Maryland native produces film starring Ray Liotta and Hilary Duff
It’s no secret that Baltimore can lay claim to screen legends Barry Levinson, John Waters and David Simon.
Now, a rising crop of filmmakers, including Matt Porterfield, Chris LaMartina, and Skizz Cyzyk, are working to join these ranks. The latest ambitious auteur is Brian Levin, 33, a Maryland native and Towson University
graduate who now lives in Los Angeles. He has one feature film under his belt and a second one in the planning stages that will hopefully be shot in Baltimore.
Levin recently wrote and produced “Flock of Dudes
," whose director and co-writer Bob Castrone is a fellow Towson graduate. Jason Zumwalt, whom Levin met while working on a comedy show in New York, co-wrote the screenplay.
Chris D’Elia plays Adam, a 30-something who decides it’s time to “break up” with his friends in an effort to be more successful with women. “Flock of Dudes” is based loosely on Levin and his friends' experiences as young, single New York writers. It took inspiration from Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year Old Virgin” and Todd Phillip’s “Old School."
The comedy has assembled an impressive cast, including Ray Liotta, Hilary Duff, “Pitch Perfect's” Skylar Astin and Hannah Simone of "New Girl". Levin and his fellow filmmakers are now on the hunt for a distributor for the movie. Once they find one, they plan to promote it nationally and hold screenings in Baltimore.
“Fortunately, 'Flock of Dudes' was a script that, for a lot of the people we wanted, was something they really responded to,” Levin says about assembling his all-star cast.
Now Levin is turning his attention to his next yet-to-be titled feature that he hopes to film in Greater Baltimore. The city is going through a creative renaissance, which is drawing Levin back to his home state.
He says he hopes to make a film that tastes of Baltimore's “local flavor,” which he describes as possessing a “punk-rock type of energy.” In order to capture this energy, Levin has looked for inspiration both in Baltimore's textured music groups, such as Animal Collective, Good Charlotte, and Beach House, as well as John Waters’ movies.
The Maryland native grew up in Westminster, graduated from McDonogh School in Owings Mills and studied advertising at Towson and, later, screenwriting at American University. The film borrows heavily from many of the characters and places that influenced Levin while growing up in Maryland.
In order to capture the tone of humor he wanted in his next feature, Levin looked for inspiration both in classic comedies like “Caddyshack” and “Naked Gun”, as well as “Pink Flamingos” and “Hairspray” for their “raw and fun” energy. Levin points out that the two John Waters films are “from very different times in his careers, but both still feel fresh today.” A film's ability to stay current is “something very special. I like to make movies that have freshness.”
Levin says he hopes to shoot in Baltimore County and a few Baltimore City neighborhoods, noting his love for the Inner Harbor and the energy of Fells Point. “Even when I was writing the script, I imagined shooting scenes there.”
Levin and and his fellow producers are scouting additional locations around the city, hoping to find areas that will give the production tax credits, while also fitting to the story's needs. The film's producers are also currently exploring financing, although declined to discuss specifics.
Levin stresses his high hopes that his second feature won't be his last in Baltimore. “I'd love to shoot around Baltimore, as much as possible. The artistic climate in Baltimore seems to be dynamic. It has the urban, and it has the rural.”
But any new movie requires having plenty of tenacity to see it through. For instance, he wrote “Flock of Dudes” in 2008 and only wrapped up filming in 2013.
With a glut of independent filmmakers, it's tough for a newbie to secure a distributor for widespread theatrical release, says Scott Bayer, publisher of trade newsletter Indie Film Reporter. In a few years, many aspiring filmmakers may bypass major distributors by using video on demand to directly reach audiences. But for now, video on demand hasn't reached critical mass.
“It just takes a lot of patience," to be a filmmaker, Levin says. "In order to go into production, you need a lot of things in place.”
Ian McMurray is a BmoreMedia intern and an undergraduate film major at Johns Hopkins University. Often he writes fiction, screenplays, news and essays. Sometimes he sleeps.
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