Joel Levinson knew he was good at making movies. To make a living, Levison created video content and entered online marketing contests. He wrote and performed his own music, initially doing all the camerawork and directing himself, and later creating teams to help produce his projects. His winnings were impressive, between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, depending on the year, he says. He supplemented his income by creating video content for advertisers.
But Levinson wanted to write and direct a feature film. “Life in California meant that all hours were spent making money to pay for the cost of living. That is California,” he said. “It prevented there from being any free time for pursuing creative projects that are something bigger.” Half of the 10 places with the highest costs of living in the United States are in California, including Los Angeles.
So in 2014, Levinson and his family moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, a town of 3,500 that he describes as “a blue dot in the red sea of rural Ohio.” Where they once paid $1,750 a month in rent for a one-bedroom duplex in Culver City, California, they now pay $1,300 a month for a three-bedroom home with a half-acre lawn. (Levinson notes that the rent in his former Culver City duplex has since increased by $800). He cut between a half and a third of his workweek dedicated to income projects and spent the rest of his time working on his first full-length feature.