A native of New York City, Pontell attended the School of Visual Arts, studying film and television. After graduation, he worked as a film editor on features such as The Exorcist and long-form documentaries for both CBS News and public television.
In 1981 Pontell relocated to Los Angeles and edited episodic television series including Hill Street Blues, Hooperman, Northern Exposure, and Moonlighting. Working on L.A. Law, he began a 19-year association with David E. Kelley. Pontell served as director and producer on Picket Fences and The Practice. From 1997 to 2000, he also directed multiple episodes of Ally McBeal. Pontell produced and directed for David E. Kelley on Boston Public from 2000 to 2004. He was an executive producer of Kelley’s first reality program, The Law Firm. He was also the director and executive producer for the ABC series What About Brian?
The name “Generation Jones” has several connotations, including a large anonymous generation, a “keeping up with the Joneses” competitiveness and the slang word "jones" or “jonesing”, meaning a yearning or craving. It is said that Jonesers were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as they came of age in the 1970s, leaving them with a certain unrequited, jonesing quality.