Photos by: Sela Shiloni
LA-based director, screenwriter and self-proclaimed “Disco Witch” Maggie Levin counts the highly collaborative “glitter-and-sweat-soaked extravaganza” live club show, “THE ROCKY HORROR HIPSTER SHOW,” in her top accomplishments. Maggie also devotes her time to works of progressive activism with Women of Action Los Angeles, and pursuing a highly creative filmmaker career path. In an industry rife with pitfalls, inequalities and trainwrecks, Maggie is all the right kind of drama and rock and roll.
Perhaps what we love most about this lavender-locks goddess is her commitment to “very girl power projects” — articulating the stories of women and transforming them into dynamic cinematic works, such as “MISS 2059,” “THE FRIENDLESS FIVE,” and VR film, “VAIN.” Maggie’s work encapsulates our Belle en Argent Muse philosophy around celebrating film and art and creating community around artistic expression. At the time of this interview, Maggie shared details around her latest short film project and some sound advice to her past and future selves.
We played Two Truths and a Lie with Maggie! .....You probably know the rules, but here is a quick refresher--Below, Maggie gave us two true fun facts, as well as one that's made up. See if you can guess which one is the lie! View the answer at the bottom of her interview.
As a kid, I won a walk-on role in FREAKS & GEEKS, but the show was canceled before I could make it to LA.
I've had two separate, embarrassing encounters with Uma Thurman - one where I spilled coffee all over her, another where I asked a very silly question in a Q&A.
I was a 'merkin model' in a music video for a well-known female recording artist. I wore roughly 25 merkins with different goofy designs. I'm pretty sure my face was never visible.
List your social handles
View this post on Instagram
I don’t use this space for activism very often but what’s going on in our country at this moment is so unacceptable; it feels gross & callous as hell to gloss over it with some pink emojis & move on with my Monday like nothing’s wrong. @womenofactionla is formulating a plan for some LA local action items/ways to help out. I’ll post those in my story as soon as we’ve locked em in. // 📷 @selashilonifilm
List your favorite social media handles to follow
My friends & collaborators who are CRUSHING it on the 'gram lately: DP/Director @audenbui
Actresses @helenhighfield and @shelbyyoung
In terms of folks I don't know, I'm currently loving the sexy art of @petitesluxures, the psychedelic work of @oliverhibert, and the life/advice/everything of Queer Eye's @tanfrance.
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I've been a version of this since I was very young. I went to college for theatre directing and playwriting, and I founded a non-profit theatre company right before I graduated. About a year out of school, I was offered the opportunity to come to UCLA to direct a workshop of a musical I'd written. After the workshop, I decided to stay in Los Angeles - and almost immediately, I transitioned into filmmaking.
Make films with your friends.— Maggie Levin (@MaggieLevin) February 5, 2018
What projects are you working on now?
I'm finishing a short film called, “DIVA.” It's about the moment before a pop star steps onstage -- only this 'moment' encapsulates an entire two year tour. I'm also working on several projects for a storytelling app called YARN, including an ongoing series for Archie Comics, where Archie & the Gang meet Sabrina the Teenage Witch. There's a new episode out every day at 11 am PST!
What is your dream project? Or dream collaboration?
That is a HUGE question. At the top of the list of Big Goals is showrunning an original TV series about music or magic. I'd also love to direct an Ani DiFranco biopic, work in the writers’ room for "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," and direct a big fat superhero tentpole. Right now, my top pie-in-the-sky collabs would be with composer Ludwig Göransson or musician James Blake.
List three (3) accomplishments you are most proud of
I'm very proud of the activism group I co-founded. We're called, “Women of Action Los Angeles” (aka WALA), and together we've raised over $40K to help different progressive causes.
I'm forever proud of the club show I put on annually, called THE ROCKY HORROR HIPSTER SHOW - it's a live, glitter-and-sweat-soaked extravaganza, made possible by the collaborative efforts of so many people I adore.
On a smaller, even more personal level, I'm proud that I've continued to pursue a career in this field. You have to be a little insane to believe you can make a living as a filmmaker, and the business will always find new and terrible ways to test your patience and confidence. Simply staying the course is probably my most significant accomplishment.
Who is your favorite character from a movie?
This is cheating, because it was a stage show first (and perhaps more recognizably), but my favorite character from anything ever is Hedwig from HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH. I have seen Hedwig's journey hundreds of times, and it never fails to floor me in new ways.
Who is your favorite filmmaker/writer/director/producer/editor, etc?
Edgar Wright makes kinetic, music-driven, clever-as-hell movies that always leave me excited & inspired.
Did you know in 2016 women made up only 7% of all directors working on the 250 top grossing films?
The numbers are a constant motivator. To work harder. To push forward. To create more jobs for female, POC and minority creatives of all kinds. Even as we struggle towards parity for women in film, I feel painfully aware how few opportunities exist for trans and non-binary creatives outside of very niche spaces. I strongly believe that the more varied representation we see in every area of filmmaking, the better our content will become.
What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self? What is one wish you have for your future self?
To my younger self, whatever it is, quit worrying about it. It's not worth the loss of sleep or writing time.
To my future self: Giiiirllllll, I hope you are taking a second to eat a snack and hug the people you care about and occasionally get the hell out of town. All grind and no chill is bad for your relationships, your skin & your digestive system.
What's your favorite makeup item?
Heavy black mascara!
Anything we forgot to ask about that you want to share?
Nothing beats the art that comes out of great collaboration, so I advise every aspiring filmmaker to go forth and make films with your friends!
Which is the Lie?
I've had two separate, embarrassing encounters with Uma Thurman - one where I spilled coffee all over her, another where I asked a very silly question in a Q&A. (This actually happened with Ethan Hawke)