Media Industry Conversation

Director Lev L. Spiro reveals how he went from student to film and television director

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After graduating with a master’s in Radio-Television-Film in 1990, aspiring director Lev L. Spiro moved to Los Angeles and started working as a tour guide for Universal Studios.

Using the 30-minute film he had made for his thesis project at UT, Spiro found an agent and became a sound production mixer and boom operator. For the next two years, he ardently continued to promote his short to any producer who was willing to watch it and give him a chance to direct.

Eventually, Spiro convinced a gatekeeper to give the film to a producer for legendary B-movie director Roger Corman. More than a year later, the producer gave Spiro a shot at directing his own B-movie film with a $20,000 budget.

While the film went on to sell to a distributor for $330,000, Spiro’s cut was a modest $1,000.

Nonetheless, Spiro said that his work on the film led to him getting projects with larger and larger budgets. Since then, Spiro has directed more than 150 television episodes, pilots and feature films including for Emmy Award-winning series such as “Arrested Development,” “Modern Family,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Weeds.”

Spiro shared his experience breaking into the entertainment business with Moody College students when he visited UT Austin on Oct. 10, 2016 as part of the Media Industry Conversation series organized by the Department of Radio-Television-Film.

The series gives Moody College students opportunities to engage with a wide-range of industry professionals to discuss the media industry—and get tips about how they can launch careers in the business.

In this clip, Spiro explains the circumstances that led to the debut of his directing career:


“I’ve had a lot of different film schools. My first film school was at UT Austin, where I really made short films for the first time,” said Spiro. “It's where I learned about cameras, lenses, sound, working with actors...”

Spiro said his second film school was the two years he spent making features for Roger Corman and his third film school was another two years shooting about 30 episodes for the director’s guild with more experienced crews, predominately for cable network Nickelodeon. 

“Everything is film school so I don’t ever consider that I stop learning,” said Spiro. “Every show that I go on to direct, I consider a new challenge—there’s something to be learned from the situation I’m in.”

For the full interview, visit the Moody College YouTube channel.

Marc Speir
Senior Content Producer