Sundance fires off a documentary about the inventor of the modern bulletproof vest |

Sundance fires off a documentary about the inventor of the modern bulletproof vest

Producer is a Park City High School graduate

“2nd Chance,” a documentary by Ramin Bahrani, is an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Park City High School graduate Jacob Grodnik is one of the producers of the film, which is about Richard Davis, the creator of the modern bulletproof vest.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

As a Park City High School graduate who went through Park City School District’s film program, Jacob Grodnik is honored to be part of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Grodnik is one of the producers of “2nd Chance,” a feature documentary about Richard Davis, a bankrupt pizzeria owner who invented the modern-day bulletproof vest.

“Getting our film into Sundance means everything,” said Grodnik, who graduated from PCHS in 2009. “Coming from Park City, if there is one festival that would mean the most to me, it would be Sundance. To have movie industry people come every year to Park City had a big influence on me.”

Not only is Grodnik one of the producers of the film, which is directed by renowned Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, he is the one who acquired the rights to Davis’ life story.

“This came about while I was doing some research about what I could find that would make a good story,” said Grodnik, who now lives in Los Angeles. “I saw this picture of World War I soldiers who were wearing big turtle-shell armor, and I thought it would be an interesting scripted movie about the guy who sold these armor vests to these soldiers.”

As Grodnik dug deeper into the research, he came across Davis’ name.

“What got me was that Richard shot himself in the chest at point-blank range more than 192 times to prove how effective the vests were,” he said. “When I came across this story, I knew this was the movie.”

Grodnik first came into contact with Davis and his family in the spring of 2016.

“I had found an event called the Pin Shoot, which was like Woodstock for gun lovers up in Central Michigan, and they were holding the first one in 20 years,” Grodnik said. “Everyone comes out and they have big competitions where they shoot bowling pins. And Richard is usually up on this tower making announcements and giving out gifts and prizes.”

Grodnik reached out to Pin Shoot organizers, but after a few weeks of radio silence, decided to book a flight to Michigan, regardless.

“The plan was me going to go and introduce myself, and then I got a call back from Richard’s son Matt,” he said. “I told him what I wanted to do, and he invited me to the Pin Shoot.”

Grodnik spent a few days with the Davises and conducted some initial interviews.

“I came back to L.A. and negotiated a contract with Richard that optioned his life rights,” he said.

Grodnik pitched the idea around town, and came into contact with Vespucci, a company known for “producing fact-based stories from around the world,” according to Grodnik.

Davis’ story fell right into Vespucci’s wheelhouse, he said.

“Richard created the first non-metal bulletproof vest out of ballistic nylon, which is a precursor to Kevlar,” Grodnik said. “People thought, sure the material may stop the bullet, but what would prevent the force of the impact from crushing your insides. This is why Richard had to continuously shoot himself to prove that he was fine.”

For the first demonstrations, Davis shot himself, and then to show he could return fire after being hit, he shot some bowling pins, Grodnik said.

“Hence why the Pin Shoot came about,” he said with a laugh.

Richard Davis, the inventor of the modern day bulletproof vest, left, is the subject of "2nd Chance," a documentary, produced in part by Park City High School graduate Jacob Grodnik, right. The film will screen at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Courtesy of Jacob Grodnik

Davis’ story didn’t end there, Grodnik said.

“While ‘2nd Chance’ is about someone who has saved thousands of people’s lives with a creation he cared for more than his own life, it’s a rise-and-fall story,” he said.

A few years after the vest went to market, a new fabric came out and people felt it was stronger and lighter than Kevlar, Grodnik said.

“The problem was the fabric was defective, and some police officers were killed in the line of duty,” he said. “There was a whistleblower case that accused Richard of knowing some of the vests could be defective, and that he didn’t issue a recall. So he was framed as a villain and ended up losing his company.”

With Vespucci on board, the plan was to make a documentary and then use the momentum to create a scripted project of Davis’ story, Grodnik said.

“So we’re at the documentary stage,” he said.

Still, the road to get the film made was not a straight shot, the producer said.

“It went through a couple of iterations and had different directors attached to the project,” he said. “When we eventually got Ramin, we were shooting in a couple of months within him being ready to go, due to the trust he has created in the industry. It was like he injected rocket fuel into the project.”

Bahrani and his crew shot the film in February 2021, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Grodnik said.

“Luckily for us, the subjects were OK with us sending a skeleton crew to get the necessary shots,” he said.

Sundance contacted the crew in November to say “2nd Chance” was accepted into the festival.

“I’m very honored and excited to bring a movie there,” Grodnik said. “In the early stages of creating this film, there were talks of marketing the film to Netflix and other big companies before going to festivals, and although that would have been awesome, deep down inside I was thinking, ‘What if it could go to Sundance first?’ And since we have that part down, hopefully one of the big companies like Netflix would come and pick it up.”

Sundance 2022 logo

“2nd Chance,” a documentary feature in the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, will premiere at 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 22, and remain accessible for ticket holders until 5:45 p.m. The film will also be available for 24 hours starting at 8 a.m. Jan. 24.


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