Ask Toledo native Brett Leonard for a list of former collaborators and you’ll be delivered a roster of Hollywood heavyweights: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Pierce Brosnan.
All succumbed to Leonard’s directorial vision during the 1990s. The filmmaker—best known for his cult sci-fi hit “The Lawnmower Man” (1992)—will join Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy for a free Masters Series talk at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25 on the Museum’s Peristyle stage. He will discuss with Kennedy the role of digital media in Hollywood and his fascination with technology in film.
“The fact that people can watch films and visuals on their phones has changed everything,” Leonard said. “It’s essential to how people are communicating on a global level. It’s a way art is winning, and it’s a really radical time right now.”
Leonard will also discuss his return to his hometown to film “Perfect Season,” the true story of the Toledo Troopers, an all-female professional football team that won seven consecutive championships in the 1970s. The team was the first to be inducted into the recently-formed Women’s Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
“It’s an incredible true story of women’s achievement, and women’s achievement stories haven’t been told to the degree they should be in our culture,” the director said. “And the fact that it happened in Toledo when I was growing up there—all those things kind of conspired to bring me back home.”
“Perfect Season” is the latest in a series of projects for Leonard. In 2010, he was named one of the Digital 25 by The Producers Guild of America in association with Variety magazine, a list of filmmakers leading the way in emerging entertainment. The director and producer received the award for his online media startup PopFictionLife, which features “frags,” or fragments of films released online in parts. The initial “frags” are distributed for free, with the remainder of the movie available for $5.
“New generations seem to be much more engaged with short form and very fast-paced storytelling, essentially fragmenting the way they absorb media,” Leonard said. “I wanted to embrace that trend and experiment with how to distribute to an audience that can get almost anything for free on the internet.”
Leonard’s return to the Toledo Museum of Art to discuss his career in a Masters Series talk is fitting, as he credits the institution with helping to inspire his career in cinema.
“I’ve said this whenever I’ve spoken with students: The reason I’m a visual artist is the Toledo Museum of Art,” he said. “I went there almost constantly as a child, on field trips with school, on my own and with family. The Museum gave me my basis in visual literacy and education, which led of course to my focus on cinema and visual arts in general.”
Since 2011, the Masters Series has brought world-renowned artists, scholars, musicians and others to share their knowledge and talents at the Museum’s Peristyle. The series is sponsored in part by the TMA Ambassadors, a group of active Museum supporters and fundraisers.