Artist? Editor? Entrepreneur? Forget the labels, says David Cash ’15, who enjoys pushing the boundaries of technology and creative production.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I currently work full time in the world of NFTs [non-fungible tokens]; however, I have filled many roles in my time in the entertainment industry. First, I was a child actor and after UCC, I went to school for musical theatre but quickly dropped out after I had a director tell me, "I don’t pay you to have ideas."
I went off and sought to get paid to have as many ideas as possible. I started as an intern at a venture capital fund run by Louden Owen ’76, where I learned a ton about social media, influencer marketing and media production. From there, I started a photo/video production company, where I had the chance to work with companies ranging from Netflix to OVO to Gaviscon. I’ve directed music videos, worked on commercials, edited TV shows, worked New York Fashion Week, showed my art all over the world, and was always ultimately interested in pushing the boundaries of technology and creative production.
When COVID hit, I went back to school to do a master’s degree. I wrote a thesis on NFTs and Decentralized Finance, and from there, my career in the NFT space took off. I started with a few different jobs — one as a writer for a magazine called NFTS.WTF, created by Outlier Ventures, and they asked me to be their editor-in-chief. I've been working there for the better part of the past year and manage more than 60 writers from all over the world.
I’m also one of the founders of one of the largest NFT communities in the space, NTFS.TIPS. I helped build out an NFT community for the U.K. art gallery Unit London, produced the first NFT for an NBA team (the Utah Jazz), and produced the first NFT project for [musician] French Montana. I consult for a number of other companies through my agency, Cash Labs. This year, I will curate the first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week for Decentraland and advise for companies including Vogue Singapore and various NFT artists.
I still think of myself as an artist, though I do everything from lecturing at universities to consulting for major brands and celebrities. Putting labels on myself is difficult, so I simply tell people: "I work in the NFT space."
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Embrace discomfort; diamonds are formed under pressure.
When did you know you wanted to be involved in the arts? Were you always passionate about art, photography and fashion?
I grew up in the arts. My mother [Ofra Harnoy] is a professional cellist, and I was on tour with her from birth. I took a liking to acting and music at a very young age. I became a professional actor at age 6 and that was my principal focus for about 12 years. I fell in love with film production at UCC and was the creativity steward in my senior year.
Photography came about for me after high school — having a film background, once I got a camera of my own, I immediately wanted to capture images. I fell in love with fashion alongside creating images, becoming obsessed with fashion photography, and that is still instrumental to what I do today. In 2022 I’ll be working a lot in fashion, especially in the Metaverse space.
Was there a teacher or an experience at UCC that helped chart your path into the arts?
I have to mention David Crawford for all that he did in nurturing my passion for film and media during my time at UCC and after. I could not imagine a more supportive educator and mentor during my formative years, and I believe that he was instrumental in helping me realize my multidisciplinary artistic passions and supporting them through high school and even after I had graduated.
However, one pivotal moment that I can recall is when Judith Macdonell, my beloved Extended Essay adviser and drama teacher, told me that I was going to be “so much more than an actor.” At the time, I was somewhat insulted, but now, years later, I realize that it was a compliment. She saw that I could do more than simply act in somebody else’s vision — but create one of my own.
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
Guy Bourdin, David LaChapelle, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, Stephen Sondheim, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Jean Luc Godard and RuPaul.
How have NFTs changed the landscape of the art world, and how has that changed your career?
NFTs are more than just the buzzword; they are a technology that introduces people to the world of Web3.
Web3 is the next evolution of our digital landscape, where we directly control our data. Once people start to understand NFTs, the Metaverse, virtual fashion, etc., they will understand what the future is going to look like — not just in the creative industry, but the world as a whole. Art was the first vehicle of NFTs, but they can go so much further — to fashion, sports, events…anything really.
I see NFTs as being a major player in the future and I want to help educate as many people as possible about the Blockchain, self-sovereignty, decentralization, and how all of these elements will impact our immediate futures.
NFTs have changed my life. I was always told I needed to find a niche as a content producer, and after spending my master’s researching this new space, I feel like I found my calling. I am grateful to have stumbled into this space early, and I wholeheartedly recommend others follow suit!
What advice would you give to UCC students looking towards a future in the arts?
Try as many different things as possible and, in the process, focus on learning new skills and honing the ones you enjoy. Every skill that you pick up working on an artistic pursuit will help you in future pursuits in ways you could never initially imagine. Jobs in the arts involve a lot of creative problem-solving and, as in life, you have to pick which problems you want to solve.
If I hadn’t been a child actor, I wouldn’t have been able to be a director at a young age. And if I didn’t run a media production company, I could never manage the number of people I do working in the NFT space today.
So follow your passions and do things you’re excited about. Money is nice but should never be your driving force. If you’re genuinely passionate about the work you do, it will show in the quality of your work — and the higher quality your work, the more you can charge for it. So, passion first — do something you love right now!