Profile - Jonathan Levine
Name Jonathan Levine
Born 1978, New York City
Background Given he’s been making movies since he was a prepubescent 12-year-old, NYC born and bred Jonathan Levine was always going to become a film director. Graduating from the Arts/Semiotics programme at the Ivy League Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Levine got a job back home working as PA for filmmaker Paul Schrader in 2002. Later that year, Levine moved to Los Angeles to study at the American Film Institute Conservatory, where he made his thesis film Shards, a short about a hip hop DJ attempting to kick his crystal meth habit. Its success at film festivals lead to Levine signing on to direct his first feature, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a teen slasher with attitude and cool way beyond the average genre entry.
What’s he up to now? His second feature, The Wackness, a Sundance award-winning high school drama written and directed by Levine has just come out on DVD. The film is heavily based on his own teenage years. Set in NYC in 1994 and focusing on the painful initiation into adulthood of a young pothead (played by Josh Peck), the film is extremely evocative of the end-of-an-era of blissful innocence (signified by the tough social reforms ushered in by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani).
What he says about making a high school movie ‘I wanted to do a movie about that time in someone’s life when they’re leaving school and becoming a grown up. And I really like high school movies that are authentic. For me, the best high school movie is Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. So rather than trying to write a movie that takes place in present day – now that I’m 30 I don’t know what kids are doing – the best way to be authentic was to go back and write about the year I graduated high school. That, and I liked the music.’
Interesting fact Although securing music rights is usually a budget-breaking exercise, Levine had few problems acquiring the rights for his old school hip hop soundtrack, because ‘no one really puts that music in films’.
The Wackness is available on DVD now (Revolver).