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Lee Davis

Lee Davis calls directing “the ultimate joy,” but he’s still a writer at heart.

“I think I’ve always been a writer,” Davis tells Daily Variety. “When I was a kid I would read the Golden Key books to other little kids, and I would just write all kinds of stories. Writing is just something I love to do and I’ve always done.”

Davis makes his feature debut as writer and director of Showtime Films’ “3 A.M.,” a film noir thriller starring Danny Glover and Pam Grier. The 33-year-old New Yorker developed the pic at both the Writers Lab and the Directors Lab through the Sundance Institute. Spike Lee tracked the progress of the project and asked to exec produce the film.

Davis studied communications at Fordham, then worked his way up through the ranks at Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule, starting on craft service for “Mo’ Better Blues.” Davis counts Lee, producer Monty Ross and his father as mentors.

“My dad put books in my hands and said, ‘Sit down and read for a while.’ He gave me all my science-fiction books, my ‘Star Trek’ collection and my comic books. I’d be reading with the light out.”

Although Davis has focused on different genres in the past, he says he’s especially drawn to film noir.

“There’s a loneliness to it, an isolation to it. I equate that in some respects with writing itself. It’s very lonely, you’re very isolated, you’re stuck in a room with your ideas, fighting to get them out. Then they come, and at that point it’s like a release, it’s like a cathartic thing. It’s painful, it’s tough and it ain’t easy, but I enjoy it.”

At the end of a writing day, Davis kicks back with his PlayStation, TV sports or old movies on video. He is also an avid reader, a big fan of Richard Wright, Steinbeck and Hemingway.

“They have a sparse and terse word usage, but they’re also very descriptive and very visual,” he says. “They paint a picture with as few words as possible, and I like that.”+

Repped by Stephanie Davis and Simon Millar at Artists Management Group, the up-and-comer has also started a production company, Leeway Flix, with his fiancee, Melanie Torres, who happily gave up a law career to write and produce with him.

“The most important thing is to have a real life,” says Davis. “To have a person in your life who loves and cares about you, who makes all the stuff worthwhile. Family that cares about me: I’ve been blessed to have that.”

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