Jack Davis wasn’t a fan of scary movies as a kid. But now, he’s working on creating the online version of what he describes as “Marvel for monsters.” As the co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Crypt TV, a social video startup that creates scary movie pilots and miniseries for the mobile era, Davis’ goal is a franchise that provides faster scares for shorter attention spans.
The 3-year-old company he co-founded with Hostel director Eli Roth has already landed investments from influential Hollywood producer Jason Blum, media venture-capital powerhouse Lerer Hippeau and traditional juggernauts like NBCUniversal.
Since the company’s beginnings, Davis has relied on budding filmmakers rather than established screenwriters. In fact, the very first monster for Crypt TV was born from a “six-second contest” that elicited 15,000 submissions. While most scary movies are made for larger screens, Crypt TV’s franchises such as The Birch, Sunny Family Cult and Giggles are created for smartphones; fans can use augmented reality to “wear” Snapchat-style monster masks that they can then record and share on social media.
Incredibly, Davis is only 26 years old. The summer before he graduated from Duke University, he interned at Raines Feldman LLP, working exclusively on intellectual property law; the summer before that, he worked on programming for Fox. Those internships opened up the world of entertainment and shed light on the value of developing IP rights, but for Davis, meeting Roth at a dinner party in the summer of 2013 was one of the biggest turning points. The pair kept in touch, eventually launching the contest in October 2014 “as our way to test to see if you could really make great scary content in short form on mobile.”
“We know you can make someone laugh in six seconds,” Davis said. “But can you scare them?”
When the contest blew up and the pair ended up on Good Morning America, Blum, who’s a friend of Roth’s, became Crypt TV’s first investor. “We are going to create the next Frankenstein,” Davis said. “We are going to create the next Freddy Krueger, and the way we’re going to create it is through the phone.”
Founder, CEO, Crypt TV, April 2015-Present
Legal Intern, Raines Feldman LLP, June 2013
Summer Intern, Fox Television, June 2012-August 2012
Founded in 2015, Crypt TV now has 19 employees ages 26 to 40 and has raised at least $3.5 million in funds from investors. It’s also built up a following on a variety of social platforms, with over 5 million combined on Facebook and another 450,000 subscribers on YouTube.
How He Got the Gig
Davis calls himself “incredibly lucky” to have “two amazing partners” in Roth and Blum, crediting Roth for “lend[ing] his name, relationships and energy” to the company’s six-second scare contest. “[That’s what] got us really excited about the idea of creating monsters for mobile,” he said, adding that the project got a major boost when Blum “put the incredible support of Blumhouse [Productions]—a remarkably innovative company—and himself behind Crypt.”
“Put the audience first, not your own personal tastes. Everyone likes to believe they are a great creative, but the benefit of digital is the incredible, instant data and feedback you receive,” Davis advised.