A Westminster native, Brian Levin is an independent filmmaker who recently returned to the Baltimore area after working for more than a decade in the entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles.
Levin has produced and written for film (“Flock of Dudes”), TV (Spike TV, Comedy Central) and online (“The Post Show”). This summer, he plans to produce the independent film, “The Land.”
On March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at The Charles Theatre, Levin – a 1998 McDonogh School alumnus who earned a bachelor’s degree from Towson University and a master’s in visual media from American University — will formally introduce himself to members of the local film community with a private screening of his work.
Jmore recently spoke with Levin, 37, who has a four-month-old daughter, Mimi Rose, with his wife, Natalie, about his career and aspirations to break into Maryland’s film community.
Jmore: What brought you back to Charm City?
Levin: I had been in Los Angeles for 10 years, and my wife and I were expecting a baby and wanted to be around family. At the same time, I realized that with my existing networks in L.A. and New York, and my experience in the business, I would be able to continue doing what I’m doing professionally in Baltimore. I’m pretty much doing movies now, and when I first got back I was interested in finding out who in town — from an artistic or business perspective — was interested in what I was doing. I started to realize that there was a real desire and demand here to bring positive economic activity and opportunities to the city and state.
Have you moved from the artistic to the business side of things?
At this point, I consider myself a writer and producer. I started on the artistic end, but over 15 years have developed the ability to write and produce content as well as the ability to navigate that content in the marketplace.
How can you play a role in Maryland’s film industry?
If you look at a city like Austin, one thing that’s really great about it is people know that Austin is a cool place and a lot of artists go there to do art. It creates a great feedback loop. Baltimore has great artists, and I saw an opportunity to pour a little more water on that soil to create more economic activity and more cultural products for the city and for the state.
Maryland is positioned on the East Coast between two of the most powerful cities in the world, and there’s a lot of money here. When you put those two things together, there are a lot of reasons to locate here. You have access to cultural and financial hubs. There’s enough money here and an opportunity to create something special.
On the other hand. Baltimore has a lot of difficulty. That is part of the story and if people ignore it, there will be price to pay. As things get better for some, those people have to realize they need to pay attention to the communities, to people who are having a hard time. If everyone doesn’t come up on the wave, it’s going to be bad.
Maryland filmmakers you admire?
I’ve seen all John Waters’ movies and the casting is brilliant. And Barry Levinson. There are a lot of interesting people in the state who have very authentic personalities and that comes across on the screen. When you look at film and television made Maryland with local casting, everyone on screen is interesting.
What is “The Land” about?
The film is a little bit in the wheelhouse of “There Will Be Blood” or a Terrence Malick movie. It’s not a comedy. It’s something you’d see at Sundance or the Maryland Film Festival. The general gist is it’s about two people from the opposite sides of life and one of them is losing touch with reality and that may be a benefit to the other person.
These two characters in “The Land” are bound together – maybe for better, maybe for worse. It’s going to be shot in Carroll County, to utilize the beautiful nature I grew up around. The plot and the story centers around the land out there, who’s on it and the secrets they have.
Ideas for casting?
I’ll be casting the leads through United Talent Agency. You kind of need some names for the leads because that allows you to get into festivals and to get distribution, and for your investors to get their money back. Other than that, I’d like to cast the film locally.
Is diversity in your films a goal?
Yes, definitely, that’s part of the goal when making films locally. How do I help create opportunities for people who might not otherwise have access? There’s no shortage of great talent. There’s a shortage of access. And if I can help people who might not normally have access,that may result in content we’ve never seen before.
Do you have any Jewish stories to tell?
I’m up to telling a good Jewish story. Actually, I have one that’s more of a family story than a Jewish story, but involves Jewish people in Hollywood. My grandmother had lost her first husband in the Second World War. She had a cousin in Hollywood who was the main producer for Warner Brothers, so she went there. Here’s this young woman from Carroll County in the golden age of Hollywood, in like 1946, with the biggest stars of the time.
Who would you cast as your bubbie?
It would probably be someone in their early to mid-20s. My mind immediately jumps to a 23-year-old Natalie Portman.
Yes, she’s probably the current version of the 23-year-old Natalie Portman. And if Emma Stone wants that role, she could definitely have it.
Martha Thomas is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.