rewards good deeds and punishes obnoxious or contemptible behavior. So, after 20 years of being sure I was a Ravenclaw, it turns out I'm actually a Hufflepuff.”

In his effort to address social justice, he’s been turning his curiosity to a deeper understanding of racism. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi illuminated for Dave some perspectives on racist systems, policies, perspectives, assumptions, and behaviors that he had never considered, and he’s bringing these lessons to bear on his GKS projects. While Dave has been inspired by Stacey Abrams for her unwavering, unstoppable tenacity and commitment to justice, he doesn’t really believe in “heroes;” “I feel like it doesn't leave room for the people we admire to be complete people with their own sometimes glaring, deficiencies. I admire many people for many things, some of them contradictory,” he says.

Despite his determination, Dave describes himself as a cynic. He says his superpower would be imagining the worst possible outcome to any problem or situation; he would be effective by being a downer at villain parties and generally making them withdrawn and nihilistic. Dave’s ability to anticipate possible negative outcomes also positions him to pivot and plan for them, and that skill has contributed to his success. While Dave insists he isn’t much of a planner, he does make an annual “to-do” list each January. For 2021, he’s got:

  • Start a band that covers songs from TV shows.

  • Write three TV pilots.

  • Design a complex, playable game.

  • Drop under 10% body fat and stay there.

  • Continue the 5-hour rule. “The 5-hour rule is something I started dabbling in years ago, where you commit to trying to learn something new for 5 hours every week,” he says.

Dave is constantly striving to improve and build new skills. He admits, “Part of that is ambition, sure, but part of that is a set of personal standards that are so ridiculously high that they border on self-destructive. I can appreciate that I'm not ever interested in being just 'good enough' at anything.”

Even if he wasn't a producer by profession, Dave would almost certainly have filmmaking as a hobby. He often works on spec and creative film projects in his free time. Recently, Dave began exploring game design after becoming intrigued by the overlap with filmmaking in regard to storytelling and technology. It’s not starting from scratch exactly, but now he’s got an entirely new group of skills to develop and tools to play with.

During his pandemic downtime, Dave has taken several cooking classes masterclasses from Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck. Having been the primary cook in every household for his entire adult life, he’s finally finding some pleasure in it as a hobby, rather than a chore. His favorite dish is penne arrabiata, which is somehow not surprising given his strong alignment with his Italian heritage. He’s even applying for Italian citizenship through jus sanguinis, or “citizenship by blood.” If his application is successful, we’ll find him living in Europe for a few years. Prego!

Photo by Lauren Turner

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