Interview with Hollywood’s Justin L. Levine

Dynamic film producer Justin L. Levine has overseen many of Hollywood’s hit films such as Life Happens, Boy Toy, Red Island, Maladies and upcoming Wingman. With 2020 being a year of change within the film industry, we sat down with Justin the ask him about what type of films Hollywood will make money in 2021, along with his advice for the film industry.

What’s been your favourite project so far you have worked on? 

Helping “Mission Impossible” star actor Ving Rhames get financing for his film “Animal 2″ shot just outside Toronto” was fun at the time meeting at his mansion in LA discussing the project to get it green lit’ 

‘Boy Toy’ was my first film in LA that I wrote the original treatment for – was a ton of fun – literally non-stop laughs on & off set – many times we had to stop rolling as the crew and heck our director Christie Wills and yes me too were all simply laughing too loud! For that film we saved money by using what we had – i.e. – my house at the time, my car at the time, free locations from friends, crews taking pay cuts simply to help out and work on a very funny comedy with their friends & actors all wanting to be a part of it simply because it was that funny of an Indy project – with today many of the actors going on to large TV & film careers. 

You have attached the likes of Kate Bosworth, James Franco and Rachel Bilson to your films, what’s your secret in successfully getting big names in your films? 

‘Life Happens’ with Kate was a lot of work but a lot of entertaining moments throughout filming & a ton of promotion after the project was done with on-going publicity & heck I even threw a few parties for it; figured why not it’s Hollywood!  I personally raised all the funds for the film & put it all together from start to finish it got a little outta control at times – but as the producer I had to make hard decisions to keep it closer to on budget and I was involved with all the budgetary decisions literally line by line with my business partner at the time whom we were involved in 3 films together – incl this one, ‘Maladies’ starring James Franco (when we were on set in New York at the actual Goodfellas” restaurant diner; James, Catherine, David that day were all very professional and very easy going too.  Funny enough James pretty much knew all of Catherine’s lines – as she was acting in a scene – I saw James saying her lines – I was like “do you know all her scenes’ words” he nodded to me “yep”. 

 ‘A Holiday Heist’ was filmed mostly in the valley during a very hot LA summer with fake snow & too many laughs on set too – all the cast appreciative of being in the film knowing we were just making a fun family movie.  Life Happens – writer, lead actress Krysten Ritter and I went to pitch Lionsgate together at their Santa Monica head offices at the time prior to the film’s completion – it clearly went well as they picked it up along with Universal for the domestic release.  Rachel Bilson was shy at first but extremely nice – we used to talk about other projects and just a daily hello on set & the other key actors were very cooperating and very funny too: Jason Biggs, Justin Kirk, Geoff Stults, Fallon Goodson, Andrea Savage & the first sentence that Kristen Johnson said to me was “hey I haven’t sucked up to the producer yet, is that you?” she certainly made me & everyone else laugh!! There was also daily publicity and paparazzi on set (somehow they found us where we were filming) & I personally managed last min before shooting starting to negotiate with a major car brand, cell phone & clothing brand to drop off use of free items for our celebs to use for the production – so I’d also give advice to other film producers if they can obtain sponsorship – even if not money but use film needed items for the film’s script – this will save money in the budget. As far as getting the bigger names to act in the films – I found the trick being – simply shoot the films where they reside – this way they don’t have to hop on a plane, pack their bags & live in a hotel; they can & most did simply drive to work and drive home afterwards. 

With this as a producer (you may lose out on i.e. tax credit incentives – but the savings from the ask price for the stars usually will outweigh those savings by a lot keeping your budget down & helping use every dollar needed on camera to put out the best possible product that you can) – in the end it’s all about protecting the investment & to the best of your ability trying to get back every dollar & make the project a profit!) 

Has the flood of streaming services been good for the film industry?

Streaming has been around a long time – but now a day with theatres unfortunately closing and dvd’s a thing of the past – Netflix & amazon and now with Apple entering the game – that’s all there seems to be is streaming for the avenue to distribute films. Yet don’t let this discourage you, because the number of streaming viewers has increased drastically especially this year and with much less content being produced there seems to be an appetite for more new fresh ideas and with the age of digital transforming so fast; producers have many more ways to get a budget down & their films off the ground too.  

What type of films (Genre) will be most successful next year? 

Well I’ve always been a comedy person & 80’s comedies were & are my favorite – they just don’t seem to make them that great like they used too! Yet with the Huge franchise successes of Giant sci-fi comic book films I see those genres just getting larger and larger and especially with TV’s becoming less expensive and larger people will want to watch more of those “Big” type movies at home too – heck I BestBuy stock is near an all time high – ill even admit I just bought a new 85″ amazing quality TV – figured may as well! 

What do investors want when financing films?

I always ask these 3 basic questions with any investment from tech ventures to films to real estate:

1) How much can I make (2) how much are you asking for (3) when can I get the heck out with my money back. 

There’s’ not always a straight answer – but certainly should be a very good guideline – I’ve personally invested films that have lost money too – others that have made – it’s just the nature of the movie business—if investors 100% security for their funds – they should just buy T-bills and GIC’s – with films an investor(s) is also likely has a side reason to invest – maybe they love movies, or a family member(s) or friends wants them to invest for fun or they want a small part for them or a family member to be in the film they are investing in too….or they want their name on screen for perpetuity and it’s also – FUN – it truly is – nothing more exciting then being on a film set that you’re a part of and going to walk the red carpet at your film’s premiere.  I’d like to add my latest financial investment with my good friend Lux Canada we created a multiple of social media entertainment based user friendly web portals for actors, extras & models just starting out in the business to have the opportunity to be seen & heard more via our website www.castcaller.com  – the site is growing daily with over 100,000 current members, we will be incorporating our knowledge of film business & production to allow more awareness for individuals around the World wanting to be a part of the industry. 

THE PERSON I’D SWITCH JOBS WITH FOR A DAY

Hum. I think the Prime Minister of Canada; heck we have the same first name & I figure I could probably do a better job then him, lol !! 

TALENT I’M DYING TO WORK WITH

Well, I was fortunate enough to meet many of Hollywood’s iconic stars over the year mostly in L.A & Toronto that I spoke with in person (whom I did present scripts to their agents & managers) the likes of:

Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Costner, Nic Cage, Stallone, Cameron Diaz, Ethan Hawke, to name a few 

MY MOTIVATIONAL MANTRA FOR 2021

Simply to keep on going, stay persistent, doing what you know best, build on successes and create more wealth from my many years of experience in my fields of expertise and being open to exploring some new ideas being a part of ventures in this new digital era, along with helping other people and friends that I want to work with achieve their goals.

I truly look fwd. To waking up early each & every day and working on the things I know best.  That’s’ when you know you have success – when you can’t wait for Monday’s to go to work, do what you love & are meant to do in life – I wish everyone the same & the opportunities are certainly out there to find! 

MOST SURPRISING SHOW IN MY NETFLIX?

I like watching the “Earth documentaries” with David Attenborough…now here’s someone that truly was meant to do this and most certainly gave back to the World in doing so too. 

 

 

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