Persevering in the Pursuit of Film Creation with Producer Selena Leoni

The world has spent nearly a year now attempting to deal with the most severe pandemic in modern history. Beyond the paramount need for sheer survival, it’s been the attempt to create a semblance of conducting business amidst all of this which has been the most demanding. Most of the world’s population conducts themselves within a social setting that supports work and the film industry is certainly no different. While almost all production had been shut down for 2020, some filmmakers persevered and paved new ways to create; keeping the industry alive. Producer Selena Leoni found herself working up to and into the pandemic. Her role has always been finding a solution to keep a film production on target and though Covid 19 has presented a once in a century trail, Leoni has already proven to be its match. 

Producer Selena Leoni

  Selena Leoni has always found herself being a part of different worlds. A child of parents from Italy and China, she spent her childhood between these two locations and gaining an appreciation for the qualities that made the people and places so interesting. Unbeknownst to her, this would serve as the perfect laboratory for creating a filmmaker who is both intrigued and at ease with the qualities that make us unique and also bind us. As a producer of diverse films, Leoni continually brings a perspective and skill set which imbues her worldly creativity. From comedy to drama and more, Selena gives ample evidence that the effect of utilizing a creative producer is profound and benefits all aspects of a production. As a lifelong student of people, Selena Leoni contributes an emotional depth to her films that is rarely found in such abundance in her vocation. 

  Selena had been producing Writer/Director Jahmil Eady’s The Bond right up to LA’s stay-at-home order. Filming was completed on The Bond on March 11, 2019, the day before the World Health Organization officially announced Covid-19 as a pandemic. It’s history now that the world, including the film industry, shut down following this. While the final stages of production for The Bond were able to be completed, the pandemic meant the postproduction process as well as the film’s release would be massively effected. Selena informs, “Up to that point, my greatest challenge for the film was finding a newborn baby whose parents were willing to include their month old child in the film as the story revolves around an imprisoned and expectant mother. While we had finished filming, there were still many parts of the production that had to be completed. Myself and the team had to immediately recalibrate the manner in which we worked to maintain CDC guidelines and ensure the health of everyone involved. Add to that the fact that there was a major run by the general population on things like masks, hand sanitizers, etc.. It was a challenge to say the least. But then again, a big part of what I do is overcoming obstacles.” Set for release in May 2021, The Bond stars Independent Spirit Awards Nominated Actress Yolanda Rolss as Cece, Jonathan Medina (The Purge, CBS’s Primetime Emmy Nominated Seal Team and People’s Choice Award Nominated Series NCIS: New Orleans) as Ambrogi, Ashley Wilkerson as Aria, and Kathryn Erbe (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) as Dr. Sattler.

Leoni on set during the pandemic

Surpassing what was achieved with The Bond, Selena took up the producer mantle for the comedy Smile or Hug from Director Paul Sprangers in September of 2020. The film stars some very recognizable talent on screen including a legendary action film star (soon to be revealed), as well as Noah Baron (of Ethan and Joel Cohen’s Oscar Nominated Film Hail, Caeser!), Chris Aquilino (of HBO’s Golden Globe Award Winning series Silicon Valley and Big Little Lies), and Imagen Award Winning Actress Andrea Navedo. Currently in postproduction, the director’s vision was for the film was to possess the heart of a John Hughes film with the psychedelic/absurdist visuals of Spike Jonez. Selena relates, “One of the most important factors in achieving the director’s vision was the locations which we chose. Communication with my director is always key to fully understanding what they are looking for and avoiding any delays in the process due to a lack of clarity. Once we are on the same page, I share their vision and can confidently provide what they need. Of course, this importance was magnified during Covid as we needed to find the ideal locations and be assured that everything was prepared with the new safety protocols. Any flexibility that is normally available for last minute adjustments was essentially non-existent. The need to be perfect has never been as prominent as it is now.” The producer continues, “When I was young I wanted to be a private investigator. Besides having a love for crime dramas and thrillers, I’ve always had this strong attention to detail. People who know me would say that I’m a type-A person, and therefore, everything in my production tends to be super organized. As a filmmaker, I believe the most critical element of a good story is the characters. A great story needs to have memorable and developed characters which people can relate to.” The highly organized and detailed side of Selena Leoni’s personality is an ideal complement to her artistic sensibilities, proving to be a perfect formula for a producer in this industry during such a moment in history as this.

Writer: Coleman Haan

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