When MovieMaker asked a range of successful indie filmmakers to participate in our Film School Roundtable article for our upcoming Summer issue, we received a wide range of insightful, hilarious, and diverse answers.

The three questions we asked each alum: What did you do right in film school, what did you do wrong, and what advice would you have for 2015’s incoming class of budding auteurs? Like the cool upperclassmen whose brains you always wanted to pick, but were too shy to vocalize, we’re happy to step in as your moderator and fraternal big brother.

This week, Kimberly Levin (NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts) shares her wisdom. The director’s feature Runoff opens in theaters today.


1. What did you do right when you were in film school?

Kimberly Levin (KL): I had trained in biochemistry before film school, so it was all new to me. Soaking up everything from three-point lighting to editing on a Steenbeck has saved my ass as a director on many occasions. If your DP goes down with heat stroke in the middle of the boonies, you can pick up the camera and still make your day. If you have to go back to location to collect extra sound, but don’t have a budget, you can boom and record in the middle of a hog pen if need be. And when things are going well, understanding each part of the craft will enable you to work on a deeper level with your collaborators.

2. What did you do wrong when you were in film school?

KL: I was also directing plays in New York City during film school. I thought I could pull it off. I never missed classes or shoots. But looking back I missed something just as valuable, which was a lot of the in-between moments: the unscheduled time where you allow what you’ve just learned to settle in, at the bar or in the park with your comrades, when ideas germinate and collaborations are built.

3. What’s the one best piece of advice you’d give to an incoming film student, so that they can make the most of their time at film school?

KL: If this is what you really want to do, you’re going to face a lot of challenges. You’re going to question the sanity of your path. And rest assured that your Uncle Jimmy will ask you at every holiday, “Why don’t you cut the shit and get your realtor’s license?” It’s cold out there, Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. MM

Runoff opens in theaters July 24, 2015, courtesy of Monterey Media.