If there were a category for "Best Poster" at this year's 77th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, the award would inevitably go to Youngstown native Brett Davidson, who designed this year's ubiquitous Oscar advertisement.
Granted his against-all-odds story seems right out of Hollywood, which it is, but in many ways this 33-year-old's rise from full-time technical support person and part-time graphic artist to world renowned designer is a story of perseverance with a little luck.
"This is definitely a feather in my cap, and I'm humbled at the opportunity," Davidson said, calling from a soggy Los Angeles. "It really has been very, very overwhelming and the response has been very positive."
While he won't be singled out during tonight's ceremony, taking place from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, in many ways Davidson feels as though the Academy likes him ... it really likes him.
"We here in the Midwest have absolutely no understanding or idea of the significance of it," said Brett's uncle, Dr. Phil Davidson. "Out there, it's dog-eat-dog and it's a huge deal."
All over the map
Born in Youngstown and raised in Toronto, Ontario, before moving to Florida when he was 9 years old, Davidson has seemingly been working his way to the Oscars for decades.
As a former Canadian child television actor and a film student at the University of Miami (Fla.), where he designed a logo for his college's film festival, Davidson religiously videotaped the Academy Award shows. He would also spend hours designing creative covers to grace his VHS Oscar tapes.
Eventually, he relocated to California, finishing up his schooling at USC and finding work at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
And if this story needed even more of a hook, Davidson, who long ago gave up dreams of acting, was happily employed as information technology support for AMPAS. In fact, being so close to the Oscars spurred this graphic designer to create Academy Awards poster submissions the past three years.
Tough crowd
On merit alone, the computer technician, who moonlighted as a designer for various Academy needs, stood little chance against some of the biggest names in the advertising and graphic design world. After three strikes, Davidson decided he was out of the competition.
"I'm kind of sensitive and I take it personally when people don't like my stuff," Davidson said. "And I just thought, what's the point? They are looking for an artist and somebody they can push and a name, so I wasn't going to do it. Then I was encouraged [to submit] and the rest, as they say, is history."
What propelled Davidson to present three poster ideas this year was the fact the Academy switched to a blind submission policy, to level the playing field for the hopeful artist.
Considering that he was an AMPAS employee, perhaps the judges weren't quite sure how to approach Davidson's work in the past. But when the names came off the posters, his creative work was undeniable, leaving even the judges at a loss for words.
"I think my executive director was pretty surprised," Davidson said. "It was only after they had chosen the design did they find out it was homegrown. I think at first they didn't really know what to make of that and me and everything."
"I'm not surprised because he's a very dedicated and passionate kid," said his uncle, who has his own podiatry practice at the Ohio Foot Institute in Youngstown.
"He's always been, that's his nature."
While the Los Angeles resident said he didn't submit his work with the honorarium in mind, the Academy does give out a monetary award for the work.
Yet in many ways, Davidson is just continuing a childhood hobby of designing artwork for his favorite entertainment institution.
As for his future, a huge window of opportunity is open but the designer is taking his time before he making any decisions.
"The interesting thing is I felt like I would love to do more design for the Academy," said Davidson, who does on occasion return to Youngstown to visit relatives. "I certainly wouldn't close the door on any opportunity that came my way but also I didn't have a goal to do this and hopefully [move on]."