Renowned writer-director Sam Levinson, known for his work on “The Idol” and “Euphoria,” continues to find himself embroiled in controversy. Earlier this year, a viral Rolling Stone article exposed the tumultuous behind-the-scenes production of “The Idol,” catapulting it into the spotlight as one of the year’s most talked-about shows, even before its premiere. Amid reports of disorganized sets, chaotic production schedules, and allegations of objectifying young women, Levinson’s handling of the series drew sharp criticism.
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Recently, Levinson faced fresh scrutiny when excerpts from an interview with multi-talented artist Petra Collins circulated widely on X (formerly known as Twitter). In her January interview with online magazine Punkt, Collins asserted that Levinson drew direct inspiration from her photography to shape the visual identity of “Euphoria.” Moreover, she claimed that Levinson initially approached her to direct the series, only for her to be ultimately overlooked, receiving no credit for her influence.
Who Is Petra Collins?
Petra Collins, a Canadian-Hungarian artist, has garnered acclaim as a photographer, director, and visual artist. Her journey began with the posting of her photography on the microblogging platform Tumblr in the early 2010s. Collins made significant contributions to the now-defunct online magazine Rookie and founded “The Arduous,” an art collective that showcased emerging female artists. Her extensive photography portfolio includes collaborations with prestigious fashion brands like Gucci and Bimba y Lola, while her work has graced the pages of renowned publications such as Vogue, i-D, and Elle. She has photographed a diverse range of subjects, from Young Thug to Kim Kardashian. Collins has also directed numerous music videos for pop stars like Carly Rae Jepsen and Selena Gomez, as well as for rap artists Cardi B and Lil Yachty. Most recently, she collaborated with rising sensation Olivia Rodrigo, directing four of her music videos, including “good 4 u” and “vampire.”
Collins possesses a distinctive visual style honed over a decade, characterized by a dreamlike and ethereal quality evident in her photography and music video work. Her art delves into themes of femininity, the journey from girlhood to womanhood, and the intricate facets of female sexuality. Notably, her collaborations with Olivia Rodrigo embody her signature aesthetic while perfectly complementing the singer’s angsty teen pop sound. Additionally, her recent partnership with “Euphoria” star Alexa Demie explores an erotic folklore theme, as seen in their joint project, “Fairy Tales.”
Was Petra Collins Involved With ‘Euphoria’?
According to Collins’ account in her Punkt magazine interview, Sam Levinson initially reached out to inform her that he had crafted a show inspired by her photography and even extended an invitation for her to direct it. Motivated by this offer, Collins relocated to Los Angeles, where she spent five months working with HBO. However, her hopes were dashed when she was informed that her youth rendered her unsuitable for the role. Believing that her vision for the show would not come to fruition, Collins accepted this as a learning experience. Yet, her perspective took a sharp turn when she unexpectedly encountered a billboard featuring a nearly identical replica of her work, promoting “Euphoria.”
This experience marked a creative crossroads for Collins, as she grappled with the need to reinvent her style, which had become synonymous with “Euphoria.” In her own words, “It was so intense to me, because this is the aesthetic that I built all my life, and now I have to change it, ’cause it enters the mainstream and it’s been taken away from me. The worst thing was when people were unknowingly saying this show looks like your photos.”
A recent article in The Daily Beast included a statement from an unnamed source close to Levinson, countering Collins’ narrative. This source emphasized Levinson’s admiration for Collins but clarified that nothing concrete had been promised, as the network ultimately held the decision-making authority. Nevertheless, the visual parallels between the aesthetic of “Euphoria” Season 1 and Collins’ photography, particularly her “Coming of Age” series from 2016/17, have been highlighted, notably by writer and photographer Cat Cardenas on X.
This incident isn’t the first time Levinson has faced allegations of appropriating a female creative’s work and asserting control over production. Filmmaker Amy Seimetz was originally slated to direct all six episodes of Levinson’s co-created series “The Idol,” but her departure due to a “major creative overhaul” was reported by Deadline in April of the previous year. While Seimetz left the project with approximately 80% of the series completed, Levinson eventually directed all six episodes. This decision raised questions about the extent to which Seimetz’s original vision influenced the final product.
As discussions surrounding proper attribution and recognition of creative contributions in the entertainment industry persist, viewers of “Euphoria” and industry observers alike are left to ponder what the series might have become under Petra Collins’ directorial influence, and how the controversy surrounding its inception may shape its legacy.