Serge Levin, Discusses Career, Films, and Drive, Exclusive Interview
Serge Levin is an emerging Actor, Director, and Producer. His focus is on delivering innovative concepts within Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. Levin has a slew of projects in development. Upon each feature release, Serge Levin will be a recognized staple in the genre.
Levin met with DecayMag.com for an exclusive interview. Levin discusses his career. Shared is his outlook and drive to excel in the film industry. Also explored are the upcoming films; Abysm and Welcome to Willits. Levin provides insight on the Drama, Horror; Jack Goes Home. The latter is a film in which Levin stars along with Lin Shaye and Rory Culkin.
From all of us at DecayMag.com we extend best wishes on your upcoming projects Mr. Serge Levin. Thank you for the interview opportunity.
Interview questions were compiled by DecayMag.com Staff Contributor Stacy Cox, with DecayMag.com Founder, Editor Ken Artuz serving as Interviewer and transcribing audio.
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DecayMag.com: Your cinematic career started in 2010. You executive produced the Crime, Drama, Mystery An Affirmative Act. How did you evolve your career into director and acting?”
Just letting my passion and my kind of inherent calling to be part of the film industry to take me there so I guess the universe had a say in it. Since the age of eight I’ve always wanted to be in the film industry, mainly as an actor but was also interested in writing and conjuring up stories. I enjoyed writing, always was recognized for being a good writer at school, university..etc. so it kind of all came together probably around 2012 when I had more time to dedicate to decoupling myself from other things that I was doing and really taking my passion to the next level.
The reason why it took so long was…I wanted to approach this passion in a more confident in a more comprehensive way. Also, it was a matter of financial kind of needs because I had to make a choice at school which career path to take.
When I was graduating it was the peak of that Silicone Valley explosion, the bubble exploded and there was…everyone was scared and everybody thought “Oh my God, that’s it, that’s the end of the world. Nobody’s going to have jobs anymore.” So I needed to make a strategic kind of choice. So I had to. I majored in finance and I worked in the finance industry for a while went into big business as well.
I always had that creative side brewing for that whole time. I was writing and doing all kinds of side projects, I was dancing and choreographing. Around 2011-2012 I was at a point where I had time to dedicate to film and I started with theater because one of the actors…. actually from An Affirmative Act named Thomas G. Waites who is known for the show The Warriors and who was in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He has a theater company in New York. He invited me to study theater and to take part in his plays, to try audition for some of his plays he was doing off-Broadway.
I landed a lead role in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream playing Lysander. That was a great opportunity for me to feel what it’s like to be on really on stage as an actor as opposed to a dancer. It is a bit different. Then I understand that for me personally, film was more appealing because I could convey subtleties in a more impactful way as opposed to being on stage and theater. Also, as my friend at the time who was playing Demetrius said; “Film is forever”. Once it’s on film it’s forever and it’s true.
Theater, you watch a play you walk away from, you have this great… it can be the best play ever, performances, it stays with you a couple of weeks but you can never revisit that moment. Yes, your memories, but you can always look back and watch the film. You can always slow it down, slow motion into certain technical aspects in the film that are not at your disposal in theater that you can utilize. So that’s what appealed to me as an actor as just an artist to film.
DecayMag.com Starting in 2012, you go on to write and direct your own films, starting with your short Drama, Horror; Paragon Algorithm. What new or different challenges, if any, have you come across with this shift from executive producer to director?
As I said that happened almost at the same time, just because the post-production took longer that’s why the release dates states, says that its later on. It was very organic in kind of natural that I wrote the script and I started shooting the next week. Location scouting took me several days. I kind of did everything. I had a small crew and I wanted to do everything I wanted to feel what it’s like to go through the whole production chain of making that my first project. It was…the transition was more of a hands on experience and really diving into it, just hit the ground running.
Luckily, it was summer and we didn’t have any problems with weather or anything like that so locations were nice. Although my DP didn’t show up the first day of filming. You know again the film Gods were on my side and the assistant DP, assistant cameraman was actually DP on another project so he actually took over so he ended up being the DP on the film. The main DP who was supposed to film it did not show up something happened like it was an emergency medical situation so I had to deal with that on day one.
So it was a lot interesting challenges and stress and new revelations. Working and filming it in New York was a pleasure and I tried to make a point where I would want to do my next feature film in New York too because I loved it so much, I love the backdrop and the scenery and the cultural aspects of it .
DecayMag.com: In addition to writer and director, you also share the role as actor in your upcoming projects Abysm and Welcome to Willits. Have you experienced any mental and/or physical challenges keeping up with the vigorous demands of each role?
Abysm it was my first appearance as an actor in a feature film and I played a brother of the protagonist that was played by Charles Baker who is a very talented and very experienced actor. You would know him from Breaking Bad as Skinny Pete and now he’s in the latest Winding Refn film Neon Demon.
It was… again….like a very….it wasn’t…. I didn’t feel like a huge jump or a leap in what I was expecting so it’s a very organic like natural progression of where I wanted to go, but definitely working with such talented actors and I actually didn’t have any screen time with Micheal Ironside who is also on the film but I learned so much by being around him and directing him and listening to some of his advices and contributions that he brought to the film.
Being around him (Ironside) you learn so much by just observing so as an actor it was great just to bounce off that energy of the people who have much more experienced than I was and it was a pleasure to absorb all that energy and of that knowledge. It was a challenge because I had to direct as well. I was wearing two hats. So that was definitely an interesting endeavor.
DecayMag.com: In addition to Abysm and Welcome to Willits, you also have another project that is currently in post production that is set to release early in 2017. Please enlighten us on your Horror, Thriller; Antihuman?
Well actually I wanted to mention Jack Goes Home which was already released which was a huge success at South by Southwest where I did have a role and played the role of Sven and it was with Rory Culkin and Lin Shaye was in it and Britt Robertson. The director was Thomas Dekker who was a very known actor in Hollywood. He’s now making a transition to being a director.
So It was a privilege to be directed by Thomas Dekker I learned so much. It was actually the first time that I saw myself on the big screen at South by Southwest . Since my film Abysm is still in post-production although I shot that much earlier than Jack Goes Home was filmed because of its visual effects demands is right now being finalized. Jack Goes Home was released earlier and went to South by Southwest. That was a huge success it was a great..It was very unique, a Horror, surreal Thriller. Very well received. There will be a lot more interesting news related to that project, projects.
As far as Antihuman it’s a something I’ve been developing for quite some time. It is a modern take on Frankenstein meets Species meets Re-Animator. There is no cheesiness in it. I did a lot of research and I’m a big science nerd, you know. I grew up reading a lot of science. My favorite TV show is Star Trek. It’s a very dark and serious piece. I currently have Johnathon Schaech attached but he’s also acting as a producer because of his industry connections.For us to take it to the next level and greenlight it and start filming it.
Its a very interesting story that takes certain elements from those three films that I had mentioned but it has a very unique story arc. Right now we’re looking to partner with some big production companies and we’re looking for a couple of more name actors and then we’ll be good to go.
DecayMag.com: With Abysm releasing this year and Welcome to Willits and Antihuman releasing in 2017, this is quite a close range. How would you best describe challenges you have working on multiple projects simultaneously?
I think the main challenge is just right now I’m not completely decoupled from some other projects that I’m doing that are not film related, so its time and traveling. I have to be in Brazil, you know I have to be in L.A., in New York you know. Its a lot of traveling and no challenges on the creative front because since its a passion of mine. I can really switch very quickly from one realm, universe to another. Like Drama and Horror and Science Fiction or writing a script that I’m currently doing.
I think it’s just having enough time really and I’m looking…. always looking for ways to optimize the amount of time I have and to use it as efficiently as possible and to make the right choices, to network with the right people and to associate with the right people, to bypass all the kind of unnecessary obstacles, unnecessary mistakes, delays, politics and things like that, that are very prevalent in the film industry. I’m really trying to learn from other people’s mistakes, from my own mistakes and to always optimize and to make things as efficient as possible and to stitch together my project.
DecayMag.com: On what platforms can Abysm and Welcome to Willits be streamed when they release? Or will they have theatrical releases?
It really varies a lot actually from all of the projects we talked about. I can’t reveal certain details legally but it’s always going to be the target will be a theatrical release, festivals then its going to go to video on demand an all the popular mediums that are out there. Then they’re growing you know, Netflix, Amazon Now, there’re so many platforms now.
Even larger studios like Lionsgate now is more involved in TV and just video on demand stuff. They’re purchasing companies to acquire those outlets to generate more content, to generate more profit margin because they’re seeing that there’s a lot of consumption on that front. Not just theatrical, not just the big studio stuff but the middle range kind, even TV or even films that could be accessed with you iPad, your television at home.
We are always looking for the best strategy to get the optimal return investment for our investors, our investment, a perpetual return down the road. We’re trying to future proof as far as technical deliverables because now its going…
A lot of distribution companies and outlets that are now demanding 4k deliverables as opposed to 2k and now they’re releasing cameras for example that shoot at 8K so it’ s just going to go and go and go and we’re always looking ahead.
DeacayMag.com: Abysm certainly has an interesting synopsis. I am most intrigued by the following quote: “But his unique reaction to the tests send him on a journey that transcends both physical and perceived reality”. This instantly makes me envision a different or a separate realm. Would you care to elaborate more on this excerpt?
It’s really a study of what emotional world is really all about in us as human beings. There are not a lot of films that tackle the question; What are emotions? What role do they Play? And that really does transcend physical and perceive reality because an emotional world within us is so vast that we’re sometimes scared to enter it so it’s a film that takes you on a roller coaster ride through one’s emotional journey.
It just gives a very unique way on how emotions can influence and either save and offer a cathartic resolution to certain internal conflicts that one can be going through. It’s really a film about emotions and the log line is: “I feel therefore I am”. That’s something I came up with that’s not a quote. It’s my quote because usually, everyone says: “I think therefore I am”. I say: “I feel therefore I am”.
It tackles a lot of existential questions but at the same time, it has very cool SciFi elements and Horror elements and an open-ended finale.
DecayMag.com: Browsing the official Facebook page for Abysm, I notice an image posted on April 4th with the status: “Rotoscoping Charlie. Sorry, can’t reveal what the #Abysm looks like just yet.” What exactly is the Abysm? Does this phrase hint on the inclusion of animation?
Yeah because the realm, the emotional realm that I portray is an abstract entity. It’s not something we can or we can imagine its like how can we visualize fifth, sixth, seventh dimensions. It’s kinda like that. What I’m trying do to right now with the visual effects team is how to technically portray that emotional escape. Like Emo-scape right. That’s what that was about. So I had actors, we had to use green screen obviously and they were suspended. It’s going to be some interesting comps to put together this realm that is supposed to represent where emotions reside, how you would, if you could visualize them.
Welcome to Willits
DecayMag.com: Welcome to Willits seems to take a darker approach than Abysm. The synopsis mentions the “notorious” Emerald Triangle”. Is this based on a real, legendary place, is it inspired by a similar place, or is this completely fictional?
Yea, that’s fictional that place Willits is real but the Emerald and that whole backstory is fictional it’s based on a short that was also screened at South by Southwest and written and directed by the Ryan Brothers. It’s a throwback to the 80’s in terms of stylistic portrayal of visual effects it’s all practical for the most part and also the look of the film and the feel of the look it’s very retro.
The story is so unique and off, like out of the box that I can’t really reveal too much about it without giving away too much and be introducing spoilers. It is toying with the idea of… again its a very thin line between reality and what you perceive the reality to be in certain circumstances and under certain external factors that you’re not in control over. It is shot in a very interesting location. Actually, it was shot at very different locations. It has a very unique…just like Abysm,….a very unique resolution at the end which I’m sure viewers will not see coming. It’s a ride.
DecayMag.com: The Welcome to Willits official site has a 13-minute teaser video that’s titled Welcome to Willits: After Sundown. Can we expect the full feature film to be just as eerie as this teaser?
What you actually see is the short film that went to South by Southwest. The actors, it has different actors but the aesthetic yes the practicals like I said through the introduction of the 80’s kinda of like if you remember Videodrome like the earlier David Cronenberg works. All of that was meticulously done on set but of course enhanced by CGI to make it look absolutely flawless and real. Aesthetically it has that feel, that you saw in the short that’s on the site.