How Ola Christian, Founder Of LEVILE, Is Breaking Down Barriers In Film & TV


TRENCH have partnered with the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy to highlight the powerful and uplifting work being done by some of the UK’s grassroot social entrepreneurs. As part of that, TRENCH’s Caleb Femi went down to Enfield to speak with Ola Christian, founder of LEVILE, who created his own platform to solve the lack of support for emerging talent within the UK’s film and TV industries. You can check out their monthly Levile & Chill showcases down at the Red Bull space in Covent Garden.

For the first time in the UK, the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy will be heading to Bradford, from Sept. 28 – Oct. 6, to deliver an empowering eight-day development programme for on-the-ground social entrepreneurs. If you have an innovative project that is creating positive change in your community, but need help taking it to the next level, then this is for you. During this programme, you will attend lectures, coaching sessions and workshops, all of which will enable you to build a network with like-minded entrepreneurs and learn from leading innovators, entrepreneurs, and storytellers.

If this sounds like you, then apply to the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy here. Applications close May 31. After the jump, check out what Ola Christian had to say on working with Amaphiko.

TRENCH: What was the moment that sparked LEVILE?

Ola Christian: I was working a job at a call centre in Canary Wharf that I did not enjoy. The office was jam-packed of creative individuals waiting for their big break in the industry. During working hours, I carried my red notebook—which I still have 'til this day—and decided I want to create a platform where all these talented creatives can feel celebrated and have their work showcased. My friends, who also worked in the same place, would often discuss their struggles in finding work, auditions or access to information. I thought, why don’t I create a community for creatives, by a creative, that would solve this problem. I was brainstorming names at the time, thinking about all the words under the sun that had a connection to film, acting or TV. Then I thought I didn’t want it to sound like a generic production house or platform that’s just catered to actors. I wanted the name to be powerful enough to power a city of creative individuals. Then, for some reason, the French saying ‘la ville’ came to mind, which means ‘the city’. So I changed the phrase to LEVILE, and here we are.

What kind of barriers were you, and people around you, experiencing trying to break into the industry?

A big barrier was getting in front of the right people to showcase your work, your ability. If you didn’t have a professional headshot, showreel or respectable credits associated with your name, it was difficult to be noticed by casting directors or filmmakers looking to work with fresh talent.

We've seen how you've used LEVILE Monologues to break down barriers for actors who don't have the resources to make their own showreels, by handing them the spotlight in your high quality audition video series. What kind of impact have projects like this had and what has made LEVILE the answer to those problems?

We are a safe space for talent. LEVILE enables performers to express themselves amongst other creatives. The ability to collaborate and learn from each other is an important part of our industry; it’s very rare that anyone will make a film or content as a lone soldier. The emphasis on collaboration and building your network was important to the beginning, so LEVILE solved a problem by providing an easily accessible opportunity to just do the work and network whilst learning.

A big barrier for us was getting in front of the right people to showcase our work and ability. If you didn’t have a professional headshot, showreel or respectable credits associated with your name, it was difficult to be noticed by casting directors or filmmakers looking to work with fresh talent. LEVILE Monologues is the answer to that, it's a great way to showcase an actor's abilities to filmmakers and peers. The monologues also allow actors to just act and review their performances.

Last year, LEVILE did a powerful Black History Month cover shoot campaign called #LevileUp, which profiled eight new ‘Leaders Of The New School’ to actively create a new narrative and promote conversations around representation. How important are projects like #LevileUP in this era?

The #LevileUP campaign was a significant statement for LEVILE; not just for Black History Month, but for our culture and our industry. We wanted to create a campaign that could easily share and showcase talent who we felt were geared for a big year in 2019. An example of this is Tom Moutchi, who starred in Famalam on BBC and has booked some great roles in projects that will be out later this year. We also had talent like Hammed Animashaun, who played a lead role in a feature film called The Festival alongside The Inbetweeners’ Joe Thomas.

Has LEVILE changed since it started, in terms of what it represents and aims to do?

LEVILE started as a platform exclusively for actors to showcase their work. Over the years, as the platform has grown, our aims have adjusted accordingly. We started showcasing monologues online and tweeting short films that actors starred in online, but now we’ve expanded and now we’re working with presenters, filmmakers, crew, TV personalities, executives and more. The industry that we love is huge!

LEVILE & Chill is a monthly event which showcases rising talent and provides access to information and resources for young people looking for opportunities in your industry. How has working with Red Bull Amaphiko helped you overcome logistical barriers to take this event to the next level?

Living in London or, better yet, looking for an event space in central London is super difficult and very, very expensive. To consistently hold events in a space that is fit for purpose is a challenge in itself. We love to showcase films and content, but sound and screens can be a stumbling block at times. However, Red Bull Amaphiko gave us wings by allowing LEVILE to use an excellent space with high-quality facilities at their HQ, enabling LEVILE to bring an audience that can maximise the benefits of a premium facility with equipment to match. The Red Bull Amaphiko team have been top class—from the communication to the execution stage, which I must give them immense credit for.

What does the term ‘social entrepreneur’ mean to you? Do you consider yourself to be one?

To me, a social entrepreneur means to be a problem solver within the community. I do consider myself to be a social entrepreneur because the work I do is purpose-led and focuses on uplifting my community. We like to measure the impact we are having by requesting feedback from the community we engage with. I do want LEVILE to become an international brand that inspires, creates new experiences and provides gratification to rising talent, whilst showcasing our amazing culture to the world.

For the first time in the UK, the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy will be holding an 8-day development programme to help young social entrepreneurs push their projects forward with new skills and mentorship. Do you think opportunities like this are important for people looking to enhance their own innovative social projects?

These opportunities are vital for people looking to enhance their own innovative projects and skill sets. Having access to workshops, coaching sessions and mentors will benefit those that attend the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy and provide social currency for young people wanting to test their skills in the real world. I can easily imagine the advantages a hub like this could have done for LEVILE at its infancy. I always encourage young people to try new things and take opportunities with both hands.

How important is it to lead on social change in your own industries?

We partner, support and empower organisations who want to drive diversity, inclusion and social change in London’s entertainment industry across the UK. Together with our community, we collaborate with organisations, accelerators, incubators, non-profits, schools and corporates on impact projects. As a platform that supports diversity and inclusions in the entertainment industry, we believe if the entertainment industry ecosystem is truly going to change, the community must lead the change themselves. We exist to work alongside the community and for the community: to harness and accelerate their ability to create an entertainment hub where everyone can build together.

What does the future of LEVILE look like, and how can emerging directors, writers, producers and actors work and collaborate with you guys?

We aim to become the pioneers within the entertainment, TV and film industry, which would bridge the gap for creative talent, with genuine opportunities of progression and consistent work. The future is looking very exciting as we’re entering a new phase with a very strong team. Emerging directors, writers, producers, presenters, actors and creative individuals within our industry can get in contact with us via our website or email. We’re launching a membership on our website that will enable individuals to sign up and receive great perks, events and more. We’re also gearing up for our first awards show which we’ve been planning for 12 months now. We just want to work with passionate individuals who want to reach the next level and be part of a growing community.

Take your social enterprise project to the next level and apply to secure your space at the first UK Red Bull Amaphiko Academy in September this year. Applications close May 31.

Posted on May 12, 2019