NEWPORT — The city was the inspiration for and one of the filming locations for “Leo and the Shark,” a film now available worldwide through Amazon Prime.
The film’s director, Nathan Walker, lived in Newport off of Broadway in his early 20s, and Newport had the aesthetic he imagined when writing “Leo and the Shark” in his one-bedroom apartment.
“For me, the whole thing was birthed in Newport,” Walker said. “I used the city as a jumping-off point because it captured the vibe so well.”
Along with Newport, “Leo and the Shark” filmed in other New England locations including Norwich, Connecticut, and Holyoke. Walker said he considered Newport the “home base” and matched other filming locations to the city. According to Walker, “Leo and the Shark” took about four months to film, and the crew was back and forth in Newport most of the time.
Exterior filming included Thames Street, Broadway and Bellevue Avenue, occasionally detouring onto some quieter side streets. According to Walker, the Newport scenes are most noticeable in the first quarter of the film, but said true Newporters can spot their favorite sites throughout.
“People who have grown up in the [city] can detect little hidden gems here and there,” Walker said.
Newport was overall an enjoyable place to film because the people accommodated the shooting so well, said Walker. The only major challenge the director recalled was a complication with drone filming. Even with the challenge, Newport’s beauty added to the film. Walker noted how the crew kept track of the full moon in order to capture night-time footage of one of the characters on Ocean Drive.
“The movie is about an ordinary man thrust into unbelievable circumstances by a seemingly benign event,” Walker said.
The film focuses on the evolution of Leo White, a young man who, after a heated argument with a manager, experiences a series of unexpected consequences.
“Leo is a young man to start, and through the process of the movie is forced to evolve as a person,” said Christopher Cagle, executive producer of “Leo and the Shark.”
On Oct. 11, “Leo and the Shark” began streaming on Amazon Prime. Through the streaming service, the film is available in five countries, according to Cagle.
The film was Walker’s directorial debut, and he felt the experience was a learning opportunity for all involved. Walker said he now hopes the film can be a launching point for others on the crew, and he wants to continue learning and improving as a director. Walker and Cagle felt appreciative to the city of Newport and all the people who made the film possible.
“We were a bunch of kids set off to make a movie and did a good job doing it,” Cagle said. “Go out, watch it and leave a review.”