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
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
What can you tell us about your early days
as a producer, and how do you think you have evolved over the years?
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.
talk about your production company Yale Productions, and what led
to its formation, what's the philosophy behind it?
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,
upcoming slate of films, that we are all very pumped about.
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.
other of your films currently in post production are Welcome to Willits
and King Cobra - what can you tell us about those?
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.
other current films or future projects you want to talk about?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
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
The Departed, Crash, Se7en, I Origins,
and most recently, Creed. There are a bunch of different genres
... and of course, films you really deplore?
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.
company's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
you can follow me on Instagram: @jylevine and Twitter: @jylevine.
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
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.
for the interview!