Firestone's Leah "Rachel" Vogelsang is busy!

​Alum Ready to Craft Movie About Akron
Image of Leah Vogelsang(as reported by Clint O'Connor, Beacon Journal)

Leah Rachel is taking a deep dive into the world of psychological horror.

The writer-director recently sold her new supernatural drama series Chambers to Netflix.

“It’s like Rosemary’s Baby set in high school. It’s super dark and weird. My mother’s going to be horrified,” she said.

“It follows a Native American girl who is 17. She gets a heart transplant from this rich suburban white girl, who you find out isn’t so perfect as everyone thought. There’s a lot about cultural appropriation. It has some Get Out vibes to it. It’s about growing up and sexuality and a whole lot more.”

Rachel was known as Leah Vogelsang when she was growing up in Highland Square and attending Firestone High School (class of 2004). She adopted Rachel, her middle name, as her stage name when she headed to Hollywood about 12 years ago. She has worked on several TV shows and films as an actress, writer and director, but creating Chambers is her biggest project yet.

“I wrote the first script and a show bible for it and kind of took it out and pitched it to all the networks, and lo and behold Netflix came in,” she said on the phone from Los Angeles.

“Usually networks will buy the pilot, then shoot the pilot if you’re lucky. Then, if you’re even more lucky, they’ll do the series. But Netflix doesn’t do it that way. They go all in. They ordered 10 episodes.”

The show has yet to be cast and is in the early stages of production. It is set in Arizona, but will be filmed around Albuquerque, N.M., which offers motion picture tax credits and similar geography.

“We have a team of nine writers and we’re starting to reach out to directors,” she said. “Shooting will start June 12. We’ll shoot for about three and a half months, and then it should come out in April or May of 2019.”

In addition to the pilot, Rachel will write the final episode and direct an episode in the latter half of the season. “I’m also writing two other episodes with my writing partner, who is also my boyfriend, who is also from Ohio.”

Travis Jackson is from Dublin. “I didn’t know him until I moved out here. We met like 2½ years ago. So, of course, I end up meeting a boy from a small town in Ohio. I know how to find the good ones,” she said with a laugh.

The seed for the series was planted by Stephen Gaghan. The writer and director (Syriana), who won an Oscar for his Traffic screenplay, will serve as executive producer on Chambers.

“Stephen is a really wonderful writer. He had read another project that I wrote and he sought me out,” Rachel said.

“He had this grain of an idea about getting a heart transplant from someone who’s not so good, and seeing if there is memory transfer. In the show, the family of the girl whose organs were donated sort of tries to adopt the Native American girl and there’s a lot of cultural whitewashing.”

Chambers will put Rachel smack dab in the middle of the streaming-binge-watching craze.

“Netflix is the best place I’ve ever worked. They really, really trust artists. They have been incredibly supportive,” she said.

“When they put trust in the creator and let them go wild, instead of trying to vanilla it out, like a bunch of other networks do, they get cool results. Their shows are going to be huge hits or huge misses, but that’s what they go for.”

Akron movie
Rachel has worked on several projects with her younger brother Joe Vogelsang and other Akron transplants, including the short film she wrote and directed, Boys I Used to Babysit, which screened in the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2015. (Another brother, Jaron, has thus far managed to sidestep the entertainment industry).

Her parents Susan and Brian Vogelsang recently traded Ohio for California. “We just sold our house in Highland Square last year,” she said with a groan. “It was so sad. I cried.”

She remains a big Akron booster. So much so that she and Joe hope to shoot a feature film here in the summer of 2019.

“After Chambers is over, we are putting together a movie that hopefully, knock on wood, we will shoot in and around Akron. It’s really awesome. It’s a little $2 million movie. We’ve been talking with the [Greater] Cleveland Film Commission, so hopefully we’ll be able to pull it off.”

The title: The Young, the Hot and the Bothered.

“It’s kind of a John Hughes-y high school movie, but it’s about unrequited love and obsession. It’s a really, really sweet movie, and it’s all pulled from Akron. The Valley is in it. Swensons is in it. It would be so great to use the real locations.”

She wrote the script and will direct. Joe will produce.

“It has similar vibes to Lady Bird,” she said, “but it’s also a love letter to Akron.”

Image of Leah Vogelsang
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