Cynthia L Cherry Leon and her son Jared are living studies of filmmakers who stay true to their visions, and produce the highest quality films using the tools they’ve been blessed with. Their latest film, “Scattered” follows the trials of several young people fighting personal spiritual wars within the confines of a satanic house of horrors. Cynthia screened the film recently for this columnist; I was engaged and thought-provoked throughout. It’s a well done film destined, I hope for distribution.
As a director, Cynthia always gets impressive performances from her actors, and like Leonardo da Vinci, Cynthia is a keen observer of people. Her ability to observe people, combined with her trust in the Holy Spirit, allows her to excel at not only choosing the right actors, but allowing them to craft strong, charismatic and believable performances, such as actor Patrick Vann in her earlier, Rapture-based film, “The Basement”. Read my review of that film by clicking here.
Cynthia understands she has a powerful responsibility as a Christian filmmaker to spread the Gospel in a way that engages rather than disconnects her viewers. She also has a lot to say about the current state of contemporary Christian filmmaking and the impact of films such as “The War Room”. Cynthia spent some time to talk about “Scattered” in this space.
William Powell: What themes did you want to explore in “Scattered”?
Cynthia Leon: First, thank you for the opportunity to share about JCL Productions’ newest feature film, “Scattered”. My son Jared, who is my partner in the production company, and I wanted to explore the human condition and interaction as we did in the film “The Basement”. But this time, from the perspective of spiritual warfare. The supernatural taking hold of a person’s reality, and how relationships would be impacted when the veil is pulled back, and truth is interjected into the lie. What would be changed or transformed in people’s lives, if suddenly, they walked out of darkness into light. And, what would happen if the supernatural did in fact manifest into their reality?
WP: Structuring “Scattered” like a “cabin in the woods” horror film worked well. What made you decide to use the horror structure?
CL: Actually, we didn’t start out with a horror theme, but as we explored the premise, it evolved into more of a thriller/horror due to the fact that the demonic manifestations tend to play on one’s fear. The enemy wants to create fear in our hearts and emotions, and deception in our minds. Darkness wants to trap us into a way of living and thinking that is far from the light and love that God gives us in a relationship with Him. The individuals that were trapped [in the house] were experiencing the manifestation of a mind that is not renewed through Christ, and sees the impact of their past on the present being.
WP: What other films have you directed?
CL: Our first film “The Basement”, which I co-directed with filmmaker and director Gary Voelker.
WP: Have you been accused of being preachy in your films?
CL: Only by my son! [Laughs]. His generation is a more “seeing it lived out” kind of thinking and living. They have an edgier existence than the generations before them. Technology has in some ways desensitized them to violence, fear, etc. They have “seen it all”, but haven’t “lived it all”. That leaves a space for revelation, wisdom, and understanding to creep in through a well-told story that has a meaningful and long-lasting message that will bring transformation and change in their lives.
I would like to think that the films we have done, and will continue to do will carry a redemptive Christian message that is interwoven in the story.
WP: Are Christian films too preachy?
CL: Not all, and I guess it depends on who they are trying to reach. If their anointing is to tell Christ-centered stories that are geared towards Christian audiences, then they have done well in creating stories that will inspire and ignite a greater love for the Lord. It’s so important to know your audience. If you want to reach the un-churched, it has to translate into a form of entertainment they can “understand”, without compromising your Christianity.
WP: What did you think about “The War” room?
CL: It was very inspiring, because of the way it impacted my walk with the Lord. I even made one of my spare bedrooms into a prayer room, which I use regularly. As far as I’m concerned, it did its job in creating more of a passion for prayer in the lives of many Christians all over the world.
WP: How do you get such compelling performances out of your actors?
CL: The casting is 90% of what it takes to bring great performances through on screen. These wonderful actors were selected, I believe by the Holy Spirit. It was often that still, small voice that would speak to my heart and say; “That’s the character Joshua!” or “Here is the character of Diane. Watch her reel. See how great she screams.” [Laughs] God is so amazing.
WP: Where did you find your actors?
CL: I reached out through social media and found most of the actors in the film. Some of them, I had worked with before like Patrick Vann who gave such a compelling performance as “Julian” in “The Basement”. It was only natural that he would be selected to be in our next film. Patrick has that rare presence on film that captivates and moves you along in the story from his perspective as well as other wonderful actors in “The Basement” and “Scattered”.
WP: Advice for first-time directors?
CL: Prepare as much as possible; meaning study. Watch videos on directing. Whatever it is you can do to gain for knowledge and experience. Get to know what each crew member’s function is. Respect each person’s role in the vision. Give the actors room to explore each moment as that character. Be a facilitator; not a dictator, but don’t be a push-over. Strike that balance of authority with compassion and open-mindedness.
Allow the leading of the Spirit of God on [a film] set with you. Pray as the Spirit leads if you are a Christian. Ask the Lord for supernatural insight into how people behave and what they would do in certain situations.
Directing, I believe is all about the study of human beings and their behaviors and character. Watch people as much as you can. Have a love and appreciation of people and their gifts and talents.
WP: What’s next for “Scattered”?
CL: We hope and pray for a theatrical release, as well as exposure in the festivals coming up this year, and whatever else God has for the film. Distribution would be awesome! Thank you again William for this opportunity.