By Jim Hill with Jonathan Levine

For practitioners of performance and quality, it is beneficial for us to hear from client executives – particularly those that think more about practical outcomes than they do about the science behind the solutions. What follows is a discussion with a notable executive using questions crowdsourced from various interest groups.

JH: Tell me a little bit about the culture of your organization and the biggest priority you have for the year.

JL: For me, there are two parts to this. “Larry King Now” is produced by a new media company that is a co-venture between Larry and Carlos Slim. It is, basically, a start-up–just a year or so old. On the other side of my life is my company, Infinitive Films. We make features as well as new media products. Both of the organizations have the start-up mentality, and we are constantly wrestling with how to achieve high production value for low cost with a minimum number of employees. At the same time, we’re trying to bridge the gap between the old model and the new digital model, and where viewers are going for their storytelling and information. The media landscape is changing in that regard.

JH: I had the chance to watch you engage with your cinematographer during my visit to your movie set for The Daughter. You’d shoot a scene and then review it. Quite often, he’d say, “I don’t buy it.” With just a short two or three sentence collaborative exchange, you would make a go–reshoot decision. What was going on in your head as you made those decisions?

JL: Everything we do is meant to serve the story and, more than that, the “heart” of the story. What is the movie about? What is the emotional core of the story? Great cinematographers are incredibly detail oriented. They may even get obsessed with perfection. But sometimes a shot is just about someone walking from one door to another door. That shot or that moment is really just a bridge. As a director, certain moments have to exist to fulfill the purpose of the story. So, if the cinematographer disagrees with a shot, I just have to figure out where it fits in the heart of the story.

JH: Over the past few years, you’ve been involved in different types of media. You did the movie, then you moved to the production of the Larry King show via the web, and now you’re transferring that to a TV-like market. How do the concepts of performance and results get translated in your industry?

JL: Although the film and web worlds are different, they are converging. In film, every person on the set has a very specific job. In the new media–web entertainment world, I look for people who can do everything. If I’m looking for an editor, the best candidate is someone who can edit the show, do graphics for the show, and do sound mixing. In the web world, there just isn’t time. I need to have a TV show by the end of the day. I know that viewers will be logging in at a particular time expecting to see something. In the film world, I want to raise the money, get the movie shot, get it through post-production, and then get it out to the world. It is months versus hours.

So beyond finding people with the technical capabilities, I’m looking for people I trust to meet the timeline with a very high level of quality.

JH (for JL): One of your bosses is among the wealthiest men in the world. Another is one of the most iconic personalities in television history. How do you work with that type of highly demanding leadership?

JL: I think the one thing I learned from Larry [King], which, I suspect, he learned from Ted Turner at CNN, is the idea of hiring people who you respect and believe in and then get out of their way. My job is to be sure that trickles down to all departments.

Jonathan LevineAbout Jonathan Levine
Jonathan Levine is a filmmaker, writer, and producer based in Los Angeles, CA. He recently wrote, produced, and directed the independent feature The Daughter, a thriller that garnered top prizes at the 2013 WorldFest–Houston International Film Festival and has been sold worldwide by Fabrication Films. He has developed screenplays with numerous production companies including Benderspink, Odd Lot Entertainment, and Sony. He produced the feature film S.E.R.E., which was profiled in Variety in March 2008. Jonathan also serves as technical director and post-production supervisor for “Larry King Now” and “Politicking with Larry King” on Hulu.com and RT America. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.