We talked to 'Game of Thrones' star Maisie Williams about fighting nepotism in the entertainment industry with her new app
- Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on "Game of Thrones," just launched an app (called "Daisie") that aims to find creative talent across multiple industries.
- Daisie, which launched Wednesday, is meant to be a "safe place" for creative people to upload their projects and potentially meet other people to collaborate with.
- Business Insider sat down with Williams and the app's cofounder, Dom Santry, in New York City to discuss their hopes for the app and its goals to shake up creative industries by helping artists with little resources to get their foot in the door.
In the entertainment industry, it's nearly impossible to get your foot in the door if you don't know someone on the other side of it.
Maisie Williams' life changed for good when she was 12 years old. She had recently gotten an agent who was also new to the business. Her agent, a drama teacher who saw that a lot of her students struggled with getting representation, decided to become one herself, so she could make things happen for them.
"I was maybe one of 20 kids she had," Williams told Business Insider. "And my second audition was for 'Game of Thrones.'"Williams knew it was a major role on an HBO drama, and a big deal, but didn't realize how life-changing it would be considering she didn't even know if the pilot would get picked up to series. And she didn't know how huge the series would become, that it would run for eight seasons, or that she'd get an Emmy nomination when she was 19.
Now, with "Thrones" behind her, Williams wants to give talented artists (musicians, writers, filmmakers, and more) the opportunity she got.
Williams, who wrapped shooting season 8 of "Game of Thrones" two weeks before meeting with Business Insider in Manhattan's East Village in late July, calls herself "lucky" a lot - probably a dozen times in the hour we spent together. She was fresh off a red-eye from San Francisco, where she met with investors in Silicon Valley.
At just 21 years old, Williams is hyper-aware of the advantages that got her where she is today. With almost a decade of experience in the film and television industry, Williams has learned that her story is quite unique: most people have to know someone to get a role on any level, from acting to crew. And Williams said she hopes to fight nepotism with Daisie, an app she cofounded that launched Wednesday.
In 2016, Williams worked on a Netflix original film called "iBoy." On set, she met Dom Santry, a camera loader. Dom had been working in production for some time, and he got the opportunity because of his brother's godfather, a producer.
"I just happened to have this one guy I could rely on to help get me my first job," Santry said. "And then on my first job, I annoyed enough people that they took me to the next job, and then on the next job I did the same."But Santry thought his struggling creative friends were even more talented than he was, which is where the frustration started to build. Williams felt the same way. Both knew plenty of talented artists who were hustling with day jobs or waiting tables. And they knew some who had just completely given up on their creative endeavors because nothing worked out for them after years of trying.
Together, they founded Daisy Chain Productions, a film production company whose first film, "Stealing Silver" (which stars Williams), premieres at the Savannah Film Festival in October. After long nights of talking solutions to the biggest problem in the entertainment industry over beers in Williams' London flat, Santry came up with the idea for Daisie (a hybrid of their names).
Originally conceived as a website, Santry would use his business savvy and connections to develop a place where creative people could post their work, including their process. It would be a place with no visible follower count where users could safely meet, collaborate, and give each other meaningful feedback.
To make this place influential, Williams - with her years of experience, connections, and celebrity - would help spread the word, so talented users got where they needed to be, and met the people they needed to meet in order to advance their careers. Williams' connections (she is, after all, the reason why Ed Sheeran had a cameo in season 7 of "Game of Thrones"), started to prove useful months before launch. In March, she and Santry met with agents and clients at William Morris Endeavor (WME) in Los Angeles, one of the most prominent talent agencies.
In addition to recruiting talent, Santry gathered a team to build the app (there's six people working at Daisie now, and they're all under 25), while Williams helped as much as she could on the side, mostly through FaceTime at odd hours from the "Thrones" set. In May, two months before Daisie's launch, it put out a video with a little help from Williams' friends including Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark on "Thrones"), called the Daisie 100. In the video, Daisie invited people to submit their work so it could find 100 artists to embody what the app was all about before its launch.
"We wanted to find 100 people who didn't have any representation, who had no foothold in any industry, but were extremely talented," Williams said. "And we wanted to bring diversity onto the app to set the tone for the standard of the work."
Santry added that they made a decision to find diversity in gender, race, and the type of work: they didn't want everyone to be a singer/songwriter, or everyone to be an oil painter. "We threw an event in London and we met them all," he said. "We put them all in this room and they said how inspired they were to give another go. So many of them have had so many setbacks and so many people being like, 'You're not good enough. That's why you haven't made it.'"Finding female filmmakers - still an absurd rarity in the entertainment industry - was also important to Williams.
"I always think about the female directors that I've worked with," she said. "Because I've worked with three or four female directors in my career and some people never even get work with one. For women, for anyone who feels underrepresented within their creative communities, I hope that this is a place where they can really prosper."
Williams also views Daisie as a source for finding talent to work on future Daisy Chain Productions projects. "We have all these incredibly talented people, and we can potentially make their movies with a budget and with production value." In the coming months, Williams and Santry hope to find well-connected, influential artists such as Williams herself to represent Daisie across the industries they're less familiar with, like music, animation, and literature. And once they figure out how users interact with the app (and how often) over the next few months, they'll brainstorm monetization plans. Right now, there is no paywall.
"There was this question we would always get early on," Williams said. "Like, 'So what about if someone got a career from Daisie? Do you own them? Do you get to control them? Are you the agent that gets to own them, kind of like how Simon Cowell owns everyone?' And we're like, 'No. We're all about people starting their own careers. At the moment, we want to build something which helps that. And everything else will come later. It will fall into place," she said.
Williams and Santry said their dream scenario for a Daisie success story is that someone "higher up" in the industry sees work on the app, like a short film, and actually does try to turn it into something big. "People are getting sold from YouTube all the time," Williams said. "But what if there was one place where that creativity could live? It could be the home for creative and talented people to work with each other, inspire each other, and ultimately push forward with their career. That's Daisie."
A lot of people have asked Williams and Santry what separates Daisie from a visual app like Instagram, where many artists show their work already. But they don't view it as the same thing, especially as true believers in collaboration.
"We want this to facilitate the existing platforms," Santry said. "It's definitely not 'Daisie or Instagram?' It's Daisie and. This is the building block. You will always have a better final product than working solo. Then that can live on Instagram, or wherever, regardless."
While portfolio platforms for artists online like DeviantArt and Behance push their users to share their work and communicate, Diasie is less about showing and more about doing. Both DeviantArt (which skews toward fandom art) and Behance (which skews toward graphic design) have likes, and encourage users to show their finished product. But they also emphasize what's popular on the site, which can leave some talented artists in the dark. On Daisie, popularity isn't considered. Williams and Santry want users to show their process. In doing so, they hope users ultimately can find someone on the app who thinks the same way - or helps them think better - so they can make great work together. "We want you to find your people," the app's "about" page says.For now, Daisie - which Williams calls "the social media for misfits"- is Williams' primary focus and passion.
"In terms of acting, there are some wonderful roles coming up that I'm looking forward to, she said, including a play (her stage debut) in Lauren Gunderson's "I and You" in London this fall. "But I'm really looking forward to having a bit of a more normal life, and almost having a 9 to 5 working on Daisie … feeling a little bit like I have a routine, because it's something that I've really missed for a long time. It's actually quite healthy."