Southwest Orange resident Heidi Immler, 7, makes her silver-screen debut in “No Vacancy,” which stars Sean Young, Dean Cain and T.C. Stallings.
For Heidi Immler, 7, acting has always been a part of her life. In fact, her two older brothers, Ryan and Jack Immler, 10 and 9 respectively, also are immersed in the acting world.
“They all really took to it and did it well,” mother Jessica Immler said of her children. “It helped them become very confident. … It’s also really helped them with their memory, because they have to learn the scripts really fast.”
For Heidi, things escalated quickly after she recently auditioned for and received the role of Lori for the movie “No Vacancy.”
The movie, filmed in Leesburg, is based on the true story of a jaded reporter who is demoted to a rural news bureau. During the process of adapting to her new life, the reporter befriends a recovering addict while covering the story of a local church, First Baptist Church. The church is considering purchasing the Big Bass Motel through its Christian Care ministries, to later turn it into the Samaritan Inn for homeless families. Stars include Sean Young, Dean Cain and T.C. Stallings.
After researching the movie, Jessica Immler decided it was perfect for her daughter. The director needed two blond girls about Heidi’s age.
“I saw that it was faith-based, which is amazing to me,” Jessica Immler said. “We want to do that as much as possible. Any kind of story that they can do that’s like bringing inspiration to people or changing people’s life, (or that is) positive — we are doing it or trying for it.”
Heidi was one of hundreds of girls who auditioned. She earned the role of Lori, one of the 1,000 children who were left homeless along with their families in Lake County during the Great Recession. The film tells the story of Lori, her sister, Tazi, and their mom, Shawna Hazlett.
“When I was taping, I had to feel the emotion that I was actually getting pulled off from the home I grew up in,” Heidi said of Lori. “I had to picture it would be sad; I had to feel that.”
MAKING MOVIE MAGIC
For her audition, Heidi not only had to deliver her lines convincingly, but also she had to offer a statement of her faith and articulate the reason why she wanted to be a part of the movie.
“I really want to be in the movie, because I like to tell stories and put them on the big screen, and tell (people) that it is a real story that happened and bring people closer to God,” she told the filmmakers.
Heidi never will forget the moment she learned she got the part.
“In the middle of the night, Mom literally screamed out so loud from the top of her lungs, ‘Heidi, you got the job!’”
Heidi said it took a moment for her to understand.
“Wait! What job?” she asked.
Then Heidi, her brothers and her mom started hopping around the room. Heidi’s dad found out because of the screams.
The entire movie was filmed in just a few weeks, and Heidi’s scenes all were filmed in three days.
Her favorite scene to film was a scene they filmed during the night at Berry Park in Leesburg.
“We were walking full of bags and everything, and we had to walk to a certain place with a piece of cardboard so our outfits didn’t get dirty,” Heidi said. “And we had to lie on the cardboard and our pillows were the bags. Maybe it was uncomfortable, but it was just very nice. The forest was very beautiful.”
The huge oak trees with all the Spanish moss hanging down were a little scary but beautiful. The scene involved a police car having the red and blue lights on, which lent to the atmosphere.
“They had these massive lights up that they put to filming and the way of the shadows, they could get kind of creepy,” Jessica Immler said. “It was really neat to watch what they do to make it happen.”
Because the movie was filmed on a tight schedule, everyone was expected to deliver scenes in two takes.
“From the professional actors that have been in a bunch of movies to the little ones, the expectation was two takes and you’re done,” Jessica Immler said. “So, they had to listen and with little kids who are chatting and want to have fun, that can be challenging. But she only got positive feedback.”
Heidi learned a lot from the actors with whom she worked and was able to work with Young.
“I loved spending time with my friends and explore the scenes, and I loved to — before the scenes were ready — I loved to talk to people and learn and make connections,” Heidi said.
Originally, the movie was supposed to go straight to streaming services. However, it will premiere May 9 in about 800 locations nationwide.
Heidi began acting training under Miami’s Linda “Pops” Jarvis, where they emphasized in training for commercials. After booking some commercials by herself and with her family, Heidi began training, along with her two brothers, at Book from Tape Acting Studios in Orlando. At the same time, she began to participate in several acting workshops around Florida. These include JC Films workshop — The 4 A’s: Acting, Action, Auditioning and Applying; a seminar with actor Dean Cain; a virtual course by Lori Wyman called “Book the Audition” and a virtual course called “Masters of Self Taping.”
She has the done many different projects so far. Last year, she participated in a public service announcement for Love Missions called “I Dream,” which aims to bring awareness to human trafficking.
She also has participated in a web series called “Dark Echoes,” a voiceover commercial for a dental practice, a short film called “V” for the Orlando Independent Filmmakers’ ARISE Challenge and a television series pilot called “Six in the Mix.”
To accommodate all her extracurriculars — acting, jiujitsu, piano and singing — Heidi and her brothers are homeschooled.
“Whatever their strengths are, I can push them ahead,” Jessica Immler said. “She does third-grade work, because she’s really fast, everything her brother (Jack) does, she does with him.”
Every Thursday, the Immler kids attend a program at Circle Christian School in Winter Park, where they spend the day doing different experiments and activities.
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