On Monday, January 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by NYFA Producing alum, Alex Lebovici. Lebovici was executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated Denzel Washington drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Who We Are Now (2017), The Clapper (2017) as well as an unofficial short fan film based on hit video game Uncharted, starring Nathan Fillion and which garnered rave reviews and Internet buzz.
Lebovici began the lecture by discussing his beginnings: “I started making short films [when] I was 13 with my closest friends … and I always wanted to be part of the movie business.” Lebovici moved from Canada to the United States and studied directing at New York Film Academy, where he made 12 short films during his academic career. After he graduated, Lebovici was an intern at Original Film, the company that produced the Fast and the Furious film franchise, but, unfortunately was laid off.
After moving back to Canada, Lebovici became a door-to-door salesman, working six days a week, 12 hours a day, for six years. “I prepared myself [by] doing something very challenging … of the people that opened the door, 95% of them said no but the 5% that said yes [were] more than enough to earn a living.” Despite his success, he still ached to return to the entertainment industry.
Lebovici was inspired one night after being denied entry to a fancy nightclub in his native Toronto. The next day, he purchased an American pay-as-you-go mobile phone, registered it to a Beverly Hills zip code and called the nightclub as his own fake assistant; he told the nightclub that he was an assistant to a producer from Los Angeles that wanted to produce a television show about “bodyguards who protect A-list celebrities when they come to Toronto.”
That phone call got Lebovici introduced to all of the nightclub owners, bodyguards, and doormen in Toronto. Word got to movie star Steven Seagal that Lebovici owned a bodyguard company; he didn’t, but he made sure Seagal and his guests were taken care of during their visit to Toronto free of charge. Seagal knew that nothing comes for free and asked Lebovici what he wanted in return; Lebovici asked if he would star in a pilot for a show about bodyguards. Seagal agreed.
In a matter of months, Lebovici went from being a guy who couldn’t get into a nightclub to a guy that was known and welcomed by all of the nightclub owners in Toronto, with a potential television show pilot starring Steven Seagal. Lebovici called all of the production companies in Toronto, pitched his pilot to them and started a bidding war between two companies for the rights to produce the show. Lebovici was then contacted by various Hollywood actors’ representatives and the show’s cast started to grow.
Lebovici learned from this experience how to be a producer and went on to produce a number of projects in the United States; he continued to make valuable contacts through networking with nightclub promoters and owners and he carefully gauged when it was appropriate to ask his contacts for favors, “You’ve got to build them up to it by playing a slow game,” said Lebovici, “…you don’t want to be too thirsty in this business.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Alex Lebovici for sharing his experiences and honest advice with our students!