When director Levi Eddie Aluede picks up my Instagram video call, they’re sitting outside on a balcony. As if already prepared for a profile shot, Levi finds himself naturally lit by the sun, leaned back in a relaxed pose that my long-abused spine immediately envies. I’m sat on my bed twenty minutes awake, attempting to look like I’m also completely in control of my life. Living and working in London, Levi is currently working with fellow filmmaker and partner Amber Bardell as well as the crew on a new web series, Visions of a Vivid Life. To be released in four parts, the first two episodes are directed by Levi while the final two are co-directed by Bardell, Sayna Fardaraghi & Levi.
Visions of a Vivid Life is a four-part web series centred around Kafka (Matt Blin), a new employee at a mysterious private company that helps people ‘process’ their dreams. Visions has already won multiple awards, including the 2020 Pinnacle Film Awards for Best Pilot/Web Series and Best Screenplay.
Where did this web series come from? Whose brain did it come from?
“I had written a feature script maybe three years ago, to be made at some point. Later after making my first short Ingénue (2019), I realised I needed to make something very story driven and character driven. There are ideas around memory in this film, [and I thought] maybe I could make a short series from these ideas”
So the idea of Visions was born before your first short, in a way. Do you think as you get more experienced and more capable of making certain projects, patience plays a lesser or greater role in film-making? Does managing what you can make get easier or more difficult as you go on?
“I think it depends on what your mindset is, how you want to make films. I made the short because I thought I’ve been writing long enough, but haven’t directed. My target was making a film, not telling a story that I’d written before. Ingénue took so long to make, that I knew I could never do it that way again. I have to have the story first and then find a way to make that. Visions ended up being the first project I worked on with this in mind”.
Talking about different creative roles that you’ve had – cinematography, writing, directing – with Visions there’s clear delegation of specific roles. Sayna Fardaraghi did cinematography and directing, Amber Bardell directing and production design. As a young filmmaker is there any anxiety around working with strangers? Working with people you know must be more common…
“Actually, on Visions everyone I worked with apart from my editor and Matt — the actor who plays Kafka – was new. I’d known them in some other way but never worked with them. They were the people I wanted to work with. Since working on Visions though we’ve all become good friends and we really respect each other’s work”.
When it’s finished, what’s the goal? Where do you want it to go?
“When I started making it, I just wanted to make a series for the internet. Have people watch it and I can say that I can write and direct stuff with characters and a story. In terms of festivals and awards, I knew I wanted to put Visions somewhere where the cast and crew could be rewarded for their work in some way. We submitted to a few festivals and it seems to be doing well, which is strange and new to me. Ultimately though it will end up where it was supposed to, free for everyone to watch”.
In terms of release, reception and awards, does a project belong to other people at that stage or is it still yours? How does the reception of a project affect how you approach future work, if at all?
“I think once you’ve made what you’ve made, it’s not in your hands anyway. It belongs to the audience. I’ve been working on a script for a documentary feature film, which I started two years ago. Having done the heaviest part of the web series, the first two episodes, I’m just working on that other stuff. Beyond that the awards are just like woah, this is really nice. I’m still making the same things I was making before them. The awards are just a like…thank god it’s good! Because we can keep doing it and not be worried about whether it’s good or bad. It gives me more fuel to make season two”.
Networking is an important part of the process and I think you’ve done a good job of creating events and a profile to your filmmaking. Naturally many younger directors don’t have an established persona or style of filmmaking yet, but you have staged events and reached out to people to build your network. How do you navigate that space?
“In a way, directing is just hiring people that are better than you at certain jobs, that’s really it. Things you can’t do and they can. You get them together through scheduling – the real miracle – and you guide it into a whole thing. With screenings and stuff, it’s the same thing. People are great at what they do and I want to promote their work. I learnt from my first film that when I entered a film festival, I had the cheapest budget of any of the films there. There was a huge gap between what you can make and what you think is a decent budget, what you can see people making. You don’t have many opportunities to see films on the lower end compete with others.
That’s what we wanted to achieve with screenings and Future First as a company. It’s important to have a ‘ship’ with all those types of films on.”
Personally, would you want an increasingly bigger budget on everything you go on to do?
“I think overall the budget of Visions is the same as my first film. The budget for shooting was actually a lot less, due to a combination of other factors. I usually don’t think about budgeting until I have a producer for a project and I have to direct it. When budgets do come into play at some stage of production, you know you’re going to have to write new stuff or change stuff, that just happens and you have to be ok with it. The next film I want to do before a second season of Visions will have a bigger budget but in the grand scheme of the industry, it still won’t be huge. Even big blockbuster directors don’t really ‘care’ how much a film costs at first, it’s not their job to immediately consider.”
You help run a platform that helps promote small productions and you produce things with tight budgets. Do you think that’s a way of filmmaking which will become more essential as climate change forces the film industry to shrink in some ways? Should we look to smaller communities of filmmaking that don’t rely on such grand, destructive scales of production?
“I think the types of films we see will change. Take Marvel, where they’ve done the biggest thing they could possibly do, really. Now they’re beginning to invest in smaller TV shows and lower budget films. You can make an amazing TV show with the same budget as a film or less than. More people might watch it. The types of media we’re going to see will be different. Studios just want filmmakers to make good projects with any tools they’re given. The passion for telling stories stays the same. Where my place is in it, I don’t know. I’m just going to keep making what I want to make and let the world decide what it wants from film.”
Visions of a Vivid Life is currently still in production, with two episodes released for awards contention but not yet to the public. The series is being produced and distributed by Future First Films, a London based production company founded by Dylan Mascis and Levi Eddie Aluede.