As a student at the University of Southern California, Dena Levy dreamed of making movies. After graduation and a shoulder injury that cut a promising tennis career short, she landed a job with American Telecast, where groundbreaking infomercial marketers Steve Scott and Ed Shipley were using long-forms to launch hit products such as the Richard Simmons Deal-A-Meal program and Victoria Jackson cosmetics.
Joining the company as Scott’s assistant, Levy quickly got an education in every aspect of direct response on a shoot promoting Professor Claude Olney’s “Where There’s a Will, There’s an A” learning program. “It was my first exposure to infomercials,” Levy says. “I saw this new blend of marketing and entertainment as a great way to sell products. It was a creative, fun way to position products using elements of storytelling and product demonstrations. It opened me up to the whole industry.”
American Telecast was a leader in matching celebrities to products, and the infomercial starred former Three’s Company lead John Ritter as its channel-stopping host. “I was looking over at John, and he was looking over at me and did that crooked-mouth thing; I did it right back at him,” Levy says. “He couldn’t believe it—John said, ‘Nobody can do that!’ We did it back and forth, and got a picture of it. He was a lot of fun; those are great memories.”
Soon, Levy formed Two-D Productions and started shooting long-forms for products such as the Fat-Burning Workout and The War Years for mentor Katie Williams. The company attended many early NIMA conventions and promoted itself by serving popcorn in “Fresh, Hot Infomercials” bags for patrons to eat while watching Two-D’s increasingly impressive reel. “My 25 years in this industry has never been boring,” Levy says. “DR continues to be one of the most exciting ways to stay current and keep learning. As our industry grows with new technology, new products, and wider marketing venues, I love it more every year and enjoy the challenges it brings.”
At the 1994 NIMA convention, Levy nearly missed her chance to accept an award because a controlled implosion was happening on the Vegas Strip at the same time she was headed to as the banquet. “I was literally running down the middle of the Strip in a dress and heels trying to get to the show,” she remembers. Today’s D2C shows aren’t quite as hectic, but “are still very productive, and give all of us an opportunity to meet with friends and clients from all over. I feel fortunate to have met so many great people in and around the industry.”
But that first shoot with John Ritter set her on a path. “That show really opened my eyes to the power of infomercials,” she says. “It really made me fall in love with the business.”