Kevin sits down with the accomplished producer Monica Levinson to delve into her career in the film industry. From producing critically acclaimed films and box office hits to her work in mentoring and advocating for underrepresented groups, Monica shares her wealth of knowledge and experience. They discuss her passion for the craft and her unwavering commitment to giving back to the community, making her not just a successful producer but also a leader in the industry.

Working with legendary producers

Monica talks about her early years in the film industry, where she got her start working with legendary filmmakers like Alan Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and Michael Mann. She cites her work with Alan Pakula as a defining moment in her career, as it was then that she fell in love with the entire process of film production, from pre-production to post-production.

if I hadn’t had that opportunity with Alan, I don’t know that I would be doing what I’m doing. I probably would’ve stayed line-producing. I would’ve grown up and just been a line producer. But I loved post so much from being able to see the whole process unfold.

– Kevin Goetz on working with Alan Pakula

Early work on Zoolander with Ben Stiller

Monica recounts her experiences working on the set of Zoolander and the challenges of producing the film within budget constraints. Through her resourcefulness, she was able to efficiently assemble the production units and capture the footage needed. She credits her work on Zoolander with Ben Stiller as a major stepping stone in her career and believes it led to her being recommended to Sacha Baron Cohen and eventually producing the successful film Borat.

A raucous test screening of Borat

Kevin and Monica talk about an early test screening of Borat and the audience reaction to “that scene.”

I’ve never seen an audience react in such a way. There was one guy, I don’t know if you remember this, he got up on the aisle and just ran up and down the aisle.

– Monica on an early test screening of Borat

Working with Sacha Baron Cohen and spending the night in jail

Levinson shares what it was like working with Sacha Baron Cohen, and giving him the freedom to let the creative process flow on Borat. She recounts the story of being arrested while filming Borat.

Turning Thanksgiving Dinner into a documentary

Kevin asks Monica to talk about her recent documentary, The Stories of Us, an intimate portrayal of her family, her Jewish roots, and her upbringing.

I think during the pandemic, it started to dawn on me the anti-Semitism that was starting to brew, and I thought, well, maybe I’ll just put something out about my family and that we’re a Jewish family. And look, we’re all pretty much the same. We all tell stories around a Thanksgiving table. We’re all connected in some way.

– Monica on making The Stories of Us

Test screening her new project with Bill Burr

Kevin asks Monica to share a time that an audience test screening led to a significant change in one of her films. Monica talks about her new project with Bill Burr, Old Dads, and how the audience response led to a reshoot.

Giving back

Kevin and Monica delve into the topic of diversity and inclusivity in the film industry, with a focus on Monica’s efforts to advocate for and mentor underrepresented groups. Monica shares her wisdom and advice for young and emerging filmmakers and highlights some of the projects she is currently working on that aim to empower and promote women within the industry. She speaks about the importance of representation and the role of mentorship in creating more opportunities for diverse voices in film.

My advice is just to find yourself a mentor. Look for people that are doing what you want to be doing, and try to find the people that are doing what you want to be doing in the industry. And then start talking to them and start trying to figure out how you’re going to maneuver your way. Because the one other thing is to have a little patience. And with time, it will happen.

Join Kevin and his guest Monica Levinson as they take us on a journey through her career, starting from her early days as a filmmaker to her current position as a prominent producer and leader in Hollywood. Monica shares her influences, creative process, and her unwavering desire to give back and support the next generation of filmmakers. Check out the fascinating discussion, and enjoy some insider stories on Kevin’s podcast, Don’t Kill the Messenger!

Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.

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