David Jeffery is among the legions of Santa Clarita Valley residents employed behind the scenes in “the business.” It is likely many reading this article have enjoyed the results of his creative labors.
His industry credits include 12 years as a producer for the popular Fox Television crime procedural “Bones.” He is the only producer who actively worked on all 246 episodes of the one-hour drama from 2005 until the show ended in 2017.
A resident of Valencia since 2010 Jeffery moved to the SCV upon recommendation of executive and colleague Gary Hall, former Senior vice President of Post for 20th Century Fox Television.
“I was living in Burbank and started to look at other places to live and it was suggested I look in Valencia and I found a magnificent house,” he said. “I looked at other places but I kept coming back to look at the Valencia house so I bought it.”
Not only did Jeffery find a new house in Valencia, in 2015, he met former CNN anchor Bella Shaw via Facebook. They are engaged and will marry next year.
His prolific television career includes work on “The Exorcist,” “Queen of the South,” “Prison Break,” “Millennium” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Jeffery was born in Summit, N.J. and has one sister, a former IBM executive. His parents (his father was an Exxon Oil chemical engineer and executive working in the International Division), were living in Tokyo when his mother became pregnant. She flew back to the U.S. to give birth to Jeffery.
“The joke in our family was that I was ‘made in Japan,’” he said.
Jeffery was 3 when the family moved to Singapore.
“My first memories are of life in Singapore,” he said. “There weren’t 200 plus channels of television like we have now. My father was a collector of silent movies and an amateur film documentarian. He loved to make movies. I think he might have pursued a career in the industry if his life had taken a different direction.”
During their time in Singapore his father documented the life of world renowned Batik artist Seah Kim Joo. While the family lived in Singapore his father entertained the family on Sunday nights by showing silent films and animated short subjects.
“I got hooked at that early age and was fascinated by the technology of the projector and the cameras,” he said.
Jeffery’s father was transferred back to New Jersey shortly before he started kindergarten.
That ‘aha’ moment
Jeffery was 13 when the family came to Southern California on vacation in the mid-1970’s. His legendary great uncle, (on his mother’s side) George “Bullets” Durgom, lived in Los Angeles and was a successful manager with clients such as Jackie Gleason, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Hanna-Barbera.
Durgom arranged VIP studio tours at Universal Studios and Walt Disney Studios for the family.
Because of his father’s influence the young Jeffery had been making his own movies for years starring his friends, but when he was able to visit a real Hollywood sound stage and back lot he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“I remember I was able to go onto a set. I was amazed by the sound stages and I thought, ‘I want to do this for a living,’” he said. “After we returned to New Jersey I got more into the arts and theater and read a lot of short stories and I continued making my own movies.”
As a teen Jeffery submitted his films to teenage film festivals. Some of his films won awards, such as “Still Running,” which earned him a scholarship to NYU Film School.
Jeffery was interviewed by Haig Maoogian, a professor and mentor of many filmmakers most notably film director Martin Scorsese.
“I was very impressed by him,” Jeffery said. “He talked about how the school would teach the skills necessary for one to become an indie filmmaker. I love New York City so when I was accepted I decided to attend NYU. I graduated with a BFA in film and TV production.”
Working as an NBC page
“When I got out of school I thought I would start my career in New York,” Jeffery said. “Unfortunately, it was a time in the business when everybody felt New York City was too expensive. I was working in industrials and commercials and I interned for “Entertainment Tonight.”
Jeffery was interested in television and film work but such work was hard to come by.
Instead he found a position as a page at NBC.
“I’m glad I did because I made a lot of contacts and ultimately when I moved to Burbank the NBC office helped me get my first job in Los Angeles and I’m forever grateful,” he said.
While working as a page in New York Jeffery worked “Saturday Night Live” and “The David Letterman Show.”
“I was around ‘NBC Nightly News’ and I’ve seen ‘SNL’ countless times,” he said. “I have great memories of seeing a lot of amazing musical artists live.”
Jeffery said he didn’t realize at the time the doors that would open because of his stint as a page.
“It was a great experience. I made a lot of contacts and those contacts were very good to me and really helped me get my feet on the ground in Southern California,” he said.
Moving to L.A.
Jeffery moved to Los Angeles in 1990 with two bags and a one-way ticket.
“I knew moving out here that I would need to take the first job offered me so I could get my foot in the door,” he said.
Through a connection at NBC, Jeffery landed a job at a talent management company. Soon after he found work as a production assistant on a new hit series, “Family Matters.”
Eventually, he wound up working as a “floater” around the 20th Century Fox lot where he learned about different departments and made many contacts that would influence his career.
In 1995, Jeffery was given the chance to be a post-production supervisor on “Walker Texas Ranger.” This started a post career, where Jeffery was able to quickly move up to associate producer, co-producer and producer.
He currently works on “Queen of the South” which airs on USA Network.
“Working on ‘Bones’ was a great experience,” Jeffery said. “It was a great group of people and a great training ground. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Jeffery said many people don’t understand the mechanics of the entertainment business.
“I tell people there are three stages to any production, pre-production, production and post production,” he said. “I oversee post production.”
His job responsibilities include overseeing the editorial team, along with the showrunner (the person who has overall creative authority and management responsibility for a television program).
“I hire all the outside vendors, like those responsible for visual effects and schedule the post production process,” Jeffery said. “I also oversee all the costs of post-production.”
In addition, Jeffery is the last person to view the finished product before a show is shipped to the network.
“The post production supervisor and I do quality a control pass to make sure that all the visual effects are correct, the titles are in, everything is color corrected and the audio has been laid in,” he said. “When I’m working on a show I watch it with a very critical eye. Sometimes we have to watch a show frame by frame.”
In addition to his television work Jeffery is focusing on his indie film career.
He is the producer of “Girl #2” a short horror film he also directed. The film, released in 2016, has played successfully on the film festival circuit garnering several awards including: 2016 Bram Stoker International Film Festival Best Short; FANtastic Horror Film Festival, San Diego 2017 Best Short Film Goriest Film; Hot Springs International Horror Film Festival 2016 Best in Category Best of Festival; Los Angeles Horror Competition 2017 Diamond Award Best Short; Nightmares Film Festival 2017 Best Horror Comedy Short and One-Reeler Short Film Competition 2018 Award of Excellence. Official selection of Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada.
When “Girl #2” was shown at a Los Angeles film festival Jeffery was able to see his movie at the historic Mann’s Chinese Theater.
“It was a thrill to see it on the big screen,” he said.
Jeffery produced and co-directed the feature documentary, “Lesson Plan -The Story of the Third Wave,” (2011). The film won the 2011 CINE Competition Golden Eagle award and the 2011 SoHo International Film Festival Best Showcase Feature Film.
“I am proud of that project, it was made for no money. It was a labor of love,” he said.
Under the sea
Despite his hectic schedule Jeffery is an avid scuba diver who became certified in 2009 and enjoys diving off the coast of Southern California exploring shipwrecks and discovering the variety of sea life.
“I love it. Diving is a great sport,” he said. “It relaxes me. When you get to about 100 feet below it forces you to relax and breathe calmly. It is very good therapy for someone like me who works in a stressful industry.”
Because of his busy workload his diving adventures have been mostly limited to waters off of Southern California and Cabo San Lucas.
His diving “wish” list includes the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives and a chance to dive with Great White sharks.
“I have such respect for those fascinating creatures and I think they have been very maligned by popular entertainment,” he said.
Jeffery’s appreciation of Great White sharks mirrors his admiration for the movie “Jaws.”
“I just love ‘Jaws.’ Good horror films engage the audience. When they work they put you into a realistic environment that turns into a horrific environment,” he said.
Jeffery said “Jaws” is a film that still “works” 43 years after it was first released.
“The opening scene in ‘Jaws’ is one of the greatest hooks in American cinema,” he said. “You cannot take your eyes away from the screen. It’s an amazing piece of filmmaking.”
Jeffery is an associate member of the Magic Castle and also has a love of aviation.
“When I had a birthday a few years ago I treated myself to a private flying lesson and really enjoyed it,” he said. “I am fascinated with aircraft and I’ve never had a fear of flying.”
Jeffery lists his film making influences as Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, William Wilder, David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, James Wan, and Guillermo Del Toro.
“My favorite film is ‘Jaws.’ It is the film that really made me want to become a filmmaker. I was really impacted by the audience reaction to ‘Jaws.’
I saw how the audience went crazy and I wanted to know how that worked,” he said.
Jeffery said he was also influenced by one-hour drama television shows.
“They were like mini movies and I wanted to get into that world and I eventually did,” he said.
Jeffery’s advice for those starting out in the business is to “take any job or internship where you can to get your foot in the door and find opportunities where you can network. No job is too little or beneath anyone. Humility, confidence and hard work goes a long way in this business.”
“It’s truly all about relationships, which take time to develop,” he said. “A friend of mine in the New York film business, says sometimes it takes 20 years to become an overnight sensation.”