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Women to Watch: Jennifer Levine of Untitled Entertainment

Women to Watch: Jennifer Levine of Untitled Entertainment

I have watched Jennifer for
years as she and I participate at the Sundance World Cinema networking
event, speaking to international filmmakers whose films
are showing at the festival. But it is only now that I have actually
heard about all she does:

So what is it you do?

As a manager of writers and directors for over 16 years at Untitled
Entertainment (a company I helped launch), I have always been
particularly interested
in working with voices from around the globe and am drawn to strong,
distinctive storytellers with unique points of view. I also act as a
producer on a
selective basis.

How do you select clients?

My roster of clients really reflects both my personal taste in
storytelling and in people; coupled with my instincts about what I think
the marketplace
will respond to. By that I don’t mean selling a certain genre of
content that I think the market will buy (though it is great when that
happens), but
rather introducing producers, executives, other artists and
financiers to writers and/or directors with material that is fearless,
exceptionally well
executed and provokes an authentic emotional reaction – whatever the
genre.

Do you consider yourself a “Hollywood” manager?

I have found that some of the most interesting film and television
projects have emerged from the intersection of storytellers from both
inside and outside
the Hollywood system. I had the unforgettable experience earlier
this year of seeing a team of Argentine filmmakers (Armando Bo and
Nicolas Giacobone) I
signed off of a Spanish language film at Sundance a few years ago,
win the Academy Award for best original screenplay as the co-writers of
“Birdman.” That
was a journey I would not have predicted three years ago and yet it
is a fantastic recognition that if you bring strong, distinctive
storytelling into the
world, there will be an audience to appreciate it.

What do you have to do with the film currently hitting the theaters, “Black Souls”?

One of my most recent client signs is a stunningly talented Italian
filmmaker named Francesco Munzi whose film “Black Souls” (his third
feature) premiered
at the most recent Venice and Toronto film festivals. It has always
been a personal interest of mine to find an Italian filmmaker to
represent as I lived
in Italy for a few years and have always been drawn to the culture
and speak the language. I was really captivated by the sophistication
and gritty realism
of Francesco’s filmmaking in “Black Souls.”
From both a level of craft and storytelling, as well as the intensity
of the performances he captured, I felt
strongly that he has the ability to speak to an international
audience and wanted to help him transition into English language films.

READ MORE: ‘Black Souls’ is a Sobering and Sharply Executed Twist on the Mob Genre

Fortunately Vitagraph picked up “Black Souls” for a U.S. theatrical
release and it just started rolling out across the country in April. The
reviews so far
have been pretty stellar. I am excited to help introduce the
entertainment industry to him and his work so we can find the right
English-language debut
project for him.

How do you define your role in the business?

My role is not limited to representing only film and television
writers and directors. I work in every and any medium that my clients
want to explore
(theater, books, digital content, graphic novels, video games, etc)
which is part of the fun of being a manager. It also means I am
constantly learning
something new, which is partly why I am still challenged by my job
so many years into it. For example, taking playwrights and helping them
transition into
successful film and television writers (two of my clients who
started in the theater and continue to work actively in the theater, are
seeing great success
in every medium right now including current Blacklist scribe David
Bar Katz who is writing films for Universal, Fox and Warner Bros and
past Blacklist
scribe Bess Wohl who has a network pilot in post-production for ABC
and features in development for Paramount and Disney).

I am also still excited to
discover someone at the very beginning of their career and have recently helped launch a young filmmaker named Steven Caple Jr.
who just came out of USC
film school last year with some award winning short films. I was
introduced to the script for his debut feature along with a teaser he
shot for it and knew
that he had something to say and the vision and drive to make it
happen. A year after first meeting him, we are about to head into
pre-production on that
feature. I also believe strongly in working with women filmmakers
and am fortunate enough to work with exceptional artists like U.K.
director Sophie Muller
who is an internationally acclaimed music video director and award
winning Canadian Ruba Nadda (“Cairo Time”, “October Gale”) who has made
four features (a
feat for any young filmmaker).

How did you become a manager?

I fell into management almost by accident but it turned out to be a
great match for me, allowing me to evolve creatively and professionally
in this
changing marketplace. It is a role which requires that I utilize
skills from almost every job I have ever had (from being a summer camp
counselor in high
school, to working in finance in NYC, film acquisitions in Italy and
studio development and production experience in Hollywood) and I
treasure the feeling
of true partnership I go into with the artists I represent.

The flexibility and entrepreneurial nature of my role as a manager has also presented exciting
producing opportunities. A recent example is the film “Meadowland
which I executive produced and which just had a world premiere at the
Tribeca Film
Festival – written by client Chris Rossi and starring Untitled
client Olivia Wilde. I’m heading to Cannes in May with projects that I
am championing both
for management clients and (in a few instances) as a producer. And
of course, keeping my eyes open for exciting new writers and directors.

JENNIFER LEVINE Bio

Jennifer Levine, Head of Production and Literary Management at
Untitled Entertainment (a top Hollywood entertainment management and
production company with
offices in Los Angeles, New York, and London), divides her time
between representing a diverse group of writer, director, producer, and
actor clients and
shepherding a wide range of entertainment projects as a producer.

Prior to her position at Untitled, a company she helped start over
sixteen years ago, Ms. Levine held positions in both feature film
development and
production, including stints at 20th Century Fox, Disney, and Kopelson Entertainment. In her various capacities, she has worked on dozens of
studio and independent films.

Ms. Levine also spent three years based in Milan, Italy acquiring
film and television rights for Italian distributor Compagnia
Distribuzione Audiovisivi
and participating in numerous international film markets and
festivals. While in Italy, she also ran her own highly successful
special events business and
has been profiled in a wide range of Italian publications. Before
moving to Italy, Jennifer started her career on Wall Street, working
with international
investment funds for Chase Manhattan Bank.

Ms. Levine holds an M.F.A. from USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program,
where she was also a national finalist for the Sundance Producing
Fellowship, winner
of the Charles Ferguson Marketing Award, and recipient of the Ray
Stark Film Grant. She has an undergraduate degree in literature from
Wesleyan University
and was born in New York and raised in Los Angeles.

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