Fan Fest Exclusive Interview: Jordan Yale Levine talks King Cobra, Jack Goes Home, and other Projects on the Horizon
From films like Addiction: A 60’s Love Story to Wreckage, some of the best movies of the last decade are ones that tell the raw and sometimes dark side of human existence and interaction as well as horror films that could seemingly happen to anyone. These films prey on your emotions as you watch and find a way to stay in your mind long after you’ve finished; it’s the basis of their appeal. One film producer who has a hand in over 25 of those films over the last 10 years, including the aforementioned, is Jordan Yale Levine and he’s definitely made his mark in the entertainment world.
Jordan began his work in the entertainment industry when he was 19 but had a natural talent for entrepreneurship early on which spurred him successfully into the business. This doesn’t mean the road to his success was paved with gold from the start; Jordan worked hard to get where he is today which is a key part of his humble attitude. He credits his friends as much as he credits himself for the films produced, their success, and what keeps him passionate and driven.
It’s Jordan’s passion and drive that have played a hand in producing some of pop culture’s most talked about movies of the last decade and two on the horizon that are already the topic of plenty of conversation; King Cobra and Jack Goes Home – both of which debut in October.
In Jack Goes Home – a drama/horror story is told when a boy – Jack – loses his father and returns to his home to work through that loss; a friend of Jack soon says that she always believed the house was haunted, and after that statement; the trailer gets eerie. Upon finding a tape labeled ‘for Jack’ he hears his father tell him to go into the attic, only when he’s ready. The scenes flash between past parts of Jack’s life and present ones where an evil takes over; he repeatedly says “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.
King Cobra focuses on a horror story of a different kind. In 2007, a brutal murder was committed at the hands of two Virginia Beach escorts and the story made national headlines. The murder of Bryan Kocis was not only unspeakably horrifying, it was an act of almost desperation to reach the top set up by rival businessmen. Only in this true-life story the business was pornography and the prize was an up and coming adult film star, who went by the name Brent Corrigan, and the whole world wanted him. King Cobra is based off of this story; and the cast for the film, alongside the insane tale itself, is sure to go down in history as a hit.
King Cobra looks incredible, tell me a little bit about what went into the making of this film and why you wanted to get involved with it.
I knew of the writer/director, Justin Kelly, from a mutual friend (Scott Levenson, who produced Cobra with me), and I was very impressed with his work on his directorial debut, I Am Michael. So I was interested off the bat in collaborating with Justin. Also, the story was so intriguing and outside the box of your typical film, which in my opinion, definitely helps while striving for a successful independent film. The story of these two rival producers obsession over success and the mentality of doing whatever it takes to get to the top, was very enticing to me. I’ve been working extremely hard for many years, and know that work ethic is everything. With that being said, there are boundaries and limitations, and I think that if you take it too far, unfortunately horrible things can happen, and this film definitely shows that. Combining this true story with Justin’s skills as a writer/director, I knew we would have something special. Additionally, partnering with James Franco and his producing partner, Vince Jolivette of Rabbit Bandini Productions, was an amazing experience. The film was a co production between their company, and Yale Productions, Scott Levenson and myself.
How was working with James Franco?
Working with James was wonderful; he’s so talented and it was great having him on board as a producer as well. His relationships are of course stellar, and he was able to bring in Christian Slater and Keegan Allen, who were also terrific in the film.
For people who haven’t seen the trailer and know nothing about the film, how would you explain it to them to get them interested?
I like to say it’s kind of a modern version of Boogie Nights. Boogie Nights in the gay world, but in saying that, I don’t consider the movie a “gay film” whatsoever. I think that it’s a murder mystery, whether gay or straight or black or white or whatever, it’s a story where it doesn’t matter what race, color, sexuality etc. that you are. I think that everybody would be intrigued by the story and the message regarding limitations and boundaries.
Now when you talk about those limitations and boundaries, are the characters in this film aware in them and they just don’t want to stop or is it something that they’re totally blind to?
I believe that they were all so caught up in getting to the top, that nothing was going to stop them from achieving that goal. It’s ironic because (without giving much away) if they played the situation not as aggressively, and took a few breaths, I really think the outcome could have been different, and benefited everyone.
Now the story that this is based off of then, the movie seems to run pretty honestly; not too much was changed?
Yes exactly, we like to think so. Justin did a great job with the script. He was not biased in telling this story, nor was this told from the perspective of any real life person being portrayed whatsoever. I think that everything is shown in the correct manner, as far as what we know to be true, as it was very important for us not to take the side of anyone in particular – just provide the full vision based on all the facts that were provided.
For people who aren’t sure, when does this film come out and how can they watch it?
IFC will be releasing the film October 21st in limited theaters, as well as On Demand the same day.
Now Speaking about Jack Goes Home, also premiering in October, can you tell us a little bit about that film?
This film will be released through eOne, October 14th in limited theaters and On Demand the same day as well. The film was written and directed by Thomas Dekker. Thomas is very well known as an actor, and has directed many shorts and music videos, but this was his first bigger feature project. Thomas is so talented in general…acting, writing, directing, and has earned much respect from his peers, which assisted in our casting process, whether actors that he already had relationships with, or ones he did not. One actor that none of us had a prior relationship with was Rory Culkin, who led the film with an amazing performance. The other lead opposite Rory, Lin Shaye, is a very dear friend of mine; I’ve known her for at least 10 years, and it was the third movie that we worked on together. She was in another film that I produced called Black Limousine, and we actually acted in a film together a long time ago as well. In my opinion, she was perfect and I know Thomas and the team would agree with me. She’s such a talented actress, and she saw this as a different role than she typically plays. The chemistry between her and Rory was electric. The filming of that movie was really something special and different for me as a producer; There were many surreal moments during the shoot – one example was the filming of the dining room scene with Rory and Lin – the entire crew was just so quiet watching the monitor, everyone…and I’ve never seen that before, everyone was just so focused on what was going on, you could hear a pin drop in the background. The acting and directing was so perfect and beautiful.
Now, these two films have a similar vibe; is there a certain type of film that you like better than others or do you just go as you please?
It’s interesting, Jack Goes Home, I like to say is like an elevated genre piece in a way. It’s kind of a drama mixed with a horror film. To me, a similar film in this respect is the The Signal, which was written by a good friend, David Frigerio. That film starts off like a drama as well, and then turns out to be this full blown Sci-Fi film. I remember David read Jack Goes Home before I produced it, and he thought it was reminiscent of The Signal in that respect. For some reason, it’s funny, I’ve been gravitating towards a lot of these ‘dark films’. With Jack Goes Home, King Cobra, Welcome to Willits (Sci-Fi I produced earlier this year), and a film I produced this summer, Welcome The Stranger. WTS stars Riley Keough from Mad Max and American Honey, Abbey Lee from Mad Max as well, and Caleb Landry Jones from Antiviral – they’re all great actors and it’s another film that’s very dark and ironically, Justin Kelly who directed King Cobra, directed this one as well.
It’s nice that you get to work on projects with the same people.
Yes, after having a successful/fun experience with a filmmaker, it makes sense to continue to work together. I love getting to work with many of the same producing partners, crew, etc., it’s like a big family. Between all of us, there is so much top notch material, that we continue to pull from within our circle…and for some reason, a lot of the material is dark.
They’re all really interesting though, the things you’ve talked about and what I’ve seen, they’re dark but they’ll draw people in.
Thank you, the one we just did with Justin – Welcome to Stranger – I’d have to say is similar in tone to films such as Goodnight Mommy and The Witch. It’s an interesting/different one for me (and Justin as a director), and awesome for sure. Besides my most recent films, I had a film come out about a year ago now, about the heroin epidemic in the late 60’s early 70’s called Addiction: A 60’s Love Story (based on a true story too), which stars Ian Harding from Pretty Little Liars and Evanna Lynch from Harry Potter. There are a lot of similarities within all of these films (tone wise), so to answer your earlier question, I don’t necessarily go out and seek these kinds of movies but I do love the realness behind these true stories, and the fictional narratives of the others.
Now as you all work together the films may seem dark but they’ve got a sort of a real story, not like The Notebook and some of the commercial movies where everyone’s like “Okay this is how life should be”. It seems like the types of movies you work on are the ones that tell stories about how life actually is for a lot of young people.
Thank you. I really enjoy this kind of material. Even though not as public for being based on a true story like King Cobra or Addiction, Jack Goes Home is also somewhat based on events that transpired in Thomas’ life. He wrote the terrific script after dealing with a traumatic experience in his life, as a way to cope with the event.
So when you’re working on the production of multiple films, which it seems that you do a lot, how do you keep your focus separate?
It’s a good question, right now it’s an interesting time for Yale Productions, as we’re in a place of having two movies coming out in October, a couple others that are in post production, and another going into production shortly. I think we’re able to successfully manage all of this because of the amazing team, that is growing, and ironically we’re all spread out across the country. My producing partner on many of these films, Scott Levenson, is in Los Angeles, my line producer, Jon Keeyes, is located in Colorado, my lawyer, Jordan Beckerman, is in the San Francisco area, my assistant Mandi Murro is in Florida, and I’m full time in New York – we’re all in different places but we make it work. A lot of conference calls and emails! We are very fortunate to be consistently producing films at the rate we are, so we all come together in person for a production, and setup offices in each location we shoot.
So from here on, what should we be expecting from you?
One film coming up is A Bend in the Road, which was written and will be directed by David Frigerio. This film is an homage if you will to Cruel Intentions. It’s a very sexy and fast paced thriller. Another movie that I’m excited about is called Michigan, written by Mickey Solis, and will be directed by Hungarian filmmaker, János Szász. He directed The Notebook (not the film you mentioned), but a film with the same title, released by Sony Pictures Classics, which was about two boys enduring the harshness of World War II, with their survival hedging on studying and learning the evil surrounding them. He’s had a lot of critical acclaim as an international director, he also directed Opium: Diary of a Mad Woman, and Michigan will be his American Debut, which is super exciting to me. I have another film coming up that I can’t speak about yet until the press release comes out, but that information should be public in the next month or two, which I’m also psyched about.
This will be an awesome interview I can already tell but is it okay if we touch base with you to learn more about what you’re doing then?
Of course, the film being spoken about in the new press release will be one that I think you’ll like to hear about; from what I can say we will have a great cast.
Not only is Jordan proud of and ready to release King Cobra and Jack Goes Home, he spoke very excitedly about his future projects as well and with the dedication, passion, and creativity he possesses alongside his team and the incredible cast members in the films who quickly become friends; there’s no doubt that Yale Productions is just at the beginning of it’s rise in the entertainment industry and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
For more from Jordan and to find out about what films he’s working on next, check out Yale Productions and be on the watch here for more from him soon!