On episode 4 I connected with Danny Owens, a truly skilled photographer, storyteller and producer. Danny and I met through ways of social media around the time he was producing a Pride event at the Squarespace office. Danny's attitude when it comes to seeking out opportunities to grow your creative skills and talents is truly refreshing and I am so glad he could join me for this season of the podcast.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:00:00] My guest is Danny Owens, creative producer at Squarespace, and also a talented photographer who's worked with the likes of Gap, Pendleton, Moment and Urban.
Danny, thank you so much for joining me today.
Danny Owens: [00:00:10] What's up, dude?
Jon Sorrentino: [00:00:11] I'm super excited to have you on the podcast today because the way we came in contact was pretty random. It was over the summer and I had just rounded the corner of the Squarespace office and I saw the great big, colorful, shiny facade that you had kind of put together in place for pride month.
And that was a huge event that you were producing called stand proud.
Danny Owens: [00:00:30] Yeah, man. So that was this like physical activation I got to work on. I've always been kind of into seeing things come to a larger scale within like physical activations and experiential stuff. Like I always . Love going to like brand popups and there's so many in New York, so I kind of want to do one of my own and yeah, luckily I got to work on that and work with a fabricator and a really cool artists.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:00:51] That event was more than just the outside of the Squarespace office. What else did it entail?
Danny Owens: [00:00:55] So that was the physical activation. It was a kind of a microsite. Encapsulating, um, the stories and photos of five or six kind of customers that are a part of the LGBTQIA, uh, community. And there was an event where it's kinda like a gallery opening.
Yeah. It was a really, like I saw, I was like, I really like holistic celebration of that month and then what it means.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:01:19] You guys all got to also work with the renowned photographer, Ryan Pfluger.
Danny Owens: [00:01:23] Yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:01:24] Those portraits were beautiful. And the space here, you know, you invited me to come check it out was amazing. The turnout was insane there was a line out the door for people to get their portraits taken.
Danny Owens: [00:01:34] Yeah, that was cool. I worked with another producer, um, to do the photo side of it and kind of brought it together into that event, but it was really kind of a nice way to tie together where Ryan gave community portraits out essentially.
You know, he just kind of opened up his creativity to whoever wanted to walk in and have a photo taken. And
Jon Sorrentino: [00:01:52] I'm kind of jealous that I wait in line.
Danny Owens: [00:01:55] There was a long line.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:01:55] The shrimp was just too good at the bar. Before we kinda jump into a little bit about your beginnings, have you found an alternative to hot girl summer yet?
Danny Owens: [00:02:04] So my eye, I've coined this. It didn't really catch on, but I thought a cozy, cozy boy autumn. Hopefully going to be the thing. I mean, I'm going to embrace it, but
Jon Sorrentino: [00:02:15] There needs to be an alternative. Hot girl. Summer was big and now I'm feeling a little left out.
Danny Owens: [00:02:20] Yeah. I felt left out too. I got my beach body wasn't ready.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:02:23] Yeah, I was also way behind on that. So you're originally, you're not from New York, you're from the West coast.
Danny Owens: [00:02:28] Yeah, I'm from all over. I really struggled to figure out like what my home is. I was born in Palm Springs, California, which is really random. A lot of people go there. For Coachella or you know, a weekend out of LA or go to Joshua tree.
But like, I lived there for 20 years and then I ended up bouncing up to the Seattle area to go to university and live there for like four years. Then lived in Portland for a year, moved over to. Philly for like nine months, and then I made it to New York in New York
Jon Sorrentino: [00:03:02] As a kid. You were inspired by the writings of Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H. G. Wells.
Any kind of standout books or anything like that that come to mind?
Danny Owens: [00:03:13] Yeah, I mean, I was like a really like nerdy kid that was like really always into a book and I feel like I was really drawn to kind of like those late. 19th century, kind of like American English novels. Like I loved the Time Machine by H. G. Wells.
I've read adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn like a few times. You know, there's Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a ton of great, great books about kind of like that, like sea adventure life. I'm not like this adventure or going to the North pole, but I think that's like where my like drive for like storytelling came from cause it's just like envelops me as a kid.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:03:44] That's cool.
I also read that you ended up going to a school called the college of the desert.
Danny Owens: [00:03:49] Yeah
Jon Sorrentino: [00:03:49] And I did a little bit of looking into it, but still the name is very ominous and pretty badass to be quite honest.
Danny Owens: [00:03:56] It was Cod for short. Everyone thought I was talking about call of duty when I would talk about it, but yeah, college of the desert, it was essentially the only, uh, it was a community college in, in the Coachella Valley.
Um, and that's where I like went. And that's where I got, I kinda got my first two years of school and all my gen EDS out of the way. I was still like majoring in art there. They actually have a really amazing kind of like arts program. And you know, my two favorite professors, Judith Cook and Ida Foreman.
If you hear this, you're amazing. But yeah, that's where like, I kinda like got this whole, like I can do something that's creative and like artistic and there's a lot of opportunities out there. So I started with graphic design there and then. I ended up doing a lot of just like fine art classes, you know, you know, I took screen printing and ended up starting like a little screen printing business while I was there.
So it was, it was a weird little school and they were their mascots, like a steroided up, road runner. It got my start in what I wanted to do.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:04:48] Before we talk about the screen printing, we're going through preliminary school and high school. Where are you taking any art classes or anything like that as well?
Danny Owens: [00:04:54] Yeah, I mean, I think, yeah. Throughout my early schooling, my parents always accepted or promoted doing anything that was related to art. You know, I was always like in an art class, extracurricular too, like not just in school but like going to art classes or I played the violin for 10 years or I just was able to like try my hand at stuff.
So I think that is always like was supported or ingrained in me that I could do something in this realm.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:05:19] You mentioned that you took a screen printing class and I shared a similar experience where I was like, yes, I can make anything I want now. This is it. You started a clothing t-shirt company
Danny Owens: [00:05:29] Yea you did some deep dive.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:05:31] What was that called and what was it about?
Danny Owens: [00:05:33] Um, so I called it Ephemeral Youth. Um, and I was super into the term ephemeral at that point. Cause it, it basically means something that's short, but long lasting. So like something that's like a very capsulated time in your life. Or a moment, but runs through the course of your life has a memory.
I was doing all these designs for, I think I was taking like an intro to graphic design class and I ended up just all sticking at screen printing class and just made screens and printed them. There's like just like random, like arrowheads or like feathers, like it was around like that time of like 2012 2013 where festival stuff was the rage.
So I felt like it was inspired by like, you know, Mumford and sons and Of Monsters and Men and stuff like that.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:06:13] Very folk.
Danny Owens: [00:06:14] Yeah. Very folky. Like needless to say, like, I think I sold maybe 25 shirts. Did not make any profit off of that at all, but it was, it was fun.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:06:22] That's the first like business kind of encounter. You sort of realize like, Oh man, there's a lot more that needs to be done.
Danny Owens: [00:06:27] I didn't even have the over. I had like free screen printing supplies because of the school, but I still don't make any money.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:06:32] After the cod, college of the desert and ephemeral clothing, ephemeral youth. You eventually make your way to the university of Washington.
Danny Owens: [00:06:40] Yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:06:41] What was your experience there.
Danny Owens: [00:06:42] So to backtrack a little bit, I was interning with this nonprofit in the desert, and the and the founder of that moved up to Washington and wanted to keep me involved. So I ended up kind of like moving up there to stay involved with that, and I wanted to finish my degree.
U dub seemed like a great school. They didn't have like an arts program where I was going. So I ended up actually majoring in communications. Um with like, it was, my degree is insane. It's an arts, media and culture with an emphasis in comparative arts, which like doesn't mean anything.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:07:12] Comparative arts.
Danny Owens: [00:07:13] Yeah, I don't know, like essentially like I was taking comms classes mixed with film and like media classes. So...
Jon Sorrentino: [00:07:22] Was there any comparing at any point.
Danny Owens: [00:07:24] No, maybe on my own. I don't know. I don't know. And mentally, yeah, mentally. I mean, school for me was more of a, I just wanted to accomplish that goal.
Like it meant a lot to, you know, my parents, I think just like a personal goal, but I always knew that like it wasn't the end all like, Oh, this degree is going to get me my job. Like throughout school in Washington, I was freelancing full time as like a photographer doing social media work with different like brands or like local businesses.
So like I never really had like the university college experience. I wasn't like. You know, in a frat or like in the dorms, like I was going to school and then like doing my own thing. It was, it was kind of like a background.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:08:02] So it starts early with you because as I mentioned, you've worked with a ton of different brands over your career so far.
And what you said is that you. Very beginning of University of Washington as early as that, which is like, what, 2013, 2014?
Danny Owens: [00:08:15] 2014 around there.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:08:17] You're doing social media for all these different projects. I had noted that you were like, one of the first photography things that I saw pop up. Was this like local wolves magazine that you did?
Danny Owens: [00:08:26] Yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:08:26] But how does a camera make it into your hands?
Danny Owens: [00:08:29] Yeah, so that's actually, it goes back to the desert. Um, I, there's always like little moments in my life that I always feel were the Kickstarter to things. So when I was at a COD, I was in the running for this arts scholarship and it was through the school.
I was like a, a donor from the school had like kind of set up this scholarship fund. And every year I think like five students were awarded it and you kind of had to like do like a portfolio review with like a panel professors and all that. Um, and I ended up winning and it was like only a couple of thousand dollars, but I like.
Immediately I put that money to buying a camera. I think I just had to always like, you know, tumblr was big in the day and I wanted to like feel to take photos and I always like kinda like snuck the use of my brother's camera, but I wanted my own, so I got the camera and then that kind of just like what became like my focus and I've never been like a technical, like kind of photographer, I'm like obsessed with gear.
It's just like, here's a camera, do what you can with it. It was like a rebel T3i like nothing crazy, but I got like a 50 millimeter lens and I was like. Sick, I can like take photos and portraits. I take, I started taking photos of like my classmates and then ended up working with a nonprofit and which led to me like going to Liberia to take photos there.
Like it was just like a crazy journey. And then the camera always became a part of my life. Um, and when I moved to Washington, that was like, right when like Instagram was like at it's heyday, the PNW like photographers of like 2014, that guy was a big deal. At least in that little like pocket. And so I started like.
You know, going on hikes and taking like those, like those like foggy, like scenic, PNW photos. But I always knew that I liked the story in a photo and like people more so than just like a pretty landscape. So I just started finding ways to, you know, take, meet, meet people on, like, either test shoot with models or, um, you know, photograph, like local makers and do that.
Yeah. And that's kinda how it.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:10:18] I just saw a bunch of the early stuff and the photographs that you're mentioning and it's kind of crazy cause your photographs, you're then starting to layer them and collaborate with other people that are putting like graphics and wording and messaging on them. Growing through your timeline was almost like a very much a, a flashback to like what Instagram used to be in a sense, which was really cool.
When do you start to garner the attention of like brand collaborations and things like that?
Danny Owens: [00:10:42] So yeah, like the heyday of Instagram there was like. This crescendo to where people started becoming like these like micro influencers before like the word influencer was a term and it was more just like people who like really loved creating photos that lived well on a social media platform.
And I think that. I was never a part of the whole like flicker photo community that came before Instagram, but I like was, I jumped into the Instagram photo community like really like fast and like I got super passionate about it. So some early brands started like jumping on that and that's initially how I worked with Gap because I had started getting like some following.
I think I was all, I was like an early suggested user on Instagram, which really like gets you a ton of followers now that they're like real followers. Cause a lot of them are just like random people who sign up. They're like, Oh, follow this person. And then they never like engage with you. This looks cool ever.
Which is a whole other topic about why, why Instagram is dead. But yeah. And so Gap was going across the country to like five major cities like LA, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Nashville picking like five Instagram micro photography influencers or whatever in that area to shoot photos of like 10 people they knew in Gap clothes.
It was styled by the stylist. I was on a girl with a dragon tattoo, which is kind of crazy when I was 22 years old to be like, Oh you're shooting this thing for gap.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:12:01] Absolutely.
Danny Owens: [00:12:02] Um, well it's kind of wild.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:12:03] Just turned 21 last year. Great now I'm working with this cool brand.
Danny Owens: [00:12:08] I think I had got a little, Oh this is like a bigger deal than it was cause you know, now I'm working corporate world. I know that like stuff happens literally every month.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:12:13] Totally.
Danny Owens: [00:12:14] Um, but yeah, so I got to take all these photos. They had like a pop up event where like our photos were on this like shipping container. Yeah. That was like, I think my first opportunity to do stuff like that.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:12:23] It's kind of interesting as we talk through this, is there is this sort of mindset change. Now where an influencer back then was like being creative and just having your images and your work kind of live on beyond just like a circle of your, what you call community or friends, whatever it may be, bystanders, colleagues. And now it is very much a job.
It's very much like a path that you take intentionally to be an influencer. And I say that in air quotes and also now that you're in the corporate world, you see that there is constantly influencer campaigns going on. It's almost like a normal part of a brand's marketing project.
Danny Owens: [00:12:55] I mean, for better or for worse, I feel like influencer, I don't love the term because I feel like I think of Barack Obama as an influencer.
I'm like, you know, he's got real influence. He's made impacts in the world. Like, you know, yeah, you can hold up a tee like a or whatever. And get paid some money for it. And sure, you're like selling a product, but like, are you like really influencing anything? I got into that realm where I was doing like random brands, which is like, Hey, like take a photo of this and post it and like, we'll give you money.
Like, I was a college student. Of course I was going to do that, you know, it got me through college without having to like have like a day job. But at the end of the day, like it's kinda like a, it's just like a little bit depressing. Like you don't have anything to show for it afterwards. And I wanted to do stuff that meant more or like was like a larger scale.
And so I just kinda like stopped my Instagram to me as, yeah, I have like these, everyone sees like my answering. I'm like, Oh, you had followers. I was like, yeah, but it doesn't really matter. Like I was like five years ago when it was like crucial to like my living situation.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:13:47] Sure. Yeah. I think now. I constantly battle this idea of like, when is that time period or when does, when does the time approach when being an influencer starts to slowly just become less and less relevant?
People who garner these eyes and attention that go on from that. And then what happens when people aren't using influencers anymore. It's a weird idea to think of.
Danny Owens: [00:14:10] That happened with like Vine. You know like Vine. People had their entire livelihood on Vine and then Vine gone. What do you do? It's a very, a ephemeral, like that's like a perfect word for it. It's not. Something that you're going to build the rest of your life on. And I, you know, there's a lot of people like gen Z or like whatever you want to call it, a lot of like this, like influencer culture right now.
What happens if you lose your, like followers? You don't really have like anything to fall back on cause like your entire livelihood is based on this kind of like made up status. Um. Kind of saw that early on happening on Instagram. I just decided like, Hey, you gotta like make sure you're not banking on this because then where you're going to be.
And luckily I was able to like kind of pivot to doing some other things.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:14:48] You know, in between your time on the West coast, you had mentioned that you end up somehow on the East coast as well. But in between those. Your photography, your work kind of leads you to work with a very cool podcast called, Let's Give A Damn.
And I think one of the things that stood out for me is that you got the opportunity to photograph Rainn Wilson.
Danny Owens: [00:15:06] Yeah. That was dope.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:15:07] From the office, like the guy with the glasses, what's his name on the office?
Danny Owens: [00:15:10] Dwight
Jon Sorrentino: [00:15:10] I'm not a big office fan. I'm sorry,
Danny Owens: [00:15:12] I forgive you, I've seen it like 10 times.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:15:14] That's awesome. I would catch it with my roommate. He watched it like a million times and then, yeah. No, I, I'm kind of in there, but I'm not, what were you doing, you know, what was some of the work that you picked up in between?
Danny Owens: [00:15:24] So I dunno, a little nostalgic about like this time my life, cause you know, after I graduated and before I moved to the East coast, I was full time freelance for like two years and I just kind of took on like whatever kind of came my way.
And I took out like three road trips and I would just kind of like hit the road for like two weeks and maybe set up some meetings along the way. I do like. Some a little influence or content creation to like pay for my gas and I would end up being a visit like friends in different cities and one of those times I just happened to be in Southern California at the same time.
Nick, who's the founder of let's give it down, was going to go interview Rainn Wilson. I always tell him, Nicholas, Hey, if there's any opportunity to like photograph your guests, like I'm all about it. I love taking portraits and being a part of that. And I love the office. So like when he said, Hey, you're going to come take photos of Dwight, I was like.
That's pretty freaking cool. And I just drove up from, I was in Palm Springs visiting my friends and drove up to LA and the day I think met Nick. Picked him up and we drove out to a Rainn's ranch. He has like pigs, but it's like kind of, it's kind of a really cool dude. Yeah. And I had five minutes to take like photos of Rainn.
Not my best photos ever.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:16:30] I mean that's interesting to hear from me cause I thought they were great. I mean, Rainn looks like a very stunning man. Like out in the wilderness.
Danny Owens: [00:16:36] I think I captured him really differently than anybody else has ever captured Rainn Wilson. Like I feel like everyone really plays into the kind of like kooky, like corny vibe.
But if you meet him in person, yeah, he's like a funny guy, but he's also very like serious and he does really serious things and he's very intellectual. So I captured it in a way that was like, not trying to be like corny. I want to be like here is this, you know, a really smart man. But I had like five minutes with him and like somehow that photo is become like part of the meme that goes around the internet of like.
Like it's like glow ups when you get a beard, I think it's like Dwight's like counterpart in the office, Jim. It's like Jim got a beard now and like Jack Ryan. So it's like the glow up to that. Yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:17:11] The ultimate payoff for any creative is for it to be turned into a meme, right?
Danny Owens: [00:17:15] Yeah right.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:17:16] Your photography is providing you a lot of these opportunities, a lot of chances to work with brands and collaborate with people.
Were there any photographers or any artists or. Really anyone in your life that really kind of led you in terms of style to develop something unique about your photography or, you know, was there anyone inspired you along the way?
Danny Owens: [00:17:35] Yeah, I mean, I think it's hard to like pinpoint it like a specific person.
Um, I think my time in Northwest really like, solidified a little bit more of like my style and passion for creating. Yeah. I mean, I've always been inspired by like Annie Leibovitz, which is like a really easy, like go-to. Um, but just because of like her portraiture and like how she like tells stories.
I'm not the kind of person that like tries to emulate other people's work. I think I honestly get more inspiration from films and art then just like looking at other photographers work and be like, I want to be like that. I've always tried to have a little more of a cinematic documentarian look to the work that I love.
Obviously not all my work gets to work look like that, but the stuff I don't really get excited about. I try to make look like that. More of a bigger story that goes beyond the one photo.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:18:25] Well, I think to that point about film, you had mentioned in the elevator, but you have a resolution to watch a hundred films before the new year.
Danny Owens: [00:18:32] Yeah. It's hard.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:18:33] What prompted that challenge. And what have been some of the films included in that list?
Danny Owens: [00:18:37] So, I mean, I have always been into movies, but I was only watching like, I feel like I had like a small pocket of like, you know, obviously like grew up watching the original Mary Poppins or Shrek, or even like going back to like classrooms, like It's a Wonderful life or watching a lot of like John Wayne movies growing up. Stuff like that and then new movies but I had never had the like the time or it just like never happened to fill in the gaps of like a lot of these kind of like cultural moments. Like I'd never seen the shining until this year, but I've like been around so many people who have like talked about references.
I've seen like the photos of, you know, the axe coming through the door. Like I just didn't know. Yeah, the blood coming out the elevator. Like I had no idea what that was from. So I realized that because this girl was like, Hey, like. New year's resolutions can be like really stupid.
It's always like lose 20 pounds and get a six pack.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:19:26] Prep for hot girl summer.
Danny Owens: [00:19:27] Which would be dope. Like I'd be, that'd be great. I just think don't really want to like spend four hours in a gym every day. So I landed on watching a hundred films and like I compiled this list from a few different sources on the internet, like of like the greatest films of all time, or like the most like pop culture referenced films of all time.
And some of the ones I've seen already, like I've seen like Clockwork Orange, but like I wanted to watch it again to like actually like pay attention to it. So I built this list. It's actually like 108 films. I, I think I'm only going to do a hundred because I've, there's a few films on there. I'm like, I don't need to watch that again.
Like I've seen gone with the wind before. Sure. It's like three and a half hours. I keep thinking I'm going to do it again. I just never get to the point where I'm dedicating three and half hours to watching it. But like I watched Lawrence of Arabia this this year and that's like a three hour movie, but it's like one of those epics of not like a Star Wars Epic, but it's kind of like that Epic story that I feel like a lot of films from that time were like, you know, it's like Ben-Hur, like Ben-Hur is like a three and a half hour movie, but it feels like a novel.
Nowadays they don't make movies like that really. But yeah, there's, there's a lot of films on there, like some of my favorites will span the gamut. You know, like I love, you know, an American in Paris, which is this film that's like a musical, but also like just classic 1950s movie. And it's just so perfect because honestly inspired like Lala land, if you look at Lala land, you see American Paris.
So, and that's what I really got from this list is wanting to be able to like. Compare movies and understand like, where are these people are inspired by, like, you know, the recent Joker movie heavily inspired by the Taxi Driver. And so it's just really like, I wanted to be able to have that common cultural understanding and I, yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:21:08] Maybe we could share that list later on.
Danny Owens: [00:21:10] Yeah, I mean, it's, everyone in the office has, has had it at some point.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:21:15] That's cool. So you're currently working at Squarespace as a creative producer. What else does the role of a creative producer entail.
Danny Owens: [00:21:23] I think that I had always wanted to get to this point or get to this role.
I just didn't know what it was. You know, I'm super OCD about making plans for everything or lists or schedule. There's everything in a Google sheet or Google doc for me. Even when I was just doing freelance photography, I acted as my own producer as well. You know I would book the crew and work with the model to arrange the schedule.
Like I was always doing that and I didn't realize that's what a creative producer does. That person puts all the pieces together, like a puzzle for the creative to happen. So I've really lucked out here at Squarespace because we don't just work on, we're not just post producers or line producers or video producers.
We kind of do everything. I started here as a production coordinator, not even as as a producer, and I was able to kind of like start from the ground up. I had never really been on like sets before or like productions or anything like that, so I learnt everything from what the gear is that the photographer needs, or the videographer needs to like what the producers are doing, like whether they're doing behind the scenes, like making sure people are fed.
It's like a big deal on a shoot cause you don't want people to get hangry. And I've been on shoots where like the producer didn't get them food and they doesn't go so well.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:22:30] I get hangry super easily.
Danny Owens: [00:22:32] Yeah. So here I was able to, you know, move into the producer role and I've been able to work on radio ads, video shoots, print collateral, photo shoots, experiential activations. It runs the gamut, but it's been like a really awesome opportunity to be able to like, just get my hands in a lot of different things and figure out like, what I like to do and also not trial by fire cause they can, we have like support, but you get to like learn and like see like, Oh this is how that's done. That's a lot of times like all of these productions, like from the outside it looks like super easy. But then like, you know, you see like a minute long video on Instagram and you realize that that's probably like two or three weeks of planning and like a full day shoe and like 20 people involved.
You know what I mean? It's kind of cool to like see that as a producer and be like, bring those people together to make something.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:23:16] So you're at Squarespace now for a little bit over a year. Almost going on two years ago. Was there something that led you here in the first place or you know, like, did you have any idea that you wanted to be at Squarespace?
I think the company has grown so much in terms of a brand and has really made a stand for itself, but you know what kind of led you here in the first place?
Danny Owens: [00:23:34] So I was, I was in Philly, Philadelphia. I'm working at Urban, like the headquarters for urban Outfitters and Free People. It was interesting cause it was kind of like internal communications and creating content for the internal newsletter and website and for the campus and for the retail stores.
And so it was a lot of like telling the stories of the makers on campus or the collaborations that the brands were doing. I didn't necessarily love it. I felt like it was a little bit, not in the realm I wanted to go to, you know, I think I just wanted to be able to tell it more of like stories and not just be like internal facing because then I never really got to like branch out of like a certain stream.
I was open to opportunities. I think I changed my like LinkedIn to open to recruiters or whatever you do and. Someone from here, like reached out about this position. It was a creative production coordinator. Seemed like something that was interesting. I'd had my website on Squarespace for like six years, so I knew what the brand was.
I wasn't tightly affiliated with the company. It wasn't like, Oh, I want to like, this is the only place I ever want to work. But the more I learned about it, the more I saw it aligned with my like ethos and like where I wanted to go really well. But I had never thought I was gonna go to New York. That was not in my like, I think a lot of people really, really, really want to end up in New York and like idolize New York.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:24:52] Like romance the idea.
Danny Owens: [00:24:53] Yeah. And for me, I've been here before, like, it wasn't, I'd never been here, but it was always just like a big city, you know? Like, yeah, there's a lot of cool shit here, but I don't necessarily like, Oh, I need to live there. So when I ended up getting a job here, I was like, okay, like it's just like another city.
So I think I was like a really good way for me to like move up here though, without like all those expectations. It's really hard city. Like the first year I lived here, I was kind of depressed all the time because you realize how much work you have to put into it. Just like to survive. Getting groceries is no longer like a simple task going to trader Joe's. You're going to be in a line for 40 minutes and then have to carry bags of groceries right. Upstairs, downstairs in the subway, crammed other people back to your apartment. You know, it's a lot of work and I was comfortable, like in everywhere else I've lived. You know, Philly, I had a massive apartment for like half the price I pay here to live with like multiple roommates.
It's just like a weird dichotomy. Like, yeah, you get to come here and do like really cool stuff and like kind of realize your dreams and hustle and like are around so many opportunities. You almost take a step back in your. Everyday life in a sense.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:25:54] I agree. It is very much like the hustle and bustle of New York, and that's there for a reason.
Now, living here for some time, is there anything that you absolutely love about New York?
Danny Owens: [00:26:04] Yeah, I mean, I walked down the street like a couple of months ago and Bill Murray walked out of a film trailer.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:26:08] That's awesome.
Danny Owens: [00:26:08] Pretty cool. He walked right back in after looking at me. Yeah. There was no interaction, but
Jon Sorrentino: [00:26:13] You guys communicated with your eyes.
Danny Owens: [00:26:15] I think he remembers me. Yeah. I mean, I think that now that I've been here over a year, the first initial kind of like love, hate, hate, hate, like has dispersed a little bit. I've started like. Really see the city as this kind of like wilderness of things, exciting opportunities and just, you know, like little random moments like that Bill Murray thing.
That's like a really random moment, but like it makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger. I've been extra about trying to like do as much in New York as far as like things you can do like that aren't like touristy, but like, just like living here, you know, I, I, other day I got to go to like this director's talk with Roger Eggers, the director of the Witch and the Lighthouse and it was like free the Lincoln center.
But those are things you don't like get to do other places. Me and my girlfriend like love this like era of New York, like the 1940s 50s like Frank Sinatra kind of vibe, Rat Pack, all that. Just cause we love films like that too. And so like a little Italy is a place we like, that's like corny for a lot of people, but it reminds us of that kind of time.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:27:17] Kind of has that vibe.
Danny Owens: [00:27:18] Yeah, and that's like somebody that grows on you when you come here to visit, you're like going to the soci like the MoMA and the met and like the of Liberty. But those things are all like dope, but like those are almost like not like new Yorker things. I've kind of realized. Like I don't think I'll ever go to a Statue of Liberty like voluntarily again. Like the one time I went I got stuck on it cause there was a protest. A woman climbed the statue in protest. For that. I took the photos on the news like that's great. If you look at like the Fox news and like CNN, like articles. It's like photo by hello@DannyOwens.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:27:50] That's awesome. That's not so much of a new Yorker experience. That's great.
Danny Owens: [00:27:56] But yeah, I feel like the little things in New York are what excite me more so now.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:28:00] That's awesome. Very much living and breathing the East coast vibe right now, but growing up in Washington and trying to do a little bit of research from that side of the coast, I was able to find that Washington is also known for a lot of things.
It's called the evergreen state because there's a lot of trees,
Danny Owens: [00:28:16] A lot of rain, a lot of rain.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:28:18] You also have a lot of famous individuals from Washington like. Bob Barker, Kurt Cobain, Bill Gates, but it's also known specifically around Seattle for its coffee.
Danny Owens: [00:28:28] Yeah.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:28:29] And what makes it so well known for coffee?
Danny Owens: [00:28:33] Okay, so for one, I think it's because Starbucks started in Seattle. Not that I love Starbucks coffee, but Starbucks is a lifestyle in Seattle is a lot different. You know, the roastery was the first roastery, like the really cool, like Willy Wonka. Starbucks was in Seattle, and there's like a Starbucks on every corner.
But I think that wave of. Seeing coffee, like you always think of like your dad drinking like Folgers or something like that. That was like what people did. I remember my dad's first experience at Starbucks, he like was he got like a caramel macchiato and he thought it was like so cool that there was like caramel, like drizzled on top.
It was like a big deal.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:29:04] He was like, this is huge.
Danny Owens: [00:29:05] This is like, this is a special occasion. So I think that kind of permeated the start in the Northwest and then you have that this wave of craft coffee like. Just like you had craft beer, like you have craft coffee where you're either going to this coffee shop for a specific experience, a specific aesthetic that is really inspiring.
It looks really cool that you want to like be in that space or you're going for these like really amazing preparations of coffee. Like one of my favorite coffee shops is Cova, which is in Portland. Those places you get to like kind of pick what coffee bean you want to be drinking. You know, I love Ethiopian coffee because it's very like fruity and it's blueberry, like forest.
It's really great, but you have to prepare it in a way, and they can do like pour overs there where it's a really slow process of making your coffee and. Yeah. I think people are just like really like intentional about certain things. You know, like obviously like the Northwest is known for a lot of environmentally focused people and also people who are really into organic lifestyles.
And I think coffee just kind of naturally fit within that. They wanted to source coffee. That wasn't just your can in the grocery store.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:30:08] You're also over the summer working on a project for opening up a coffee store shop cafe. I don't know. I'm not a big coffee drinker as you can tell. Called Electric Coffee House.
Danny Owens: [00:30:18] Yeah. When I first moved to the Washington area, I moved to a little town called Puyallup, and I started working in a coffee shop there that was like the cool coffee shop in that area. It was called Anthem coffee, and I had been there before and I thought it was so like, I never in the desert would have anything like that, you know?
We had. Starbucks and the coffee bean, but they were not cool vibes or places to go. And Anthem had like a fireplace and like all like the young people like . Centered around that place. It became like the third place, you know, like not work or home, but that place you hang out at. And so when I fist move to Puyallup, I ended up getting a job there for, I think like eight months, something like that, being a barista.
So I got more into coffee too, through that learning, you know, how it's actually prepared and it wasn't the best coffee. But so through that, I, um met Tina, who is the founder of electric coffee. She was a barista at the same time that we became like pretty great friends, so she'd always had the dream to like open her own coffee shops.
So about like, I think last October, actually like around this time last year, she was telling me about like how she wants to open his coffee shop and I was. I'm always looking for that side project that I don't have to like be really beholden to a boss or a company about. To be completely open. I didn't get paid a dime from working on Electric.
It was purely because I wanted to, one kind of worked with my friend. I saw an opportunity to like make something like really cool for her and to just to have that side project. So I came on as like a hybrid creative director, creative producer on that I crafted, come on with the overall vision of what.
Electric coffee would look like both from a branding standpoint and of like an interior standpoint and an experience standpoint. And then the producer side of it, I hired a graphic designer, Alejandro Rodriguez, who was amazing. I hired my girlfriend, Eleyna Hart, who's a copywriter, and so that was like the creative team.
And so then I also would end up facilitating all of the vendors. So any vendor as far as like the neon vendor to the menu printer, that vendor, even like choosing the furniture, I would order that furniture. I was kind of like creating the vision and the creative like aesthetic and then executing on it as well.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:32:22] That's awesome. You had mentioned that like you didn't really get paid a dime for the project, and you know, I would, I like to categorize that as like a passion project, right?
Like this is something that you're really excited about, that allows you to kind of expand and learn a little bit more and also kind of push your creativity a little bit.
How do you find time to, while maintaining a job dealing with New York. Bullshit, but also be able to put your heart and soul into a project like electric house, Electric Coffee House.
Danny Owens: [00:32:52] It was lucky that it was on the West coast because that means like everything was like three hours later for me. So technically, if I'm like working on this at six o'clock here, it's still three there.
So I would work on it like early in the morning or like at night or on the weekends. I also have like a bad habit of investing myself and things that aren't necessarily like paying me financially. For me it was like, Hey, yeah, you're spending time that you're not getting paid for, but this is going to reward you in the long run.
Cause like who gets to like make a coffee shop with somebody?
Jon Sorrentino: [00:33:18] Yea that's awesome.
Danny Owens: [00:33:19] That doesn't just like fall in your lap. So maybe down the line I'll get to work at another coffee shop because I have this in my portfolio or you know, I've met like different vendors through this. I met. I worked with this one print shop here in New York called Textbook.
They do riso graph printing and they're really great. They're like super awesome to work with, and now they're like in my like kind of rolodex of like if I need to ever do something like that again, I can do that. I also know like a great neon vendor in Seattle randomly.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:33:42] Neons are big. Yeah. That's always fun to have.
Danny Owens: [00:33:45] For the gram, right? Like, I mean, yeah. I always had just like had that little like side thing that like sometimes I put money towards, it doesn't come back towards me or I put time towards it that like will come back in like unique ways.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:33:58] I mean, I think it's awesome. I think the project turned out great and I'm hoping at some point in my life that I can get over to Washington.
and not only explore the green trees and the amount of rain, but also the coffee house. How many more films you have left on that list?
Danny Owens: [00:34:12] I have 19 more films we're filling two months. I got this.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:34:17] Um, well Danny, thank you so much for chatting with me today. Where can people, find more of you and find more of your work.
Danny Owens: [00:34:23] Yeah, I mean, you can just look at my website, dannyowens.co. It's just kind of like amalgamation of stuff I've done or just like on Instagram @danny.owens.
Jon Sorrentino: [00:34:33] Awesome. Thank you so much, Danny.
Danny Owens: [00:34:34] Thanks dude.
This podcast is produced by me, Jon Santino out in Jersey city, New Jersey. Editing, mixing, and music are all done by my friend Kevin Bendis and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Definitely check them out. You can find out more about wealth ed and where to listen at wealth ed, podcast.com or on social media at wealth ed podcast.
Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you soon.