(Behind The Scenes Photography by Jeff Ottum)
Cliff Leonard is a retired Marine with a passion for sculpting. Cliff uses his skills to honor Marines and Navy Corpsman who have been killed in the line of duty. Cliff searches online for Fallen soldiers to honor. He reaches out to family members in hopes to create life like busts to honor their sacrifice. His desire is to, “help their memory live on as long as possible”.
In 2017, one online search lead Cliff to discover Lance Corporal Antoine Smith. The 22-year-old lost his life in 2004 during the battles of Fallujah in Iraq. Antoine was the only child of Deborah Smith and attended First Baptist Church Orlando with his mother. A connection made through the church allowed Cliff to get in touch with Deborah.
Cliff spent two months creating the bust of Marine Lance Corporal Antoine Smith, which was unveiled on Memorial Day Weekend at First Baptist Church Orlando.
The completed bust of Lance Corporal Antoine Smith created by Cliff Leonard.
“Remembering the Fallen,” was produced by Emmy® Award Winner Shawn Vela of Vela Visuals and First Baptist Church Orlando. First Baptist is a 14000 member congregation. The church’s 130 acre campus is located at 3000 South John Young Parkway Orlando, FL 32805. The church meets for worship services Saturday at 5:30pm and Sunday at 8:30am, 10:00am, and 11:30am.
Others who contributed to the project include: Emmy® Award Winner Jeff Ottum, Jonathan Hickey, Cliff Leonard, and Deborah Smith.
As the production of the film came to a close, Shawn Vela said, “Cliff’s story makes it easy to feel a deep sense of American Pride and gratitude for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Being a filmmaker enriches my soul. It gives me the privilege to meet amazing people with stories of impact.”
“Being a filmmaker enriches my soul. It gives me the privilege to meet amazing people with stories of impact.”Shawn Vela, Emmy® Award Winning Director | Cinematographer | Editor
ABOUT SHAWN: Shawn Vela is an Emmy® Award-Winning director, cinematographer and editor, Vela has been recognized for filming on four Super Bowl Commercial sets, IMBD credits on three Emmy®-Winning Documentaries, and director of photography on the Business Travel Show; Ambitious Adventures. He has been quoted in publications such as the “International Business Times,” “Orlando Business Journal,” “CEOWORLD Magazine,” ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC, and THE CW Television Network.
As the founder of Vela Visuals, a full-service video production company based in Orlando, Florida, Vela specializes in creating video content for companies and organizations worldwide. He is also the creator of Filmmaking Essentials, an online educational resource for filmmakers that is scheduled to launch in 2017.
Shawn’s reputation for story-telling was cemented when he won his first Emmy® Award for Directing, Cinematography, and Editing the inspirational short documentary film Alive: Taking A Stand For Christ. He has since continued to prioritize the value of the story content in any production above what equipment is used. Additionally, Shawn Vela, along with his wife Nory Vela, are Co-Founders of Vela Visuals Wedding Films, specializing in creating cinematic wedding videos.
Shawn holds a BSBA in Marketing from the Lebow College of Business at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA; an AS in International Business, and an AA in Communications from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA.
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