Like many directors who find success in advertising, Sasha Levinson honed her filmmaking skills on the sets of many music videos, including classic clips for Mary J Blige, 50 Cent, Angelique Kidjo, and Cake.

“The music video piece informs my ability to work seamlessly and with a focus within chaotic environments that are ever-changing,” Levinson says. “But the ability to work in many genres comes from my pure love of the many faces of cinematic storytelling.”

That storytelling ability is on display in her first feature film, Sylvie Of The Sunshine State, which premiered at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival, winning the George Starks Spirit of Slamdance Award, and in her 2019 branded short film for Las Vegas Tourism. That film, depicting a surprise lesbian wedding, premiered on YouTube and immediately went viral with over 13 million views and went on to garner the highest positive comment rating for branded entertainment in YouTube’s history.

We spoke with Sasha about her work and joining the production company Spears & Arrows for commercials.

Congrats on joining Spears & Arrows. What made you think this would be a good place to grow your career?

With the upheaval of the last few years, I found myself craving more meaningful relationships in my work life. Jason Wolk (Spears & Arrows Founder/Managing Director) kept coming into my sphere. When we finally connected it just felt right. I had a strong sense that Spears & Arrows could help me fine-tune my commercial career, in a way that would be meaningful and in alignment with my values. I have a personal mission to inject goodness into the world on every project I create, so I was really drawn to the fact that Jason is also the founder of A Walk on Water, a charity that provides transformative surf therapy to kids with unique needs. For me, this says a lot about him as a person and about the tone he sets at Spears & Arrows, and it definitely influenced my decision to join the roster.

What are your creative goals for 2023 and with Spears & Arrows?

Over the past two years I’ve taken a massive leap forward in terms of honing my craft as a long-form storyteller. In 2023, I want to use what I have learned in making feature films, to make my commercials ever more powerful. I’d love to do more work in the dance and music space and bring a bit more humor to my emotional storytelling. I do this on the film side of things, and I’d love to make space for that in my commercial work.  

Like a lot of directors who start out in music videos, you seem to be able to work within a lot of styles, comedy, documentary, dramatic, storytelling, and vignettes. Talk about your influences and your style and your approach to filmmaking, particularly in regard to ads.

My family is very funny, and, like all families, we have our traumas big and small. But we have the ability to laugh at it and ourselves. I see the world through stories. In every moment I am looking for meaning and subtext and emotion – and that transcends genre.

Your filmography includes some amazing work — the 2016 Dalai Lama film, the Las Vegas branded content shorts, and your own feature films. What projects that you’ve directed stand out for you? Any, in particular, you’re most proud of?

There are definitely some pieces that stick out as pivotal. The Dalai Lama film and the research I did in preparation for it changed the trajectory of my inner life in such a meaningful way that it also shifted my work.

I have a special love for my first significant narrative short film, “Welcome To Grandville.” I collaborated with DP Kate Arizmendi and some wonderful actors, including my longtime best friend Josh Randall, on that film, so it really stands out for me. Of course, the film series I made for Las Vegas was so impactful, and my first feature film, “Sylvie of The Sunshine State,” which premiered at Slamdance was an amazing experience.

That said, I approach every commercial project like a brand-new piece of art, and that approach has allowed me to enjoy a decades-long career working in this format, which has been such a gift. The commercial medium is unique and, frankly, just a lot of fun. Advertising comes with such clear objectives and such amazingly collaborative teams. I just love doing this work.

Click here to watch Sasha Levinson's reel.