A bit about me
I'm a native New Yorker. Originally an actress, I segued into writing screenplays. My first script was an adaptation of Anne Tyler’s first novel, “If Morning Ever Comes,” later optioned and developed by American Playhouse. Another adaptation, a novella of “Lipstick on the Host,” by Irish author Aidan Mathews, was optioned and put into development by World 2000.
Other feature scripts include, “Common Ground,” “There Will Be A Fish,” “Hair of the Dog,” “Four Eyes,” “Ain’t That A Kick,” "Franny" (a pilot). Two recent short scripts are "Seeds" and "Roadside." I'm hoping that my next feature project will be my script, "Invisible." The script just won the Best Feature Screenplay Award at the 21st Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto.
In 2012, I wrote and directed my first short film, LAST DAY. This turned out to be the first of a trilogy, which also includes OLD JUNK (2013) and UPSIDE DOWN (2014), which won an Audience Choice Award. My other short films are UpROOTED (2014) and WALKIN' (2014) and HANDS (2018). In September 2016, I wrote and directed my first feature film, STARFISH. The film completed post-production the end of 2017 and screened at film festivals around the country in 2018. STARFISH won an Audience Choice Award at Mystic Film Festival October 2018. It is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime and IndieFlix. My first feature documentary, FORTY YEARS IN A BOX, has recently started a festival run. It screened at Big Apple Film Festival, May 2023. Next up is Black Bear Film Festival on October 15, 2023 with Q&A to follow.
For six years, I was Director of Development for Martin Scorsese's company, Cappa Productions. During that time I was Associate Producer and Script Consultant on two feature films: "Brides" aka "Nyfes," starring Damian Lewis, directed by Pantelis Voulgaris, executive produced by Martin Scorsese and "Deuces Wild" (MGM/UA). Prior to that, I worked at Universal Pictures (NY) for two years as assistant to the VP Production and managed the story department.
I was a juror two times for Minnesota Film Fund and a judge for McKnight Screenwriting Fellowship/IFP North, and an IFP Panelist. I also taught "The Business of Writing" for Film' at The New School.
For ten years I taught screenwriting at New York Film Academy. I also do script consulting. In addition, I'm a psychotherapist (LCSW). To me, this is a perfect complement to my work as a writer/director/filmmaker.
Member of New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT)
Member Gotham (formerly IFP)
Emeritus Member of Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE)
news about forty years in a box
Q&A after screening
Q&A at Black Bear Film Festival (Shira Levin & John DiLeo) 10/15/23
forty years in a box
!!Love Love Loved 40 Years in a Box! Refreshing and inspiring.
So beautifully done and so evocative. It really pulled me in, to the point that I was surprised so much time had elapsed when it was over.
We just watched it! GREAT ending! Wonderful mix of dialogue and video.
Watched it for the second time, and such a beautiful, humorous, human film, about aging, being a woman and pursuing a dream ...
It’s fantastic! Really thought-provoking and captivating. I loved the ending. So glad I got a chance to see it!
I loved your film! Very touching and poignant. You edited my section brilliantly. Thank you forincluding me. I am honored to be the only male interviewed lol. Wishing you much continued success.
Just watched it. Really loved it !
Just watched the film...it was wonderful! Very honest and inspiring. All the women who were interviewed had such relevant observations and experiences. (...)
My name is Max, and I came to see the premiere of 40 Years in a Box at BAFF on Friday. I also have a flim in the festival … I wanted to drop a quick line and just say how much I enjoyed your film. I've found myself thinking about it quite a bit since the screening. Both my wife and I are 40 year olds with a new son and aging parents, and we find ourselves right in the middle of the arc of time. While I am no the demographic of your subjects, or perhaps even your intended audience, I found myself moved and awed -- for the women in your film, and for the ones in my life that are transitioning between what Shakespeare might have called the 5th and 6th acts of man....Congrats on the film and hope we'll cross paths down at the theater before the week is done.
I think it's a lovely portrayal of evolving body image/changes accompanying aging andsifting out what we cherish about ourselves and lives.
Wow!!! I loved it! It made me feel so much better as a human being. I also loved seeing youryounger self since I think you started NSC the year after the film and that’s how I remember you in my mind’s eye... Congratulations! A great piece of work Shira.
Shira I just finished watching it. ... I’m blown away. What an honest investigation of aging, acceptance and true wisdom. It was such a journey on how to embrace the wisdom and glory of experience and self love. I just adored all of your interview subjects and your inquiry. I loved the style and the way that you moved in and out of the original footage and what you had to work with. I feel like not having the sound probably opened up so many possibilities for you to take this initial idea for your film into a much larger universal journey. it was such a worthy and rich excavation of all the nonsense that were spoonfed and it really liberates us or invites us to be liberated. It really moved me to tears. What I loved beyond you’re willingness to get naked about your own self acceptance and yearning to be that free young girl in the pictures and that freedom that you had until it’s sort of taken away, w The guidance by your subjects to embrace the good and the glory of wisdom and experience rather than all the toxic shit were spoonfed and how it can just be so freeing. I loved how we’re invited to consider our own inner judges and needs for excavating this toxic insanity about aging that we just that’s permeates and blinds us to our own richness and depty. I was so moved. Bravo!!
Where you took that footage is mind blowing what a worthy catalyst that lead you into such a deep and profound universal need to unpack the shit and reclaim our worth journey.
So thrilled for you!!!!!
Such a wonderful and beautiful doc! I'm glad that I didn't miss it.
I loved it so much. It spoke to me on so many levels and I loved all the women who spoke so openly and gracefully. Wishing you all the success with this film from the heart.
An indie feature...
A female driven, but universal story, about grief, healing, friendship, family and the strong bond between dogs and humans.
It's touching, funny and a tad romantic.
A film for viewers who like stories about people and relationships.
It's also a film for dog lovers and for anyone who has experienced loss of any kind.
Starfish played at film festivals around the country and won an Audience Choice Award at Mystic Film Festival in October 2018.
STARFISH can be seen on Amazon Prime and IndieFlix (free week trial available on IndieFlix) https://watch.indieflix.com/starfish/videos/starfish
Articles related to Shira Levin, STARFISH and Mystic film festival:
Article from WomenCinemakers 2017 about Shira Levin and "Upside Down"
STARFISH AUDIENCE QUOTES
Here's what people have said...
"I loved the sense of being inside Lily's life, with all its sorrows and small comforts. Several times I teared up and I laughed out loud at Joan's sister and brother-in-law, who were perfect-in fact I swear they weren't acting at all, which is the best compliment anyone can give an actor. But all the actors were convincing, and very aptly cast.
What made the movie a special pleasure is that there was not one moment of "exposition," as the English teachers call it. I felt I was meeting these people and gradually finding out their histories without having them stop what they were doing to laboriously explain, which is exactly what happens when you met new people in real life."
Anne Tyler (author)
"What a sensitive, beautifully constructed film you have created."
"I LOVED your film... You feel unsure what the film is about or what the conflict really is except perhaps this great character study and then WHAM! It's funny! It's moving! It's surprising!! It all comes together just beautifully.
It was shot beautifully - loved the beachy look and feel of so much of it. You could almost smell the salt water. And the acting was really strong... Has some wonderfully funny moments... And then I was very moved at the end. In a way I didn't think I would be. Loved the music as well."
"I REALLY liked the film!! I am truly impressed. Very well done, sensitive, emotional, great writing and acting - and directing."
"Several scenes made me tear up, and the overall message of loss and healing and hope is beautiful."
R. van Wagtendonk
"When the movie started I prepared myself for grieving realism BUT found myself in the middle of a Murakami story where the pacing and the character unfolding lead to truths and possibilities...with each verbal or visual encounter layered on its predecessors, reaches emotional truths and offers possibilities of healing and even some future joy."
"I honestly was taken aback with the emotion I felt... could not speak right away... I didn't want to leave the place I was in, I was there with those people...felt very connected..had so many thoughts and feelings come up, thinking of losses in my life, how I've dealt, continue to deal, loving the friendship she had with her friend Harry, relationship with her sister, or non-relationship, re-connecting with her niece, how that happened...there was not a second that I lost my connection. The dogs were great!!...Great writing! Perfect casting!
"Yesterday I was fortunate to attend a screening of Starfish... I hope you find a home for your unique and ambitious film... You took a very difficult subject and made it come alive. You rallied talented actors, and a crew to make a compelling film. You are a good filmmaker, please keep making more."
"That was superb - warm, taut, visually beautiful...brava!
"I was very impressed by your film. I especially like the 'layers.' What an accomplishment."
"I thought the film had a lyrical vibe and it is full of heart. You have a nice touch."
Where STARFISH Was Seen
Chain NYC Film Festival
STARFISH screened at Chain NYC Film Festival on August 15, 2018.
La Femme Film Festival
STARFISH screened in Beverly Hills, CA at La Femme Film Festival on Friday October 12, 2018.
Mystic Film Festival
STARFISH was the opening night film of the Mystic Film Festival on Thursday October 18, 2018 in Mystic, CT.
Black Bear Film Festival
STARFISH screened at the 19th Black Bear Film Festival in Milford, PA on Sunday October 21, 2018.
Mystic Film Festival
Opening night red carpet event
Leading ladies of STARFISH: Margaret Curry (center), Linnette Roe (left), Sophia Colon Roosevelt (right)
Mystic Film Festival
Closing night 10/21/18
STARFISH won an Audience Choice Award at the closing night award ceremony.
Mystic Film Festival
Audience Choice Award 10/21/18
Thrilled that STARFISH won an Audience Choice Award at the closing night award ceremony.
Veritas Film Festival
Screening November 9, 2018
STARFISH screened at Veritas Film Festival in PA, November 2018.
SHORT FILM TRILOGY
Three stories where "invisibles" become visible through unexpected connections.
Upside Down (2014)
A 10 year-old girl befriends a transgender woman in her building, against her mother's wishes.
* OutWest Film Fest 2015
* Black Bear Film Festival 2015
* The American Psychological Association
Film Festival 2015
* Northside Film Festival (Brooklyn, NY) 2015
* XpoNorth 2015 Film Festival (Scotland)
* Springfield LGBT Film Festival (AUDIENCE
CHOICE AWARD WINNER) 2015
* Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film
Festival (India) 2015
* Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival 2017
Old Junk (2013)
An isolated but vital old man discovers a box of junk that he transforms into a sculpture.
* Global Peace Film Festival
* Black Bear Film Festival
Last Day (2012)
On the day a young man plans to kill himself, an unexpected encounter presents him with opportunity for change.
* Black Bear Film Festival
* The Animal Film Festival
* A.C.T. Film Festival
* The National Museum of Animals
Anne Tyler - author
«That was a beautiful movie. I loved every closely observed second of it — very touching. Thank you so much for telling me it existed.
I hope it gets lots of attention and appreciation.»
Paul Griffin - writer
«It was so beautiful, from start to finish. I loved the music too. The classical was so pretty and quiet, and perfect for the picture. I loved the end title song too. The reveal of the “dolls” at the end was so great. It was so sad but so inspiring too, how Horace just kept going, finding ways to make his day meaningful, making art no matter what. The old pictures were wonderful. It was perfect from the opening frame to the last. Horace is my hero. I always dreamed of living that long, to get to relax and feed the squirrels and just take in the day and notice all the beauty around. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.»
Rita Madison - hair & makeup artist
«Just watched the film. It is terrific!!
… I love it, everything works so smoothly, and it is a
wonderful, heartfelt story!
I was moved and LOVE the ending!»
Patti Seitz - family therapist
«I really loved it even more than the first time I saw it. ... I started crying after seeing it. I just wanted to let you know, how moved I was by it and how much I appreciate your filmmaking and how you are able to illuminate the deepest places and touch our humanity.»
Paul Griffin - writer
«Shira got me teary-eyed! So beautiful!!! …
I'm a sucker for animals-save-the-world stories, but Last Day brought that idea to a much more intimate place, one that I haven't seen in a long time. It's gorgeous -- the cinematography, the acting (both the guy and the kid were fabulous), the sense of place, but most of all the story. Absolutely perfect for this viewer.
It has an O Henry feel. …
So hard to do, to bring a story and a character full circle in just a few minutes, but Shira nailed it. I absolutely loved it.»
«WOW! Shira....This was a powerful film....congratulations! You captured all the emotions beautifully without any words!»
Will Voelkel - Director of Black Bear Film Festival
«We love Upside Down! Like the other two films in the trilogy, it's charming and moving.»
Marie Wilson - Psychotherapist
«...loved UPROOTED. Never thought a bush could be such an emotionally moving character...»
«This cannot wait until tomorrow! I just watched Last Day, Old Junk
and Upside Down. WOW! Gentle messages…incredible photography…
I loved each one for different reasons.
I felt so much unstated loneliness in Old Junk…loneliness with so much grace.
My favorite of the three was Last Day.
It was powerful in its quietness.
I just had to tell you how moved I was by your beautiful work. Thank you.»
Last Day, Old Junk
«...Both films are compelling reminders of the commonality of human experience and emotions, the desire to be loved, feeling isolated and hopeless
and how music, creativity and nurturing bring us together and heal our spirits.
Each time I watch them I come away with a transformative inspiration
and quiet celebration, in today's disheartening deluge of bad news,
of how genuinely good and caring most people are...»
A mini-documentary accompanied by Nancy La Mott singing "Call Me Irresponsible"
A music video to Lucy Kaplanski's cover of Woody Gutherie's "This Morning I Am Born Again"
Bring your project to the next level
STORY, CHARACTER, STRUCTURE, TRUTH.
Story, Character, Structure, Truth. That is my mantra.
I work with writers - beginners to professionals - to help improve their scripts. As a consultant, I have worked with screenwriters, playwrights and performance artists. Before I started teaching, I was Director of Development for Martin Scorsese's company, for six years, where I worked with writers and directors on their projects. However, I've learned more from teaching than from anything else I've done. I love to teach, consult and help writers find, develop and deepen their stories.
I focus on helping you more fully understand and develop your characters in order to be able to create a transformation for them that makes sense for the story you are telling. I ask many questions with the goal of making you think about your story in ways you might not have imagined.
I start where you are. I go at your pace and adapt the way I work to fit your needs. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your project and how I might help. We can see if we're a good match. I'm a writer too… I get it.
Rosalie Muskatt, Producer, Inwood Productions
Jashanpreet Kaur Gill, writing student
Lexi Nicholas - writer
Agosto Latino - writer