David Raynor – A Life and Career in Film in PA

By:  Lisa Budwig

Returning from Oz, Dorothy famously said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”

Luckily, David Raynor didn’t need to get caught in a tornado or slay an evil witch to learn that lesson. This Pennsylvania native has succeeded in a film career without ever leaving the state.

While growing up in Media PA, David became passionate about filmmaking. From a young age he watched movies, read books on the subject, and sought out all the behind-the-scenes info on the art and business of film he could find.

After graduating with a film degree from Temple, he stayed in the Philly area and took unpaid production work to further his knowledge and experience, until he landed his first official film position as a production assistant on the movie, “Edge City.” He continued to work, learn, and move up through the ranks to the position of Production Coordinator, working on a variety of feature films, commercials and music videos. His most recent credits include “Creed,” “The Visit,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and the forthcoming “Split” for M. Night Shyamalan.

When asked why he didn’t strike out for NYC or LA to pursue work, he says simply, “I didn’t want to…I enjoy the area and I have strong family ties here.” And while it can be a tough industry to get a foot in the door anywhere, David has succeeded in working steadily in locally filmed projects, gaining membership in I.A.T.S.E 161 and the Producers Guild of America.

He credits Shyamalan, with whom he’s worked on eight films, with helping to create industry jobs. “It’s great to have a name director committed to the area, creating opportunities and helping people to make film their career.”

As is the norm in the film industry, David has always worked as a freelancer, and he thinks that lifestyle may be the hardest thing for non-industry folks to understand. But it’s this aspect of the work that he likes most, the excitement of having a new project with every new job and working with a new set of people.

“I like not knowing what the day will bring. Every day is different, it’s unpredictable in a good way,” he says. “Of course, the hours can be tough on my family. But I have a very supportive wife and in between jobs I can spend a lot of time with her and my son. And being able to work here, locally, it’s great to be able to come home at the end of the night, instead of a hotel.”

Freelancers need to constantly market themselves to keep working, and building relationships is key to building a career. David has some good advice on that score, “Be humble, start at the bottom, get a solid appreciation and understanding of the business, and build from the ground up. Be nice, be respectful. Hard work rarely goes unrecognized. Be honest, work hard, be responsible.”

In his capacity as a production coordinator, David sees firsthand the enormous impact film production can make on a local economy. After all, he’s the one who helps organize and set up the project’s offices, equipment, rental cars, housing and all the specific services and products needed behind and in front of the camera. After the office is open, he works directly with the project’s producers, managers and supervisors to help oversee pre-production, filming and wrap.

The benefit of this experience is what David brings to his work in PaFIA and its mission to secure and grow the PA film tax credit. Involved since the organization’s inception, he serves on the Board of Directors and as Program Chair, putting together events in the Philly region.

“Pennsylvania’s got great locations,” he explains. “We’ve got the ability to grow the crew base. A larger, preferably uncapped, incentive would do that and more. Production money helps everyone from small mom and pop operations to larger companies. Every dollar we spend helps the economy grow.”

And so through PaFIA, David is doing his best to make sure that, like him, any Pennsylvanian whose heart’s desire is to work in the film industry has the opportunity to look no further than their own backyard.