INTERVIEW WITH Charlie David (he/him) - Producer (and founder) of Border2Border Entertainment, which creates content for diverse, underserved audiences made by people with lived experience – women, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. Charlie is the head producer behind Avocado Toast the series and Charlie talks with Perrie Voss about why he started his production company, how he chooses which projects to work on what his experience working on Avocado Toast and how he continues to grow and learn within his diverse career.
Perrie Voss: Hi Charlie David!
Charlie David: Hi, how's it going today?
PV: Good! How are you?
CD: Great! Good.
PV: It is so nice to have you on here! Charlie is one of our incredible producers, the head producer of Avocado Toast the series
CD: We did it together.
PV: We did do it together, but much under your guidance and leadership. Thank goodness! Because you have Border2Border Entertainment, which is such an incredible space for creating content.
CD: Ya! I didn't know that this is where [Border2Border Entertainment] would arrive at when I started the company about 10 years ago. And when I did I wanted to make movies that were queer, but that I could also share with like my grandmother and different family members and be like, “Hey, you can watch this” and it's a doorway into a conversation.
CD: So, because I think at the time I had just done the show, Dante’s Cove, and we were on our third season or something, and that was a fairly racy, crazy soap opera. We were filming in like Hawaii and Turks and Caicos, and it was mostly half naked people with a lot of baby oil on. And I was like, “I think grandma might like this, but like, you know, maybe she’ll like a family drama better”.
PV: [laughing] I mean, I think grandma's would love an oiled up man to watch.
CD: [laughing] Every once in a while we'll get an email or something messaged on social from people who are watching it. Because I think it just got launched again on Hulu or something in the United States. And so it's like one of these - like The Golden Girls on Amazon. Pulling out these oldie goldies and then people are rediscovering them.
PV: [laughing] Where can people watch those Charlie?
CD: Nowhere [laughs] I’m totally kidding. Listen, if you're going to watch it the best way to do it is to smoke a lot of weed or definitely have a lot of martinis and make it a game. Like every time somebody throws a fireball, take a drink, you know, cause that was something I had to do [laughs]. Magic and witches and warlocks on that island.
PV: Wow. I love it. Oh my god. Was that the impetus behind you wanting to create more family friendly content?
CD: With a slant, right? Because not everything I do is family friendly. There's also like the Popporn series and other very sex positive docs and stuff that I have fun doing. But yeah, I think it was just like for yourself with Avocado Toast. I felt like I had stories that I wanted to create and share and put out there and be more in the driver's seat, which is what we get to do when it's something that you write or that you produce yourself because I was the same as you prior to that as an actor you're really this hired gun you're handed. You’re told what to say - and of course we [actors] have some creative input as well but it can depend if you’re on a show for a long time you have more creative input. But a lot of the times that we do it might be that you're stepping on set for one day in a movie or a couple of days on this TV show and your job is really just to like honour the story, do your job and get out. So it's good to create content. That means something to you that you can turn into a larger conversation and have more of a standalone, which is what you've done.
PV: And I think [Border2Border] is incredible for that. And I'm excited to see how much more is getting added all the time and what you're working on. And has that been keeping you busy then during COVID times or have you had to take breaks and read books and music and all that stuff? Or what are you?
CD: Oh my gosh, I can't wait for that period. Super excited to take a break. I was saying to my partner this morning, I was like, when we find like, can get on a plane to Argentina, I'm telling you right now, I'm not coming back. There's going to be a one-way flight wherever we choose in the world. And I think the busy-ness has like also been very helpful because it's kept me focused and engaged in different things. And we had a few shows that we're just finishing filming as the COVID craziness started. And so I really had my head down working with editors and, you know, post sound people and VFX and the networks and stuff, finishing those shows as well as putting some new ones into development. So also working with writers. So that's been really fun too. We've had a few teams of writers working and that kind of creative impulse and moving the engine forward, even though we can't film stuff right now. Yeah. It has kept me sane.
PV: Yeah. Yeah. I get that. I had a similar experience. Like most people when the world shut down so did all of their work. But we were so involved in post [production]. Like we didn't get that same lull when the pandemic, sort of, exploded. So we've been in kind of a parallel universe of like staying crazy busy and, and everyone else is like, “I'm so bored”.
CD: No, well, even when we could have with the Avocado Toast team, we chose to pull together the team of writers and move forward and write that second season.
CD: We’re often, you know - you don't necessarily choose to do things like that if you don't have [all] the money in place, but we thought, “you know, what the heck let's spend some now and keep going and just cross our fingers and believe that that it will happen”. And I really think that it will it’s performing really well at the film festivals and stuff and more and more digital platforms are picking it up, which is great. And it feels like it's still in this like discovery phase. You know when we put it out in May and then I really started to see the numbers climbing in like, August/September. But the world was also very noisy in the spring and summer.
CD: Yeah. With a lot of other conversations that really needed to be looked at and listened to an amplified. And I think that's the thing too, when we're putting things out there, sometimes you, you can make a plan, but you also have to be ready to roll and dodge and tumble in brand new ways that you don't expect.
PV: Yeah and this year particularly is unprecedented with that.
CD: And I was having to kind of roll with the punches as things came up and moved things around, but you know, we're doing it, we're doing it.
PV: Was there a favourite part for you of the whole Avocado Toast the series process? Because you've been with us basically from before we even got funding up until now going into season 2. So, I know that I've learned a ton and I know how I want to sort of grow and move forward, but like, do you have a favourite part of that process?
CD: For sure, for sure. Like many, many different parts. I love the part of producing that is really - if I use the analogy of a show being a plant it's like from when you have that first seed. And you have to decide where to plant it and how to fertilize it and water it and all that stuff. And so at the beginning with you, Heidi and myself, that process of even figuring out, “okay, we want to make this show, how big are we going to make it, how are we going to pay for it?” That's always the biggest conundrum.
CD: And as those wins came in. You know - because those funding applications and stuff, they're robust. It takes a team of three people. It's like a full-time job, a month for each one. And when we were successful that was super exciting. And then growing the team, meeting so many new people, a few that I'd worked with before, and then so many others that I never had. And, and feeling like we had like a rockstar team, like so solid from A to Z and with so many people that we've chosen to, to work with again either for a second season, in addition to spilling off into like whole new creative directions on new shows. So that's really cool. Cause it feels like at the end of the day, it's kind of like being at a summer camp or something, making a show for me. That's like, when it feels like you're in that zone, that's the best right. Where it's like, everybody is having fun because you're eating together, you're working ridiculous like 14, 16 hour days. And you know how everybody smells in a good way, freshly showered. And at the end of it is a very long day. [Laughs] And so it's like family, right?
CD: Yeah. It's so good. I'm also, you know, I'm excited about like what the writers are looking at thematic really for the second season too. Like I think we touched on some really important and very personal stuff, especially for you and Heidi in the first season. But then looking forward to season 2 in some ways we're going deeper, sometimes darker, but still having some real levity with comedy. I’ve had such a fun time reading the scripts and not knowing where you're all going to go. Mentioning too that we have a couple new writers this year for season 2 too, which is really exciting.
PV: Yeah. It's cool to hear more voices amplified, like with Alexander Nunez and Annie [Briggs] having any in more of a leadership role with the story editing and stuff. I think it brings so much more to the surface than would have ever happened otherwise, which I love.
CD: Absolutely. Yeah.
PV: Do you have a favourite character from Avocado Toast?
PV: [laughing] We don't need to say me [laughing] I’m totally kidding. But from season one, do you have something like more specifically someone who surprised you in how you related to that character or that storyline that maybe was like, “Oh, I didn't think that I would relate to someone like that, but”
CD: You know, I guess, because I'm kind of a Manther and Patricia is kind of a Cougar, um…
CD: I relate with her [laughing]
PV: Manther. So here coined! [laughing]
CD: You know, I get excited by seeing casting choices like that too. Right. Like where we’re bringing on really talented actors who are seasoned and you know, like Mag Ruffman like, Brenda Robins, like Jefferson Mappin etc that, yeah, it's fun to see them get to play and let their hair down in like a brand new way maybe in ways that they haven't done before and their career. So that's been really cool. And then definitely Alexander Nunez, just because when he was originally brought on it was like for an actor role and day by day, everybody just kept falling in love with him. And I remember, I think you, Heidi and our director, Sam [Coyle], all came up to me at different points and were like, “can we hire him for more days? I think we should”. “Yeah, let's do that”. You know? And now he's grown into one of the screenwriters, so that's super cool. You know, and seeing somebody who has the confidence and the comedy to just like take a few lines and like spin it into this whole world.
PV: Right. He blew it out of the water. So what do you think? And this is a very broad question and I've been getting really interesting different answers, so there's no right answer here, but what do you think makes a good TV show for you? What is it?
CD: Yeah, it's interesting. When I'm pitching networks or speaking with other producers or screenwriters and yeah, story comes first. That's always been this kind of mantra. That's like repeated over and over in the industry and we say to each other and stuff and, and definitely that’s so important because if you don't have it, we won't become engaged as an audience. But I think what trump's story, and especially the mechanics of story in terms of “Oh, by this time this has to happen. And then this has to happen and etc”, Like we need to fall in love with who are we going on this journey on. Who am I getting in the car with to take this trip because if I can empathize with you and my heart is moved by you from one human to the next, it doesn't matter what we're going to do. I'm going to be involved in your stakes and want to see you, go to the end of the earth to succeed or die trying.
PV: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah. I think that that's, that is for me too. It's like, I want to get, I want to get sucked into this person's world and see how that plays out. So I think that's super important.
CD: That's a tricky thing to do, especially in scripted, right. Because we want to know. It's like, “tell me this synopsis, give me the log line, etc”. And it can be hard to like define a character in two sentences. How, how do you do that? How could, you know, just like, I couldn't give a logline to your life or in the other person's life in two sentences, you know, that it would be worthy of the experience of being here and all that you go through.
PV: What an interesting way of thinking about that. Because you want a full character and you want to have all these different divergent storylines of that one person, but yeah! How do you logline a real person?
CD: I think that's one of the major challenges that we face, that's going to like the business mechanics of it, right? It’s like, we've got to sell this story, because it's still a business at the end of the day and that's the tough stuff. Sometimes when we make like a proof of concept video, or a trailer, or just even one person get them on tape and, and see a minute or a couple of minutes. And because when that it factor exists and I think the it exists in all of us. It's just a matter of like when we let it shine. And when we are really being our most authentic self to be seen, to allow ourselves to be seen as opposed to like layering and putting on a bunch of things that hide our light, hide our specialness. So when we can do that, when we can be like brave enough to just be truly our, our core essence, then we're going to shine bright and people will, you know, want to go on our story journey, whatever that is.
PV: Right. Oh, that's so cool. And is that something that you feel when people are pitching you projects? What you're looking for in the pitch package? Like you want to see that one character, a story arc that you're like, “I'm going to go, I'm going to get in the car with them”?
CD: Often part of it. Yeah. And, and yet there's a lot of gut instinct involved for sure. It’s not that I don't put it through kind of a business mechanical strainer first. To be like, what else exists? Like this who are our competitors out there. What are they doing? Has this been done before? Has it been done recently? How did that perform etc you know, perhaps more boring and less like heart involved to look at the story and at the business of what that project is beyond that. If it makes it through the strainer, then that's when it's time for me to really look at those people who were involved and see, do they have the fire in their eyes? That's going to take them to the finish line because this business isn't something where projects are done over overnight. We are married to them for years when we're the producers of the creators and stuff.
CD: So you have to have that excitement about it. That's going to carry you from that inception of the idea through all the trials and tribulations, because there's going to be a lot of them, bear traps and snags and trip wires and dynamite and all types of things. Because, you know, if I'm going to partner with somebody, you want to make sure that they're trustworthy, that they make you laugh and you can cry with them. That you can trust them, most importantly before you press go. But there are a lot of times that I press that go button before that whole picture is clear because, because we need. Just like in a friendship or a new relationship or whatever else.
PV: Right. Like you need to just trust there's something there.
CD: And I feel a magnetism, so I'm going to trust it and let's go, you know, and especially in my documentary work, because there is no roadmap.
CD: So in that when we're casting in documentary or looking at interesting subjects or people, there is no roadmap, you don't know where it's going to go. You don't know what the story is going to be. You don't know what their challenges and conflicts and stuff, you know, might percolate and bubble up in order for you to film and also trusting that they are going to open their home and their heart and their lives and relationships in ways that that will be able to craft a story from it.
PV: Right. Yeah. And I guess it's just trusting what that baseline story is and then who that person is with trusting who you're going to work with and that journey. Do you think that there's anything when you're looking at story that you feel a responsibility to the audience or the world culture where you feel that you need to then amplify a voice in that way, in that filmmaking world, how do you feel?
CD: Yeah, absolutely. I mean people will ask me a lot, “how come you're not acting anymore? How come you're not on screen?” And because I used to, you know, that's what I did and was my passion for a time. And at some point I, you know, also fell in love with the, the writing and the producing and directing and stuff. But, but what I found is what gives me the most joy now is handing that mic to other people and like swinging the spotlight and their direction. And because it's surprising and fun and invigorating and new ways to see what those people do. You know? And, and yeah, like in terms of, as a company we've always tried to amplify create and lift up LGBTQ voices and stories because when I was growing up, those didn't exist and they weren't something that were, they weren't in the history books or they had been removed from the history books.
PV: And when you remove people's history and you remove their identity or you devalue relationships and love for them, you're taking away a lot of the human experience for somebody. So to put back on the screen and stories that could reflect the authentic experience of people in ways where we weren't vilified or shown to have a mental illness or that we were going to commit a heinous crime or be involved in some type of very unfortunate event. It is important. And it doesn't mean that we can't now create stories where things like that happen, but it's not great if all of our stories put us in a very similar box that wasn't painted by us.
PV: Yeah. Or a one dimensional character who is only there because they are queer and their life has not existed outside of that. I agree. I know. I'm wearing my Representation Matters shirt today because of the state of the world.
PV: This is from our first ClexaCon adventure. But I think that’s so true. Like t has to be on screen and I think it's, it's so important as filmmakers to help amplify that as film filmmakers. For sure.
CD: And that's really the foundation of what we do. But beyond that I'm discovering new, super important voices to amplify. And one is women. Women in key positions. As director, as producer, as screenwriter, as art director, as editors. And I'm super proud of Avocado Toast the series it’s one show where we were like, check, check, check, check, check, all those and going beyond gender parody, because otherwise there's this vicious cycle, right. That exists for any marginalized group. If you're not sharing those opportunities around. And those key positions that really influence a business or a story. And then the world of the stories that we're sharing aren't as fulsome and wholesome as they can be.
PV: I agree. And you were such a huge champion of that for us. It was great. Thank you for that.
CD: Well, more and more and more!
PV: Exactly. Do you have any like great lessons from your vast experiences in front of, and behind the camera in terms of failures that have been turned into successes or things that you've learned along? I don't like the word failure, but I keep phrasing it like that. But just things where you thought, “Oh, this is terrible”. And then it's actually helped elevate where you are now.
CD: Yeah. I fail every day. On every project [chuckles], like multiple, multiple times. Like I screw up royally and, and I think our growth can come when we have the humour, the humility to acknowledge it, to face it and to say, “okay, I didn't know that, how can we address it? How can I do better?” You know? And then try it, try to actually do better because that's through, going through those hoops, testing our metal in brand new ways is how we're going to grow and get and get stronger. And it's not always easy. You know, it's really - it's tough, like on our, TV show, Drag Heals, which is in its second season and coming out now there's massive growth there for me. And that's a weird thing to admit. Because I think I'm a champion of LGBTQ stories. And yet there was lots of stories in that alphabet, the queer alphabet that I hadn't engaged with as much as I could. And even if I was tangentially involved, that's experience and an area of growth for myself, for sure. But that's something that I recognized, especially this season in season two, when we have a youngest cast member who's 19 and the eldest in their 70s and every gender and sexuality and creative play within the drag space that many people aren't totally familiar with. And I was one of those but sitting in the, in the producer/director chair so I'm learning as we go, and in retrospect. That's one where I wish I could have done more and go back and do it again. And yet I'm also very proud of the show. I think it's a heart squeezer. There's a lot of learning, but there's just so much real human emotion shared. So freely and courageously that it made our job very easy. It was just like “turn on the cameras, the mics are working? Go, okay”, these people are sharing their lives and in such an unfiltered way that made it really relatable and gripping.
PV: Right. Oh, that’s so true. I was also able to be a part of the audience for the final performance. I feel like it's very humbling to realize you're like, “Oh, I'm a part of the queer space, but I actually didn't know that story. Or I didn't know what it's like to exist like that”. And so I think it's really interesting for you to say, “okay, so next time… or going forward…”. It’s a humility factor.
CD: Yeah, totally. You know it's impossible for any of us to speak for each other in a way that- Well we just can’t. So I think that’s where we come back to the importance of sharing and the importance of really highlighting different voices and giving them time and space to share their story. That’s where we're going to grow and recognizing where it's like, “okay, not my turn”.
PV: Right. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Charlie. And I'd like to thank Ontario Creates too, because they've been such a huge partner and sponsor and they’ve been really, really wonderful to work with them.
CD: Totally. We’re so fortunate to be able to create here. With so much support and so many awesome people to play with.
PV: Yes. I agree. I agree. Yeah. And more platforms and more people to reach every day. So that's great! Well, thank you so much for your time. I know how busy you are, so I don't want to keep you longer, but this was wonderful.
CD: Always happy to chat with you.
PV: Yeah! It's been great. And too long! Aside from yesterday when we got to see each other!
CD: [laughs] Right!
PV: Alright! Bye!
You can follow Charlie David on social media on
Twitter - @charliedavid
Facebook - @border2borderentertainment
YouTube - Border2Border Entertainment