Fox High School sophomore Allison Crandall is only 15, but she’s already spent more than a decade working to build a career in the entertainment industry.
She may have just had her first real break.
Allison portrayed the younger version of the main character in a film titled “Follow Your Heart,” which premiered on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel on Oct. 4 and was aired again on that channel on Oct. 22.
The film originally was titled “From the Heart” and premiered on Canadian television in 2019.
Allison said a group of her family members and friends gathered at her Arnold home for a viewing party on Oct. 4, but she skipped it.
“I didn’t want to be in a room as people watched me act,” she said.
The film, which may still be viewed on the hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com website, tells the tale of a woman (portrayed by Galadriel Stineman) who leaves the Amish community she grew up in to become a travel writer.
After her father dies, she returns to the community and reconnects with her first love. She then must choose between a life with him or the one she built as a travel writer, including the other man she loves.
Allison appears in a flashback, playing the main character as a child, and the scene, which lasts about 2 minutes, is about 30 minutes into the film.
Fox High band director Tommy Perry said it was exciting to see the scene featuring Allison, who plays both the baritone saxophone and alto sax in the band,
“The minute I saw her on the screen, I got the remote control and paused it. I started yelling at my wife, ‘Come in here, come in here. It is Allison!’ It was a cool moment to see one of your students make a pretty major check mark on their career accomplishments before they even graduate high school,” Perry said.
Landing the role
Allison has been represented by Talent Plus of St. Louis since she was 4 years old, her mother, Kathy Crandall, said.
Caitlin Tadlock, a casting coordinator at Talent Plus, said the film’s production company reached out to the talent agency looking for actors.
“We immediately thought of Allison for it,” said Tadlock. “She knows the craft really well. She has always been really dedicated.”
Allison said her audition tape, which had her reading lines from the scene that appeared in the movie, was sent to the production crew.
Then on an early July day, Allison got a call from her mother, who was in Las Vegas with Allison’s aunt and grandmother.
“I definitely thought she was calling me to make sure I was doing my schoolwork and see how things were going,” Allison said. “I picked up the phone, like, ‘Yea, this will be fun.’”
It turned out to not only be “fun” but also potentially life changing.
“The agency (Talent Plus) called me to set up if she could do it and the travel,” said Kathy, a fourth-grade teacher at Hodge Elementary School, which is also part of the Fox district. “I had to leave the casino and find a quiet place in Las Vegas, which is next to impossible, to try to figure out the finer points of setting up the scheduling.
“I then called her and told her. She was alone. I heard her scream over the phone. She was like, ‘What? Really!’”
Allison said she started dancing around her room.
“I was genuinely shocked,” she said. “This is my biggest role and first gig in a movie. I was very excited.”
Allison said the movie role may turn out to be the break she needs for her budding career.
“The director said she liked working with me. That is a good thing. If you get people to know and like you, they may call you back. They also may recommend you to other people.”
Allison and Kathy went to Mountain View, Ark., just a few weeks after she landed the role, to film her scene.
Allison was 14 at the time. The boy who played her first love – Vassili Georges of Chesterfield – was 15. The two teenagers had to quickly figure out how to portray a childhood love.
“The day we filmed was the first time I met (Georges),” Allison said. “We had to have this deep connection, and I had just figured out what his name was before we started filming.”
Allison was in one short film before getting the movie role. She also has appeared in 10 plays and two internet music videos, and she has done voiceover work and been part of print ad campaigns.
She said the movie experience was completely different from any of her previous work.
“The biggest difference was the number of people who were involved,” Allison said. “There are only two people in the scene, but there were so many people spread out around us doing different jobs.
“In terms of being memorable, I think the movie stands out, because it was my first time and an eye-opening experience to be in the film world.”
Georges said he enjoyed working with Allison.
“She did an amazing job from preparation to acting on camera and what she did off camera; she was amazing,” he said.
Allison said she was impressed with the scene, which she got to see in 2019 when the production studio sent a copy that only she and her family could watch.
“When I first watched it, I didn’t believe it was me,” Allison said. “I was shocked how well it turned out. I am incredibly hypercritical of myself. I pick out things I should fix and change in the future. I was so happy with how it turned out.”
Kathy said Allison was a photogenic child, and photographers often asked permission to display her daughter’s photo in their studios, which eventually got her involved in the entertainment field.
“This went on for a year, and when JC Penny asked if they could use her, some parents said you should be paid for this,” said Kathy, who is married to Fox High math teacher Kevin Crandall. The two also have a 12-year-old son, David.
After that, Kathy said she contacted Talent Plus.
“They took her as a client,” Kathy said.
Allison is part of Dance Force, a competitive dance team from Motion Express School of Dance and Acrobatics in St. Louis County.
She also is a member of Fox’s cheerleading team and competes in “acro” – a version of acrobatics that involves multiple participants performing together to execute various lifts, tumbles and other feats.
Allison said she thinks of herself as a dancer, but she also enjoys acting, especially in the theater.
She said before the movie, her favorite role was when she played Agnes in “Meet Me in St. Louis” for the Christ Memorial Productions theater group.
“That was my first lead in a musical,” Allison said. “I made so many great friends. I got the experience of having a big role in a musical. The connections I made in that show when I was 12 are still with me.”
She also appeared in “Seussical the Musical” and “Mary Poppins” for CMP.
Kathy said she enjoys watching Allison in theater productions.
“She just loves live performances,” Kathy said. “That makes me happy, because she lights up on stage.”
Those who know Allison said they are impressed with how she manages her busy life.
“She does really well with making sure her activities get equal time, and that she is part of her activities,” Perry said. “When she is there, she is with us. I don’t think I can recall a single motivation issue with her.”
Tadlock said Allison has a bright future in entertainment.
“I am so impressed with her,” Tadlock said. “She is developing so many skills, and she is so professional. She is so extremely talented.”
Fox Superintendent Nisha Patel said Allison is a great example of what students may accomplish.
“Allison is one of our exceptional students, whom we are extremely proud of,” Patel said. “To accomplish what she has so far in her life speaks volumes to her work ethic and love for what she does. She is a great example for our student body for someone who is finding her purpose.”
Allison said she plans to continue pursuing a career in entertainment, but she also plans to attend college.