Home Director Interview: Matthew Levine’s Micro-Budget “Miss Freelance” Unveiled

Interview: Matthew Levine’s Micro-Budget “Miss Freelance” Unveiled

Maddy Murphy in Miss Freelance (2019), directed by Matthew Levine

indieactivity : Give a background of your personal experience with the story, writing, production and marketing?
Matthew Levine : So I started tinkering with idea for “Miss Freelance” over this last winter. It was my first winter living in Brooklyn, and I was weirdly inspired by the harsh and desolate nature of New York City during this time of year. I’m a freelance videographer/editor and in a lot of ways I felt like Carly. At a certain point it got so cold that you could barely go outside, and I felt like all I was doing outside was traveling from client to client. I thought that was interesting, this idea of being isolated in such a huge metropolis. So I finished the script in January, and we shot it in February… and it took a long time to edit but we finally finished it a couple months ago.

indieactivity : Did you start writing with a cast (You or any) in mind?
Matthew Levine : Nope I had no one specific in mind. This was my first film that I shot in Brooklyn so I knew I wanted to work with local actors who could really embody the characters and make them their own. So I just put out an ad on Backstage and went through hundreds of auditions until I found what I was looking for.

indieactivity : How long did you take to complete the script? (Do you have a writing process?)
Matthew Levine : Writing the script only took a few weeks. It’s hard to say if I have a routine writing process. Normally I’m just always thinking about possible story ideas, but I only actually sit down to write when I’m excited enough about one idea. With this film I definitely started with the character. I actually know a few people who do the kind’ve work that Maddy’s character does. The people I know don’t do it full-time like her, but they’ve done it once or twice, and I found the concept of someone doing this as a full-time job interesting.

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Matthew Levine and Maddy Murphy on the set of Miss Freelance

indieactivity : When did you form your production company – and what was the original motivation for its formation?
Matthew Levine : I guess I wouldn’t really call my team and I a production company. I’ve been making films since I was 11 and the process always consisted of just getting some friends together and shooting whatever I could with the budget I had. “Miss Freelance” wasn’t shot any differently. I had more of a budget this time just because I now have a videography business, but I worked with a very small three-man crew that consisted of me and my close friends, and I paid for the actors and equipment all out of my own pocket.

indieactivity : What was the first project out of the gate?
Matthew Levine : Again, in a way my first project out of the gate was a 2 minute movie shot on my Mom’s flip phone when I was a kid. But I guess I’d consider my first actual film to be a short I shot in Denver called “Gloss.” It followed the psychological breakdown of an aspiring actress and her more successful roommate. That was the first one where we actually auditioned actors and had a bit of a budget.

indieactivity : During production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot?
Matthew Levine : I’d say the hardest thing to shoot was all the shots down in the subway. Firstly there’s the general paranoia of getting caught filming down there because we didn’t have a permit. And then you also have to avoid people looking at the camera or shouting things at you while you’re filming. All that had to get cut out.

indieactivity : What works better in this latest production that mightn’t have worked so well in the last one you did?
Matthew Levine : For this one we had some really talented actors on set, and we shot with two cameras. So we were really able to just let them go and improvise with each other, which we really couldn’t do before for consistency reasons.

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Maddy Murphy and Matthew Levine on the set of Miss Freelance

indieactivity : You produced and directed the film, what measure of input did it take to don these hats?
Matthew Levine : Not only did I produce and direct, but I also wrote, filmed, edited and cast the film. For me I don’t even think about it. I’d rather be in control of everything. In a way I feel like the movie won’t truly feel like mine unless I take care of, or at least oversee all aspects. The only thing I don’t take care of is the sound and the acting. Luckily I work with very talented people who are great at recording and mixing the sound.

indieactivity : Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business you still struggle with?
Matthew Levine : It depends on how you look at the art of filmmaking. Of course I’d like more of a budget. But I definitely don’t find it to be a struggle to be an independent filmmaker. Making a film is hard. But it’s my favorite thing to do, so I only consider it to be a joy and a privilege to make a film.

indieactivity : Where do you think your strengths line as a filmmaker?
Matthew Levine : My favorite thing to do is working with the actors. I’m definitely more of a hands on director. I used to act as a kid so I know how hard it can be and I feel like I know what needs to be said to get the right performance out of the actor. It’s so fun for me to discuss the characters and the themes of the film with the actors.

indieactivity : Let’s talk finance, How did you finance the film?
Matthew Levine : Like I said before, the film was completely financed out of pocket. I don’t want to change my vision or the story in order to make it more marketable, so I like to just fund it myself. Luckily I’m already a videographer so I already had most of the equipment I needed. The only thing I needed to rent was the second camera and the audio equipment.

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indieactivity : How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make any dent without it these days?
Matthew Levine : I probably should think about it more but I really don’t think about marketing until the movie’s done. I don’t really intend on making any profit off of my work, especially since it’s a short film. Maybe when I make a feature I’ll think about that more. I only market after the films completion to get eyes on it. Like any filmmaker, I want an audience for my film. I want people to experience the world and the characters that I created.

indieactivity : Can you tell us about your marketing activities on the project – and how it’s gone for you?
Matthew Levine : For this project I’ve actually learned a lot from Timothy J. Cox, the actor in “Miss Freelance” who played Ben. I always submitted to a few festivals after the movie was completed. But he’s really incredible at getting the film out there and submitting it to reviewers and festivals at a rapid rate. So far this movie has gotten more recognition and views than any of my others. The reception has been great so far!

indieactivity : What do you hope audiences get from your film?
Matthew Levine : I hope they enjoy diving into Carly’s strange and gritty world. And I hope they can see it as a comment on the technology-crazed gig economy that we live in and experience every day. I hope they question where Carly came from and where she’s going even though the movie doesn’t really delve into her past. I want the audience to ask where she came from and why her life is the way it is. Does she have student debt to pay off? Is there some deep-rooted psychological issue behind her yearning for validation? I think all of these questions are really fun and interesting to explore. That’s why I tend to make my movie more ambiguous… I’d rather not answer these questions for my audience, I want them to ponder these things themselves and make their own interpretations. It makes the movie more interactive.

indieactivity : What else have you got in the works?
Matthew Levine : Right now I’m just taking a break and making sure to focus on spreading the word for this film. But I’m definitely messing around with a few ideas. The main question now is whether I should move forward with another short or perhaps make a feature film. Right now I’m working on a script that follows a middle aged couple who make their living by giving self-help seminars to people who are lost (addicts, ex-cons, etc.). I really want the next film to be something that explores the immoral tendencies of the greedy American entrepreneur. We’ll see what happens with that idea, could go nowhere but you never know.

Tell us what you think of the interview with “Matthew Levine” What do you think of it? What ideas did you get? Do you have any suggestions? Or did it help you? Lets have your comments below and/or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! Or join me on Twitter @oladapobamidele

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