I film, write, sing, paint with…your (and my) heart on my tongue. I am a creative, sensitive, silly, street-smart, versatile, ambitious, funny go-getter (who falls 1000 times and gets up 1001).
Once upon a time, in Fryslân (on March 7, 1967)
I was born as the 3rd child in an idyllic village in Friesland. My mother told me I stopped breathing the first night but my rumbling woke her up. Hooray for mothers and instinct: she did what she was supposed to do and slapped me on my tiny baby buttocks so I breathed in again. I can’t tell you how happy I am she did. We lived on the countryside for 5 years and we then moved to a different, busier part of Friesland where I spent my time playing, climbing trees and going to school until I was 18. Old enough to think I was ready to (ugh) conquer the world. What made me tick as a youngster was sports (athletics, tennis), music (guitar, singing), adventure (camping, traveling without a plan), creativity (writing, film, photography) and above all: my friends. I was a sweet and delicate rebel with a cause.
Once upon another time, in the world
As of my 20th I traveled a lot (Nepal / India / Indonesia / Malaysia / Thailand / Vietnam) and I lived and worked abroad a few years (Santorini, Greece; Lausanne, Switzerland; Santa Cruz, United States) and finished my studies of English in Groningen too. I don’t even know how I managed to get my degree in 4 years but somehow I did. When my diploma was handed over the professor said he hoped I would never be a teacher. Not because of my personality, but because I failed to get the heart of the matter on a few subjects. So he was right. I was on the run, living an adventurous life but also trying to escape from a complex situation at home. I clumsily divided my time between countries, passions and obligations and ended up doing everything 50%. Between my 25th and 40th I lived this seemingly perky life: oh, it looked so good on the outside; working at A-employers, thinking I was so interesting because I earned big money, competing / partying / boasting with colleagues and friends. But in reality I felt stuck because I couldn’t handle this pretentious corporate world. Inside I felt split between what I thought others needed of me and what I wanted out of life. But it’s not the circumstance that defines who I am but my attitude towards it, so my blended background (of colourful careers) where I performed better than my professor predicted was worthwhile. I worked as a teacher in high schools (4 yrs, here, here) and consultant/trainer/coach (14 yrs, here, here, here & self-employed).
Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick
There’s an interesting proverb that says “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” Our passions are, essentially, what we hope to do with our lives. When we defer or deflect them, our heart gets sick. I had had depressions a few times in my working career. Sometimes ‘just’ for 4 weeks but sometimes also for months in a row. And being unfaithful to myself did not really help, with this life in the corporate world. So when in 2009 I decided I wanted to be self-employed, it was the beginning of a deep transformation on all aspects of my life. If you have total freedom to achieve those things that are most important to you and take 100% responsibility for your life, the truth reveals itself. And once you see the truth, you just cannot un-see it. More or less by chance I took up a camera in my forties and then remembered how I had always loved photography and writing. I fell wildly in love with the idea of becoming a documentary filmmaker. This was the time to combine everything that was dear to me: writing, philosophy, music, poetry, psychology, telling meaningful stories. So I went back to school in 2012. Before directing I wanted to start where I think every director should start: with learning camera, sound & editing to get acquainted with every aspect of filmmaking.
Now that I am 5 years past my ‘struck by lightning’ moment I think it’s fair to say the beta-test is over: the more I follow my heart, the louder it speaks. Moreover, I came to realise – instead of being too old to start a new career – that having completed several degrees in other disciplines than filmmaking is actually an advantage. I have the opportunity to group-hug my talents with my +20 years of working experience. It’s all a matter of how you look at things. Slowly I am turning from an amateur into a professional. Just like good wine, I now feel how filmmaking is an art that gains in savor and subtlety with life-experience and time. My nowadays heterogeneity is the result of what I do with existential pain: I turn my struggles into curiosity, so instead of feeling burdened, I learn. Radical honesty and self-reflection is part of my every day life. I also think I am a true ‘Renaissance Soul’: I am curious, eager to learn, adventurous and talented in more than one area. My next move now is to finish my first short documentary in
2017 2018 well SOMEDAY (uhm, I’ll let you know when it’s finished). While I work on that I love doing freelance camerawork / editing for my clients. I have never been happier in my work, even when I haven’t accomplished anything big yet. Because to me now the most important thing is that I live my life in such a way that I feel challenged on my ambitions while enjoying the path towards the goal. I manage to live a simpler and easy-going life now and to me making films, writing and working in a coffee and tea shop allows me to make sense of the world around me and to contribute. I don’t believe we humans are hard-wired to maximise self-interest. Full disclosure – I also use my work to move slightly towards self-actualisation. It is some sort of occupational therapy to to fulfil the need to express myself. Today I am sure that when I look back on my life there isn’t too much non-refundable life that got lost in this pursuit of building on the dreams of other people. So? Where does that leave me? Well, I am exactly where I need to be — the only place I can be.
Currently I am writing a book (found a publisher) ±2 days a week and I am filming ±1 day a week. Next to that I work in a coffee and tea specialty shop where we offer excellent quality coffees and teas. We’re also committed to making a positive contribution to people’s lives and the environment. Simon Lévelt supports fair trade, organic cultivation and social projects.
Next to filmmaking and writing, I find true joy in painting, singing in a classical choir, cooking slow food, going to the oldest arthouse/theater in Amsterdam, long distance walking with friends and almost everything that covers D.I.Y. projects (be it from repairing my own computer to how-to make your own soy milk). The ‘art of living’ fascinates me so besides feeding my mind (I spell the newspaper e-ve-ry day, I read paper books and I never stop studying) I take care of my body as well. I would say I eat roughly 93,73% plant-based (that remaining 6,27% is the no-stress zone, you see 😉 ) I run (to get rid of stress and feel my body), I quit cold tofu with smoking (oh yay those huge lungs, fresh clothes and non-stinky fingers), and … I lóve physical tantra (I also give tantramassage). A fellow Buddhist meditation practitioner enlightened me to, instead of having wine every evening, get mindfully drunk one evening every other month or so. That appeared to be a sound plan. Furthermore, I am especially interested in self-improvement and know that the elasticity of our intelligence, talents and abilities are strongly influenced by our mindset and beliefs. I challenge them often and I test my doubts through self-tracking, reading, writing and experimenting thoroughly. All in all: I am taking this life pretty seriously because I want to get a lot out of it but by no means am I a puritan. Forgot to mention that I could honestly win awards for my sleeping skills. Hey.
Skills, gear and working ethics in filmmaking
My professional skills in filmmaking include: I know how to make people feel comfortable so I can capture their story naturally. I have an eye for detail without losing touch with the big picture. I think every interesting story deserves to be captured cinematographically well. May be that is why I like to control-freak my gear and understand everything about it: so I know what I can get out of it and get the results I wish. I own and work with Panasonic GH4 with primes mainly, I use professional Røde/Zoom audio equipment and Manfrotto stabilizers/rigs. For editing FCPx has no secrets for me. And of course I use my Mac computers everywhere. Work wise: I stick to my promises and I make use of ethical procedures when collaborating with main characters, clients, talents and/or companies. If you like to work with me, I am here to help you articulate your ideas, capture those in a relevant, creative & personal film that touches the audience. It’s important for me that you know I do not wish to be treated as your ‘supplier’. My business attitude is that we both have our expertise and if we’re partnering up in the process we create synergy. For international camerawork you can hire me through StoryHunter. I speak Dutch, English, French, German fluently and understand Spanish and Greek moderately. I greatly value transparency, humor, intelligence, self-knowledge and versatility in those I work/live close with.