Jeremiah Davis has just returned to his Venice Beach, California, apartment from a 24-hour impromptu trip to Oahu, Hawaii, where he dangled out of a helicopter at sunset, scuba dove with the fish and surfed with his girlfriend.
Sort of impromptu, anyway. This trip was about two years in the making. During the first semester of his senior year at Azusa Pacific University, some time in the fall of 2015, Davis was stuck in Orange County traffic on his way home from surfing at the beach. After seeing three different men advertising $99 flights to Hawaii on the side of the road, he decided to call the number. Just to pass the time. Reaching out to people on a whim has seemed to work out consistently for Jeremiah Davis, by the way, but more on that later. Plus, at this time, he couldn’t afford a trip to Hawaii on his own. What would be the harm in jumping through weird timeshare hoops if it meant 24 hours in Hawaii?
One college degree, a short stint at a 9-to-5 advertising agency, one tour with The Chainsmokers and individual projects building his ThatOneBlondKid brand later, now, Davis can easily afford adventures like this one. But back when he scheduled the trip, there’s no way he could have known where he would be now.
When we graduate college, we all generally get the same advice. Travel! Go and see the world! Chase your dreams! Davis, at just 23 years old, is doing all of these things with a bold approach, personal touch and higher purpose. Oh, and results. That part is important. Davis is among the world’s most viewed drone videographers thanks to credits like The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer‘ lyric video.
And now, you’re all wondering the same thing—how? And one step further, How can I do that?
“People love me and my brand for the content,” he explains. “They see hope. Millennials see, like, holy crap. Somebody made it. Did it. You know? And it’s totally true. I didn’t come from a family with money. I didn’t go to school for film. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t this crazy poor kid where I didn’t have any opportunities, but I definitely have maximized any ounce of opportunity I’ve had, and I’ve made it into this bubble.”
His new bubble undoubtedly includes The Chainsmokers, whom Davis considers his friends as much as his bosses. After accompanying the duo on their headlining Memories…Do Not Open Tour, he remains the freshest face in their photographer-videographer rotation with Sam Kolder, Chris Yoder, Olav Stubberud and, yes, Rory Kramer, whose Instagram direct messages Davis slid into out of the blue toward the end of his time at Azusa, which catapulted Davis into The Chainsmokers’ stratosphere, but The Chainsmokers chapter is not where his story ends.
Davis is creating outside of other people’s mentions, too. Full-blown ThatOneBlondKid productions.
In the fall, Snapchat will be rolling out ThatOneBlondKid’s new six-episode series called “Without Limits” in its Discover Feed. As the title insinuates, each episode will find Davis somewhere in the world pushing the limits on what it normally means to adventure and travel. For example, in one episode, Davis is with Kolder in Fiji swimming with 40 bull sharks without cages. Maybe people viewing “Without Limits” on Snapchat worldwide won’t have the means to fly to Fiji, Norway, or anywhere else, but that doesn’t mean those people can’t push beyond their comfort zones when exploring the world available to them.
“As cheesy as it is, it’s the concept of you really, with today’s social media, you really can essentially do whatever the hell you want to do,” he says. “The title is ‘Without Limits,’ right? It’s living without limits. And that’s really true. If you want to travel the world, like, literally, I could have paid for my Hawaii flight now, but two years ago I couldn’t, which is why I called this number and did the B.S. process. And so, it just shows people that you can reinvent everything. You can reinvent yourself. You can reinvent adventures, and we put a little twist on all of the adventures.
“Hopefully people see it and are inspired to do things differently than what they’ve seen on social media and just get out there, see places.”
Davis is highly aware of the power in his rapidly growing platform. His ThatOneBlondKid videos take advantage of social media’s potential to, when used properly, have living vicariously be the gateway drug to living for yourself.
He sees proof of this impact in his inbox every day when countless people from all over the world message him in the same way he first reached out to prolific photographer-videographer and previously mentioned Rory Kramer.
One of those people in Davis’s Instagram DMs was Zack Patrick. Patrick, 21, is entering his senior year at West Virginia University. He was so inspired by ThatOneBlondKid that he reached out to a few artists and will be shooting for them at Moonrise Festival, which “surreally” the first festival he ever attended as a fan.
“The biggest thing was that he gave confidence to the types of individuals who are in difficult situations struggling to find opportunities even if the level of their content was good enough,” says Patrick of Davis. “So by setting the example that someone that we look up to decided to stop waiting for the ‘right time’ to prove themselves.”
Tristan Cusick, 20, is a student at Western Kentucky University, and he felt compelled to thank Davis through Instagram, too. “Honestly I think it was his persistence and confidence,” Cusick says. “The confidence to reach out to Rory Kramer along with the persistence to ask again even though there wasn’t a response the first time. It inspires me to take chances and to just stop caring about what others think. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, it’s not the end of the world. Just keep pressing on and at some point I’ll get a break.”
Sebastian Hugoboom couldn’t help but direct message Davis on Instagram the following, on June 15: “Hey man, I’m laughing right now ’cause it’s so funny. I emailed 2 months ago a guy named Tim Sykes, he’s a financial celebrity, telling him I can make dope YouTube videos for him. I got an email from him 3 days ago asking me if I wanted to go to Italy and Greece to shoot a TV series for him! I leave in 2 weeks. Anyway, I was inspired by you to take initiative. I guess I’m sharing this with you ’cause you’ve encouraged me to pursue film-making, and now it’s my job! Don’t stop!!”
Hugoboom is currently in Greece. Before landing this gig with Sykes, Hugoboom had some paid experience in photography and videography, “like J said, it’s all about putting yourself out there” and he wants to make it his full-time career. He had no previous contact with Sykes before emailing him, and Sykes didn’t respond for four months, but “it was the initiative that made Tim want me to do the job. I think that’s the biggest inspiration I got from J. I’m going to be traveling with Tim a lot now, but I’m trying to reach out to musicians, seeing if they want what I gave Tim.”
And then there’s Caleb MacDonald, who emailed Davis on May 30. At the time, MacDonald was working full-time at a law firm as a marketing assistant.
“Initially, I felt depressed in my corporate role, feeling like there was no escape of the constant paperwork and insignificant bull,” MacDonald’s email, in part, to Davis reads. “After watching your videos, I knew an alternative was possible. Recently, I purchased some camera equipment and took a trip to the fjords of Norway to witness the beauty of the landscape I’ve always seen online. Since then, I’ve been assisting a non-profit working with sustainable development in Kenya and plan to visit in late August. Anyways, I thought my story would serve as a reminder to you of the tremendous influence you have to the other 23 year olds out there.” MacDonald is currently working in travel film and, in a few months, will leave to teach English in Spain.
Davis is reminded by Cusick, Hugoboom, MacDonald, Patrick and so many others of where he used to be not so long ago. Entering college, Davis wanted to make sure he got a degree so he could climb the corporate ladder and ensure that finances were never an issue for him like money sometimes was for his parents raising him and his three brothers.
After college, he is documenting his dream life, harnessing his wildest dreams into productivity and paying that productivity forward into intangibles worth so much more.
Image credit: Jon Melson
Words by Megan Armstrong