HRTS Member Profile: Jonathan Davis
Jonathan Davis is President of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox Television.
We recently had a chance to interview him to discuss passion, adrenaline and New Jersey.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I LOVE television. Growing up — TV connected me to the world outside of my own experience. I still have the credits of the giants embossed on my brain from these incredible shows --Jim Brooks, Jim Burrows, the Charles Brothers, Steven Bochco, Gary David Goldberg, Aaron Spelling to name a few. I knew early on that I wanted to be where the action was happening (and trust me, it was not in New Jersey).
Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
-HRTS is such an exciting organization – it really gives you a peek behind the curtain. As a young executive, I always loved being invited to hear a showrunner or executive speak frankly about the challenges and opportunities in our business.
Q: What is a favorite memory from your career thus far?
-going to the ABC upfront the year we made MODERN FAMILY. Rather than just play a few clips, Steve McPherson broke with protocol and played the entire Modern Family pilot. The room went wild for it. And it validated what we all knew- this show was going to be a game-changer. We felt the same way when we got the finished pilots of EMPIRE and THIS IS US. Being involved in just one of these shows would have been amazing, but to have worked on all three has been beyond my wildest imagination.
Q: What do you look for when developing a new show?
-we look for a distinct voice that cuts through the clutter, and then we listen to that creator carefully and we move every obstacle out of their way to achieve their vision. We are nothing without our amazing producers.
Q: When developing new material at what point do you sense that you might have a hit?
-the feeling comes along at different times. Hearing a great pitch is intoxicating and fills you with adrenaline and possibility. Outlines and story docs can provide both highs and lows (this is the process where fluidity and calm matter most). And when you read a great script, you bust out of your office to engage your coworkers – "We got one! Let's get it made!"
Q: What was it like working with Robin Williams?
-incredible. What an amazing, funny, thoughtful man.
Q: How are millennials similar to or different from past generations of viewers?
-just like past generations, millennials want to be captivated by undeniable storytelling-- that's where it all starts. I guess the biggest difference is that millennials are accustomed to choice and opportunity in a way we weren't growing up, pre-DVRs and DVDs and streaming services. They love binge watching and the ability to view whatever interests them on demand. So for them, there is no "I'll just watch whatever is on." There's too much content available for anyone to settle for anything they aren't passionately interested in watching. So we need to make superior content that can be devoured on any platform at any time. As television viewers, we all want to feel the rush of a rich, enthralling story. We want to engage our friends, coworkers and relatives about the amazing stories we have just been told.