A New York City filmmaker found inspiration in the hallways of her high school for an upcoming short film.
Maren Lavelle and her partner Mat Steiner formed their production company, One-Eyed Rabbit, in 2019. Their most recent project, Wendy, is a 10-minute short about an imaginative queer eighth-grader trying to build the courage to talk to her secret crush as they rehearse for the school’s production of Romeo & Juliet.
Lavelle, who graduated from Cab Calloway School of the Arts in 2012, returned to her alma mater for the film’s backdrop and casting. After high school, she earned a BFA in acting from Pace University in New York City.
Lavelle relocated to Delaware with her family as she was entering seventh grade and sought out a school that focused on performance arts. While there as a theater student, she also dabbled in vocal work, musical theater and directing.
Later, at Pace, she discovered writing and directing were her strongest passions. The latter allowed Lavelle to take charge of a career in the entertainment industry.
“I have a lot of skills, like keeping a team together and keeping motivation going, and it just kind of clicks into place when I’m directing. …I feel so in my element,” she says.
Her transition from theater direction to film led her to working with Steiner. The original idea for Wendy came when Steiner was working on Thank You Five, an anthology series about stage managers in New York City.
“Typically, when you see content about theater and the stage, you’re focusing on the actor or the director, but we wanted to take the stage manager—who’s one of the hardest-working people in the theater process—out of the shadows…and use that as a vessel for also shining the spotlight on underrepresented folks of different sexual orientations, gender identities and races,” Lavelle explains.
First, she and Steiner partnered on a short inspired by the series Maya but didn’t want to give up on bringing Wendy to life. That led to what Lavelle describes as a “six-month whirlwind” of creating the film.
She connected with Amanda Curry, Cab’s middle-school theater arts teacher, to use the school as her backdrop. After the eighth-grade audition workshop, they cast Ava Ramey as Wendy, and Lexie Rubincan as her crush, Cassie.
To mentor students in the same position Lavelle was a decade ago was a full-circle moment for Lavelle.
“Being able to work with them and create a film that I think is going to be beautiful and touching and fun and remarkable…it was crazy and wild and one of the best weekends of my life,” she says.
Wendy is currently in post-production, and Lavelle hopes the film will wrap sometime this fall. She plans to hold a private screening and Q&A with the students at Cab.
Afterward, Lavelle and Steiner will take the film on the festival circuit, hoping to create a longer film or a project with the similar essence.