Isabelle Leonard, a Wilson Central High School graduate, and some of her teenage friends won a national film competition for Cinema 48, a 48-hour film project.
The cast and crew had to come up with the idea for, film, edit and upload their film “MAR-E” about a high school student who decides to build a robot sheep as a pet. They had only 48 hours to complete the film, from brainstorming to upload.
Leonard said she and her staff decided to enter the competition because “I did it last year. A few of the people I worked with this time made the film last time too. There was nothing better going on now. We did because it fun and weren’t thinking about the competition part of it.
“We had a list of 25 actors and actresses who said they were free. I told them I can’t pay but we will have a good time.”
There were specific rules for the film, including using only two certain types of genres, the kind of dialogue, the characters in the film and the setting (the film had to include a house.)
“We came up with the idea Friday night (they filmed Saturday). I live on a farm, and we came up with the idea and the (lead youth character) of Birdie. She’s not super social, she makes a pet sheep,” Leonard said.
Actress Leanne Marsh was cast as Birdie and WCHS theatre teacher and actress Katharine Ray was cast as Tonya.
“Leanne does theatre and is a subdued actress. She’s more controlled. (Ray) had been wanting to be in or work in the crew of one of my short films,” Leonard said. “She is awesome. A phenomenal talent. I was already friends with a lot of the crew. No one complained about the long hours or being in the heat.”
Once they were chosen by judges as the winner of the Nashville competition, they were off to regionals and finals of the U.S.
“When I got the email that we had won Nashville, that meant a lot,” Leonard said. “I jumped up and down and called everyone. Nashville’s competition is based on judges, who are esteemed in the film world. It was very flattering to win. It was amazing and confirmed to me that I should go into film as a career.”
The film didn’t make it past the first round of the world competition. Leonard said one of the prizes in the world event was a trip to the Cannes Film Festival and $500, which she had planned to donate to a worthy cause, she said.
Ray said that Leonard “is an incredible and multitalented lady. Her heart is in the film world. It was a lot of fun to be on a set again and even more fun to be under the direction of a former student.”
Leonard created approximately 12 short films throughout high school, including one called, “Perspective,” which allowed her to be the Tennessee representative for the Young Arts Program based in Miami.
Leonard plans to attend the University of Southern California film school.
The first semester will be online, which means she’ll still be in Tennessee, but won’t be able “to get my freshman year the way it should be. I’ll still have access to my friends, including those I work on short films with. I’ll have access to equipment I wouldn’t have in California. So that’s a plus.”
The crew of MAR-E included Leonard (producer, co-director, co-editor, original story), Ryan Bowen (co-director, boom operator, co-editor), Cason Allen Smith (director of photography, associate producer), Libby Wisener (Assistant Director), Ellie Cagle (co-writer and first assistant director), Justice Skinner (co-writer, production designer, key grip), Tyler Skrove (co-editor, camera operator) and Lane Stanley (Sound mixer, key grip). In addition, DeAna Duncan provided equipment and some on-set help. Leonard’s stepdad John Hagerty taught Marsh how to weld and “helped us herd sheep,” Leonard said.