ATLANTA, Ga. - A Bullitt County native helped ignite a spark into an upcoming made-for-television movie.
Michelle Leasor Ice, Firefighter III, a member of Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services, was offered an opportunity to assist with the realism of her job in a film, “Firelight,” presented by the Hallmark Hall of Fame series.
Ice was one of 10 female firefighters from the Atlanta area who participated in the movie’s related scenes.
The movie is a story of young women from a correctional facility that are thrust into community involvement by assisting in natural disaster relief programs and fighting forest fires.
Ice mentioned that the storyline was based on real-life correctional programs that take place in three states including Georgia, Florida and California.
Retired Marietta Fire chief Phil Chovan was selected as the fire experts commander for the movie being filmed near Atlanta. Chovan contacted Ice to assemble area firefighters as well as to train the actresses.
“They practiced like they were in recruit school,” Ice said. “The main actress (Q’orianka Kilcher) hurt her shoulder during training.”
Ice said some movies in the past did not capture the realism of an actual fire event. She helped trained the 10 actresses by showing the difference between “production ways verses real fires.”
The producers allowed Ice and other firefighters to make suggestions in order to enhance fire scenes, adding more realism to the movie sequences.
“This is close, this is really good,” Ice said.
As the trainer, Ice pulled no punches with the actresses, running them through a real-life training process.
“They really did good because they wanted to be in the role,” said Ice. “They admired us so much. They didn’t know how hard it was going to be.”
In return, Ice expressed her surprise in how hard the actresses worked on the movie, along with all of the other employees on the set.
“It was not what I expected,” she said. “It was strict, like a command at the fires. They work hard. We flowed right into that.”
The mutual respect while preparing for the film resulted in friendships between some of the firefighters and actresses.
“Some of us are friends now on Facebook,” Ice said.
As part of the movie experience, the firefighters did receive a meet-and-greet photo opportunity with Cuba Gooding, Jr., the Academy Award-winning lead actor.
The firefighters do not appear in the movie’s storyline, but Ice and the other will receive significant screen time during the fire sequence scenes.
According to Ice, some of the firefighters received a few first and second-degree burns during filming.
“But it was worth it,” she added.
Most important to Ice was that the movie contained a positive theme and message about the correctional program, especially for a younger female audience.
“We wanted to make sure it was something positive, especially for young women to consider firefighting,” she said. “It’s also a message to straighten up, to better yourself for helping others.”
Ice was known at Bullitt Central High School as Michelle Leasor, Class of ‘84. She also attended Cedar Grove Elementary and the old Shepherdsville Middle School.
“I know every little road in this county, because I ran them all while training,” she said.
Ice also served as a lifeguard at the Bullitt Central and Mount Washington pools wile in high school.
A track star who still holds a few records for the Lady Cougars, Ice eventually headed to Western Kentucky University with a full scholarship for both track and cross-country. For a while she served as a student-teacher in Cave City.
Following her older sister, Angela, to Georgia, Ice took a job as head of the aquatics department for Cobb County Parks and Recreation. It was their that her athletic past met with her firefighting future.
“All the police and firefighters worked out at out main facility,” she said. “The physical qualifications (to become a firefighter) are tough. They dared me to try. A month later I was hired.”
Ice serves Cobb County Fire as public information officer as well as a member of the hazardous materials team. She also works with an instant management team, dispatched to natural disaster sites to assist in logistics and communications.
“I helped after Hurricane Katrina and with southern Georgia wildfires,” she said. Ice most recently was deployed to Alabama following last year’s tornado outbreak.
Acting as a consultant for a movie is unique on a resume, even on one with other impressive jobs and positions. Ice plans to keep her day job for a while, however.
“I’ve got six years until retirement, then I’ll work for the state,” she said. “Disaster-type stuff.”
The world premiere of “Firelight” will air Sunday, Apr. 22, 9 p.m. on ABC. Further information, including a movie trailer, photos and actor interviews, is available at www.hallmark.com/online/hall-of-fame.