MASON CITY | Central Springs high-schoolers Avery Knudson and Carly Neel both have considerable experience in acting, having participated in plays since their freshman year.

This month, however, they each started working in a new sector of the field: film.

Knudson, Neel and other area high school students have been working with Kevin Isaacson, writer/director of Manly-based "I Like Ike Films" on "Oliver Short," a story which centers around a teenager struggling to deal with the death of her father.

Neel, a junior at Central Springs, plays the lead character, Alex. She said she is learning how film differs from theater, adding that working with other high school students has been rewarding.

"I'm enjoying working with some of the other people, because I didn't know them before," Neel, 17, said. "It's been a really nice and accepting culture."

Knudson, who is good friends with Neel, plays Donna, one of the three "spirits" Alex encounters in the film. These "spirits," who take on the persona of people, help her deal with her father's passing and other troubles, in return for Alex assisting them.

Knudson, also a junior at Central Springs, said she encouraged Neel to try out, given their collaboration in school plays.

"Carly is my best friend ... and we're both really passionate about acting," Knudson, 16, said. "Even if I didn't get a part, I would want her to get one."

Both her and Neel said this is her first time working with Isaacson on a movie, adding that he has been patient with them since they are new to film acting.

"Oliver Short" was inspired by the stories heard during a historic cemetery walk in Mason City, Isaacson said. Last weekend, he shot some of the film in town after holding auditions for the parts in early August.

Isaacson added he hopes to finish the movie by Jan. 1, and enter it in festivals around the state and country, including the Iowa Independent Film Festival in Mason City.

Neel, Knudson and others have been quick learners on the job, according to Isaacson.

"They came into the audition and they came into the audition, and blew us away," Isaacson, 47, said. "We call them the 'one-take wonders' because they just get it right away."

The film itself focuses on a suicide awareness message, Isaacson added. He hopes it can used as a tool to create more of a dialogue about the topic.

Knudson said that while there ultimately has been a learning curve, moving from theater to film has it advantages.

"It definitely is a lot different than doing stuff in theater," she said. "It's sometimes better because you have more than one take."

Contact Steve at 641-421-0527 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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