Shelley and Roger Gillespie, residents of Maricopa since 2003, chose the state-of-the-art UltraStar Multi-tainment Center as the ideal location for a film festival. The Gillespies started 3-Hour Movie Critic for avid film-lovers in 2015, growing into the full-fledged festival this February.

Over 80 residents as well as film students from Central Arizona College and ASU volunteered at the festival, both onsite and behind the scenes. Local filmmakers, actors, screenwriters and artists’ works were chosen to be part of the festival.

The film that won “Best of the Fest” featured Maricopa actor Isabella – Izzy – Watts, who has been an actor since she was age four. She is now 13 years old. Her parents drive her to Hollywood several times a month to audition for roles.

Q&A with Izzy Watts

Copa Shorts Film Fest: Izzy, you’ve been acting since you were very young. How did you get your first part and get to Hollywood?

Izzy: I went to an agency in Phoenix to audition in front of agents and managers. I had to memorize lines and do monologues. Then we got a list of those who liked me. That’s how I got my agent.

CSFF: Did you feel confident? Was it hard waiting?

Izzy: I didn’t know what to expect. My first audition was for “Belly Flop” (the film she starred in at Copa Shorts Film Fest, which won “Best of the Fest”). I got really excited and nervous, but the writer and casting director were supportive. They asked me to improvise the rest of the scene. Afterward, my mom said I was “pinned,” the last step before being hired.

CSFF: When did you find out you had the part?

Izzy: The agent called my mom. She told me, “I booked it”- I got the part! Then, it took a month until they started. Finally, when they called us, it took two weekends to film. After that, it took one year to complete the film. We didn’t have any reshoots! Then, I wondered when it would come out.

CSFF: You started acting professionally when you were 10, and now you’re 13. What other roles have you had?

Izzy: I was in a Netflix movie that’s rated “R.” I haven’t seen it. They only gave me the pages to learn that I was in, but I think I was haunting someone. I’ve been in TV show episodes of “Mom”, and the “Mindy Project”. This fall, I’ll be in a national fast food chain commercial.

CSFF: How do you learn your parts?

Izzy: I write out my lines and read them. I get into character, and figure out how the character would do things. The first time, I read the lines without emotion, then I memorize and add emotion.

CSFF: You went to a special arts camp this summer. What did you learn?

Izzy: I decided I want to be a director. When we took turns behind the camera, I saw people placing lighting and thought I knew a better way to place it. It was most exciting to be a director. Now I see inspiration everywhere. I want to make films! I’m making a documentary to submit to next year’s festival.

Like many young people, Izzy aspires to have a thriving film career. Copa Shorts Film Fest is excited to showcase the talent of new filmmakers of all ages.

About Copa Shorts Film Fest:

Copa Shorts Film Fest is an annual film festival with its second festival scheduled on Feb. 16-18. Film and screenwriting workshops are open to the community during the year. Workshops, free to attend, are also held at the festival.

What: CSFF is a two-day film festival with films and screenplays showcased from around the area and the world. In the first festival in 2017, CSFF showcased 56 short films and four short screenplays. Native American musicians performed at both a VIP party and the wrap/awards party and will perform again in February.

Where: The festival is held at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center in its state-of-the-art digital theater at Ak-Chin Circle, 16000 North Maricopa Road, Maricopa.

When: Feb. 16-18, with films and screenplay table reads shown in two-hour film blocks on Feb. 17 and 18.

Why: Film is universal. Copa Shorts Film Fest’s mission is to develop and showcase screenwriting and filmmaking talent. Filmmaking workshops to educate future filmmakers are offered. For the community, the films are entertaining, thought-provoking and exhilarating!

MORE INFORMATION: For tickets and updates, see copashortsfilmfest.org