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An Interview with Jordan Yale Levine, Producer

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2016

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To kick this one off, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?


Sure. I'm an indie film producer who has been involved in over 30 films to date, in genres ranging from comedy to horror, and acting in various capacities whether physically producing, executive producing and/or helping to secure distribution deals and more.


What got you into film producing in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


After high school I ventured to Los Angeles from New York, as I had a desire to get into the film business, and thought the West Coast was a good place to dive right into it. I initially explored both sides of the business, in front of and behind the camera. While I have an immense respect for acting, I was much more drawn to the business side of things. I quickly learned that I needed to make my mind up which direction I wanted to go, as both careers require your time and energy 24/7, so I put all of my efforts into becoming a producer. Starting at 19 years old with no resume, I knew the best way for me to advance my career would be to raise money for established producers' films, and I did so for five or so years and built up a good size resume. After doing so, I transitioned into raising money for my own films where I would fully produce from inception through distribution. I did not receive any formal training whatsoever. When people ask me if they should attend film school to learn producing, I never respond by saying that they should not or should skip school like me, but rather if they do want to attend school, I would recommend business school over film school. I think film school is great to learn directing or the skills to be a cinematographer, but producing is very similar to running a business, so that would be my advice.


What can you tell us about your early days as a producer, and how do you think you have evolved over the years?


I have always been proud of every film that I have my name on. With that being said, in the beginning of my career, I was willing to produce most films that came my way, as long as I was intrigued with the script, and sometimes actors that were already attached. I am much more selective in my projects now. That is in regards to the material itself, the director and actors (if attached before me), etc. Earlier on, I was looking to build my resume and establish myself as a working producer. After doing so, I moved into the stage where I am in now, and I am really only looking to produce films that I love. I feel that these films can not only further my career, but can attain critical acclaim and have a successful distribution run. At the end of the day, producing films consumes so much time and energy, I feel that I need to really love the subject matter that I'm working on, team members on board, and have the opportunity for many people to view the end result.


Do talk about your production company Yale Productions, and what led to its formation, what's the philosophy behind it?


After working as an independent producer on various projects for a few years, I knew that in order to grow my career I needed to form a team with like minded producers, whereby we can collectively take on more work and films than one person can handle. Since doing so, I feel like we have a great cycle of films in various stages of production at all times. Our philosophy is to produce high quality films with conservative budgets, so we can ensure investors the best chance at succeeding financially, but also not jeopardizing the integrity creatively, by keeping intact the team's initial vision. After many years of producing and executive producing, the team and I have assembled great crews, relationships with talent and reps, vendors and more, which is the reason why we can produce these films with conservative budgets. Most recently, the company has partnered with Michael Clofine and his company, Digital Ignition, on an upcoming slate of films, that we are all very pumped about.


Your movie Jack Goes Home has been released only very recently - so do talk that one for a bit, and how did it fall together?


Jack Goes Home actually has not been released yet, but it did premiere a few weeks ago at the SXSW festival. We are expecting the release to happen later this year. I absolutely love this film, and am very proud of it. The writer/director, Thomas Dekker, brought the project to my producing partner Scott Levenson and me. Within days of reading the script, Scott and I were ready to dive head first into making this film a reality as soon as possible. Thomas was also a producing partner, and was right there with us, every step of the way (we would all speak at least 10x a day), while attaching actors and raising money for the film. We were fortunate to assemble such a terrific cast consisting of Rory Culkin, Lin Shaye, Nikki Reed, Britt Robertson, Daveigh Chase, Louis Hunter, and Natasha Lyonne. To this date, it has not even been a year since Scott and I received the script. It was a record for all of us to have financed, shot the film, finished post, and premiered in the time we did. The performances are spectacular, and I believe people will really appreciate this film for numerous reasons. I can say it is definitely something that you have not seen before! Thomas, Scott, and myself are now setting up the next film together, as we had such a wonderful experience collaborating.


Two other of your films currently in post production are Welcome to Willits and King Cobra - what can you tell us about those?


We shot King Cobra right after Jack Goes Home, in the same city, Kingston, NY. King Cobra is a true story about a murder in the adult entertainment world that still has people talking, almost 10 years later. Writer/director Justin Kelly did such a great job with this film. James Franco, Christian Slater, Garrett Clayton, Keegan Allen, Alicia Silverstone, and Molly Ringwald were all amazing. The film's premiere will be at the Tribeca Film Festival April 16th. We just wrapped Welcome to Willits a bit ago in Shreveport, Louisiana. This feature was based on a short with the same title that premiered at SXSW in 2015. We had another really strong cast here in Bill Sage, Dolph Lundren, Chris Zylka, Sabina Gadecki, and more. I like to compare the film to a horror version of Breaking Bad meets a Rob Zombie flick. We are currently in post production.


Any other current films or future projects you want to talk about?


We will begin production on As The Freak Takes You in the next few weeks. This film is written and will be directed by Ka'rammu Kush. Ka is the protege of John Singleton, who is executive producing the film. Freak is about an omni-sexual woman endeavors to understand the intersection of sexuality and spirituality in her life. This is a topic that is so relevant, and has not been explored. Just like the script, Ka is extremely innovative and creative, and I'm psyched for the world to see what we are creating. I am extremely optimistic that this film will make a lot of noise. Later this year writer/director Christine Crokos and I are teaming up with Carmelo and Lala Anthony to produce a crime drama, titled 15, a film exploring the devastating effects of gun violence in a Harlem community.


Do talk about some past productions of yours?


Sure, the first project I was ever involved in was a horror film titled Tooth & Nail starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, which was part of Afterdark's 8 Films to Die For. From there, I executive produced a bunch of other films including Wreckage starring Aaron Paul, Scoot McNairy, Cameron Richardson, and Mike Erwin. This film was written by my good friend, David Frigerio, who wrote the recent sci-fi hit The Signal starring Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Twaites, and Olivia Cooke. David, Scott Levenson, and I have a great film that we will be producing soon in the vein of Cruel Intentions and Wild Things.


How do you choose the projects you produce?


The material has to be fresh and innovative first off. That's what I love about producing indie films. You can really think and create outside of the typical/conservative box. But, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel and take a huge risk. That would not be fair to my investors. It's really about finding the balance between material that is exciting and new, but still commercial enough to constitute a sale/distribution deal that I feel confident about obtaining. Besides that, when a project comes with a director attached, I really have to believe in the director's vision and leadership. Being able to command respect from actors and crews are vital to being a director. When I put my name on a project, I am vouching for the leadership of a director to actors and crews that I have a great rapport with. Having an excellent producer/director relationship is essential for a film's success in my opinion.


Do describe yourself as a producer, and how hands-on or hands-off are you usually on your projects?


I very much wanted to transition into producing from executive producing to become more hands-on with my projects. With that being said, I never like to step on a director's toes creatively. As I mentioned, I really take my time to get to know a director and their vision. I already have that trust built into our relationship before production commences. At that point, I like to give the director his/her freedom to do their thing. I do very much enjoy the creative process and love to take part in casting, story conversations, picking crew members etc. On the business side of things, I do a lot of what many people don't enjoy about the movie business. That is the financing work, contracts, accounting, distribution etc. I do enjoy this side as well. It's a nice balance to be involved on both sides.


Besides producing, you have for a time also managed the acting careers of rapper Obie Trice and wrestler Ernest Miller a.k.a. The Cat - so do talk about that phase of your career for a bit?


At that point in my career, I was more executive producing, and not spending as much time on set as I do now. Additionally, that was before Yale Productions, so I did have more free time. Both guys are extremely talented, and it was such a great experience to be part of Ernest getting cast in Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, in such an important role, which of course became one of the top films that year.


Producers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


There are many for different reasons. Most recently (producer-wise) I would cite Jason Blum. He worked in the industry and produced a bunch of films before his company Blumhouse exploded with the horror hits such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister and more. Since the success, the company has branched out to other genres consisting of films such as Whiplash, an Oscar nominee for Best Picture. It's beyond inspirational what he has done. I also am very impressed with the work of actors who have branched out to producing as well such as Mark Wahlberg, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, and more. Besides film, musicians such as Nas and J Cole have always driven me.


Your favourite movies?


The Departed, Crash, Se7en, I Origins, and most recently, Creed. There are a bunch of different genres for you!


... and of course, films you really deplore?


First off I should say as a producer/filmmaker, I know how difficult it is for any film to get made, so I have much respect for all filmmakers who get their projects produced. With that, I rather leave it with I'm not a fan of repetitive storylines and unnecessary sequels etc.


Your/your company's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Company website is and you can follow me on Instagram: @jylevine and Twitter: @jylevine.


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Being someone who loves their work, I would stress to anyone to follow your dreams and do whatever in this life that you love to do. Life is too short to not do so. Take it from me who had no connections in this business, if you work hard enough, anything is possible.


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner


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