Simon Levene got his career off the ground by going to Los Angeles
to put a test reel together. Having started as a runner at BFCS at the
end of the 80s, where he worked with the directors, Bob Brooks and
Graham Rose, he trained as an editor. However, he decided to head for
the west coast after being offered a job cutting commercials by Hank
Corwin, who had edited the feature film, Natural Born Killers, at Lost
Planet, his production company.
’I went to America because I felt it would be easier to make the
transition into directing from film editing over there, but I always
wanted to come back to London. Although there are a lot of good comedy
scripts in the US, the advertising is better here and there is generally
a higher standard of scripts,’ he says.
Having cut his teeth in directing, Levene returned to the UK and hawked
his reel round various production companies before being snapped up by
Redwing, where he stayed for a year. Redwing shut down, and Levene
joined his current home, Rose Hackney Barber, in 1995.
His reel - which now includes spots for Nissan Micra (featuring a
collection of men who come to a sticky end because they didn’t ask
before they borrowed it), Virgin Direct, Jiffi Condoms, Toyota Starlet
and Umbro - displays a variety of skills, but he clearly has a strong
eye for visual comedy and getting good character performances out of his
’I probably have more of an appreciation of comedy, but I’ve tried to
make my reel as varied as possible. I’ve had a policy of turning down
about 90 per cent of scripts over the past few years because it is
better to give your all to the ads you really want to do,’ he says. ’I’d
rather do six to eight jobs a year than churn out lots of average work
and take the money. The money isn’t important to me.’ Levene is also
keen to credit Simon Cooper, his producer at Rose Hackney.
’Directors never mention their producers but, given that budgets are so
tight now, it is crucial to have a good producer and Simon is
brilliant,’ he says, gallantly.