After a decade of playing a central character in someone else’s creation — something that happens to be one of the biggest shows in TV history — Emmy-nominated actor Maisie Williams is now setting her own stage, one to be shared with anyone caring to join her. Earlier this year, she developed and launched Daisie, an app for struggling artists. Her journey from actor to tech entrepreneur has been relatively quick (Maisie is 22); she gave a talk at TEDx Manchester back in March that is worth the 16-minute commitment.
While initially heart-set on dedicating her life to being a professional dancer, 12-year-old Williams met talent agent Louise Johnston and suddenly found herself cast as Arya Stark on a new HBO series called Game of Thrones. You may have heard of it; nothing huge.
For other performers, though, the rest of the story would be a predictable kind of history: big-name actress disappears into the untouchable world of fame and celebrity. Instead of Maisie blowing her fortune partying, designing a new fashion line or pushing a new film, Daisie, she says, was born out of a frustration shared by her close friend (and Daisie co-founder) Dom Santry over the lack of opportunity for artists hoping to break into the industry. In a Question Time promo video, Williams explained, “It’s all about bridging the gap between the people who have made it in the creative industries and the people who aspire to…it is for everyone and anyone who has a passion for creating.”
Daisie, which exists as both an app and a website, is a social media platform for artists across many mediums and genres; the emphasis is on sharing projects and on collaboration. Individual user accounts spotlight available projects, current work and new ideas in an aesthetically pleasing, almost blog-like fashion. Users can browse for projects to join, or fellow creatives to help them grow their own vision. Like any social media initiative, Daisie has an international scope; it’s equally a networking site where artists can create online resumes or portfolios to showcase their talent. Daisie doesn’t aim to pay your bills or to fund your projects. It’s about giving agency back to the artist.
Having used Daisie, I would describe its functionality as comparative to Vimeo with a dash of LinkedIn — but more advanced than either individually. There are 10 categories of work: film, music, fashion, photography, art, literature, design, makeup, digital, gaming, stage and animation. Daisey also distinguishes itself from other social media in the sense that there are no counts of followers or likes, thus avoiding popularity contests or hierarchies. In her TED Talk, Williams tastefully touched on the poison that social media has become:
I hope Daisie can breathe new life into the slightly dystopian, ad-riddled hell-scapes that social media platforms have become. I hope to create a space where people can boast their art and creativity rather than what car they’re driving.
Yes. Like, yes. Can we please do that?
As a struggling millennial with artistic aspirations, I have spent two years post-college in a relentless, often fruitless pursuit of entry-level positions in various creative fields, and I am far from the only one. With Daisie, I’m hopeful that Maisie is providing young creators with a good launching point — which is to say that it’s necessity is an open acknowledgement of the problems within most creative industries.
Appropriately, Daisie is quirky and progressive — by definition millennial. Scrolling through the app feels good. It feels like there is a sense of community, thus providing reassurance and inspiration in one bite.More important, for once something doesn’t feel like it is every artist in it for themselves. “Young Actress Uses Her Celebrity to Change Her Industry”: When was the last time you read that kind of headline?
In interviews, I’ve observed that Williams and Santry both like to cite the old Hollywood adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and to tag it as perhaps their biggest disappointment with creative industries. The adage, sadly, remains true, I have to agree. This sentiment basically cuts off the creative potential of the world; it misdirects what should be our understanding of talent. In an industry whose emphasis is placed too highly on celebrity, fame and beauty — all to the detriment of talent — Daisie asks us and gives us the tools to bring the focus back to where it should be: to creativity and collaboration. Now it’s up to young artists to use the app and have it live up to the vision of its founders.