I “met” Thunder Levin minutes before his meteoric rise to fame (we’re all hoping fortune is soon to follow). I encountered Levin entirely by accident: I’m stalking late 80s heartthrob Richard Grieco*, and Levin wrote and directed Grieco’s most recent movie.
My research included the intriguing discovery that Levin’s AE: Apocalypse Earth (The Asylum’s “mockbuster’ answer to Will Smith’s After Earth) had climbed onto the list of the 50 most active movies on IMDB. In my book, this was already a pretty significant win, but it doesn’t begin to compare with what happened to Levin just weeks later, when a little film he’d penned by the name of Sharknado set Twitter on fire and drew news coverage from channels as far-flung as Good Morning,
!and The New Yorker. America
It turns out that a little thing like 5,000 Tweets per minute can have a big impact on a writer’s career, and Thunder (who is also a director, though he didn’t direct Sharknado) now has a new agency representing him and bright prospects ahead. And I’m very glad he does—he’s witty, intelligent and well-informed, which is basically my checklist for people I’d like to see capturing more public attention. And, I happen to know that he has a little project called 2176 in development that I’m interested to see on the big screen.
I suspect that most of you never heard of Levin before last week, but that doesn’t mean he came out of nowhere. In fact, his earliest director’s credit dates back to 1992, when he was just 27 years old. My point isn’t to say, “Man, this guy’s old!” (he’s a year older than I am), but to drive home the fact that—like most people who suddenly catch the public eye in the creative arts—Levin has been building the foundation for years. Decades, even. And although I haven’t asked him, I’d wager that he never expected Sharknado to be the vehicle that brought his big break.
The moral of the story is one you’ve heard a thousand times before (and probably at least 500 of them from me): you never know when the first crack in the door is going to appear, or when the right piece of work is going to catch the attention of the right person or when the life-altering opportunity is going to come along. You might never expect that it will arrive on the tail of a flying shark, but sometimes it does. And the only way to get to that moment is to keep building the foundation in every way you can, doing what you were meant to do, finding a way to make it pay and being ready to move quickly when you see that sliver of light along the edge of the door.
*No, not that kind of stalking. I'm hoping that Richard will agree to be the subject of my next, "no, really, there's a lot more to this guy than you realize" biography. So far, he's kind of a tease.