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Published: Sunday, 11/24/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

Investors sought for movie about women's football

Hollywood director: Shooting to start in spring or summer

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Producer Brett Leonard talks with Linda Jefferson, who ran for five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Toledo Troopers. They were at a reunion of the Toledo Troopers, a women's football team from the 1970s. Producer Brett Leonard talks with Linda Jefferson, who ran for five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Toledo Troopers. They were at a reunion of the Toledo Troopers, a women's football team from the 1970s.
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Hollywood film director Brett Leonard says he is coming back to Toledo for a 10-day visit at the end of this week to court investors and get “down to the specifics” of Perfect Season: The Untold Story of the Toledo Troopers, an independent movie he plans to make on location here in the spring or summer.

The script, written by Toledo natives Guy Stout and Steve Guinan, is about a former Toledo professional women’s football team that won seven consecutive national championships in the 1970s.

Mr. Stout was the water boy. His father, the late Bill Stout, owned and coached the team for most of its decade-long existence.

The writers have explained the team’s story in a broader context of how its success helped promote more gender equality in sports. They show how Toledo had an underrated role in advancing the women’s rights movement and, more specifically, Title IX — the civil rights act that outlaws sex discrimination in education, including sports.

Mr. Leonard, a Toledo native who has directed stars such as Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Anthony Hopkins, said he is coming back to the area with other people who will work on the film with him, including his younger brother, Gregg Leonard, the film’s music director.

Shannon Leonard, 18, the film director’s son, is learning the craft of film-making from his father and will be part of the contingent making the 10-day visit. The teen will be working on special effects and other technical production aspects of Perfect Season, Mr. Leonard said.

Mr. Leonard has been in Australia working on a film there since his first visit to Toledo in August.

Several private meetings with potential investors are planned, one of the largest of which is scheduled for the evening of Dec. 4 in the offices of Communica downtown, which has become the project’s lead for marketing and other support services.

“This trip is about getting down to the specifics,” Mr. Leonard said.

Brett Leonard, a Hollywood director and Toledo native, is proposing a film about the Toledo Troopers, which won seven straight national football championships in the 1970s. Brett Leonard, a Hollywood director and Toledo native, is proposing a film about the Toledo Troopers, which won seven straight national football championships in the 1970s.
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Potential investors will be shown what is known in the movie industry as a “sizzle reel.”

A sizzle reel is similar to what movie-goers know as a trailer, or a preview, except it’s more raw and is used internally for business purposes.

It gives potential investors a visual synopsis of what those associated with the film have envisioned for it, to help entice financing, as opposed to a summary of a finished product to help entice patrons.

Dean Monske, president and chief executive officer of the Regional Growth Partnership, which supports Mr. Leonard’s plans for the movie, is among those who have seen the sizzle reel that will be presented to would-be investors.

He said it does Toledo proud.

“You literally get chills watching it,” Mr. Monske said. “As you’re watching it, it dawns on you that this [plans for Perfect Season] is the real deal. You can’t see that and not get excited.”

Mr. Monske said he’s impressed by the response the project has received from the business community thus far. It includes free food and free use of loaner vehicles when key participants, including Brett and Gregg Leonard, made their initial visit in August.

During that trip, they announced the film would be made and attended the first reunion of team players at the Maumee River Yacht Club.

“I told them from the beginning you’re going to get all of the support you need from this community,” Mr. Monske said.

Mr. Leonard is a 1977 DeVilbiss High School graduate and the son of a former Sherman Elementary School principal and teacher.

The Producers Guild of America, in association with Variety magazine, named him in 2010 as one of 25 people in the movie industry “who have made the greatest impact on digital entertainment and storytelling.”

He said he is not only thrilled about the script, but also the chance to fulfill his lifetime dream of making a movie in his hometown.

Mr. Leonard said he will be scouting film locations and working on other logistics during his upcoming visit.

“Everyone’s responding fantastic to it. It’s just a project that seems meant to be,” he said.

He said he soon hopes to bring Deborah Aquila on board as his casting director.

Ms. Aquila is listed in the IMDb Web site as a casting director with 147 credits, for movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, A Good Day to Die Hard, Stand Up Guys, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Red and television shows such as Dexter, The Shield, and Twilight.

The two have collaborated in the past, including the 1995 film, Virtuosity, which was Russell Crowe’s first in the United States.

Mr. Leonard said he has been in contact with the Toledo Arts Council and other groups.

“When I come back to do this film, we want to use as many Toledo-area people as we can,” he said.

His brother has said he envisions a soundtrack of ’70s-era music performed by Toledo-area musicians.

Whether the film stays on schedule depends on the availability of the lead actors. Mr. Leonard said he continues to be interested in signing rising star Zoe Saldana to the lead role as star running back Linda Jefferson.

Jim Rush, Communica executive vice president and partner, said he was drawn to the project because of its potential to shed the national spotlight on Toledo in a positive way.

“This really has a Toledo flair to it,” Mr. Rush said. “It also has ramifications across North America.”

Mr. Stout and Mr. Guinan said they’ve received a lot of buzz about the project, including strong support from the business community.

“There’s no doubt momentum’s building,” Mr. Stout said. “The groundwork we laid in August [with the reunion] has paid off.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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