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“The first images for Levity came when I was tutoring teenagers in a maximum security juvenile prison while in college at UCLA. There was a kid I spent a lot of time with who kept a photo of the person that he killed. For him, it was a way of understanding that the person he shot was indeed a human being whose life had some sort of tangible meaning. He kept holding the photo, fingering it, touching it. He was serving his first year of what was to be a life sentence. I began wondering what he would do if he were let out early. Where would he go? How would he live? What would he do with the photo? That image—a man carrying around a photo of the person he killed—stayed with me for years.

Then, in the mid 1980s, the first ideas for a narrative built around this image came into my head, but I didn't feel that I was mature enough to write it. About five years later, I started again. And again, I didn't feel that I was ready. Then, about five or six years ago, it came to me. I had just finished “Men in Black,” my wife Cynthia was pregnant with our first child, Even, and my life was changing. I thought that with the commercial success of “Men in Black” I might even have the opportunity to get “Levity” made. But it wasn't as easy as I expected. I took it with me to every meeting, and gave it to every possible producer or financier with whom I met, and they all passed. I got literally hundreds of rejections. This went on for five years. the turning point was getting the script to Billy Bob Thornton, who read it overnight and committed immediately. Around the same time, Morgan Freeman, with whom I had been speaking for years about playing Miles, agreed not only to be in it, but to be the executive producer as well, along with his partner at Revelations Entertainment, Lori McCreary. Then Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst came on board, and I now had four of my favorite American actors attached to what was still then a spec screenplay. Finally, cinematographer Roger Deakins joined the production, and I had everything I needed to make the film…except the money.

Even with this package attached, getting Levity financed was still a very complicated process. It's not a typical Hollywood movie, it doesn't deal with typical Hollywood movie, it doesn't deal with typical Hollywood issues, and it certainly doesn't deal with them in typical Hollywood ways. We were fortunate enough that the people at Studio Canal believed in the project enough to back “Levity” for the foreign market, and we got some independent financing for the domestic market: a combination of bank loans and some equity funding.

I've always liked the title “Levity,” although I know that on the surface the word seems antithetical to the themes of the film. But that's one of the reasons that it appeals to me. The movie is about one man's search for lightness and light in a world that has rejected him for a terrible mistake he made as a teenager. And it's about what happens when he's put back in that world against his will, and how his need for forgiveness and to make right drives him, even when he's not aware he's doing it, to seek the redemption that he doesn't believe possible for himself.

In “Levity,” I'm not trying to solve problems or make statements. I'm only trying to tell what I hope is an interesting and involving story, and to explore some themes that have always been intriguing to me. Unlike the typical three-act screenplay, this is a story comprised of a series of small moments that I hope will add up into something meaningful. Filmically, I am going for simple, evocative imagery with a subtle, drifting camera which glides through the movie much in the same way the central character glides through the city: hovering, observing, almost ghostlike. I want the boundaries in the film – those between present and past, between what is real and what is perceived, between what is secular and what is spiritual – to be at least as unclear as they seem to me in my life.

Making this film was one of the great experiences of my life. It was especially gratifying and humbling to work with people of the caliber and talent with whom I was so fortunate to have partnered. I'm thankful to all of them, and to all those who see the film.

—Ed Solomon

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