Filming in the ‘hood

By on January 21, 2015
Wawick grads (left to right) Evan Wingenroth, Mike Cagno, David Wingert and Kayla Caracci during a break from filming Monday afternoon. (photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Wawick grads (left to right) Evan Wingenroth, Mike Cagno, David Wingert and Kayla Caracci during a break from filming Monday afternoon. (photo by Preston Whitcraft)

It’s back to the old stomping grounds for Kayla Caracci and David Wingert, 2011 Warwick graduates and current seniors in the Film & Media Arts program at Messiah College, who are spending this month shooting an original short film in their very own Rothsville neighborhood.

“The Neighborhood,” written and co-directed by Wingert, produced by Caracci, is a coming of age story about finding the balance between maintaining old friendships and moving on to new experiences.

In the film, main character Evan longs for the day he can go off to college. When his best friend, Robby, gets the opportunity instead, he tries to make their last day together memorable without anyone getting hurt.

Incidentally, the lead actors are also Warwick grads &tstr; Evan Wingenroth (class of 2011) and Mike Cagno (2009).

Some injury seemed evident as make-up artist Lindsay Corriveau paints a black eye onto an actor’s face. There was also mention of a fireworks scene and the need for paramedic uniforms.

“The Neighborhood” is a senior project for Wingert, Caracci, and co-director Mark Trinkle.

“The project is ambitious because it is the biggest film that we have made, from writing to producing it,” explained Caracci. “So far in our filmmaking careers, with us as the main creators of the film, this is the largest budget we’ve had, as well as the largest cast and crew and longest shooting schedule.”

Caruso’s Italian restaurant was busy as actors ran lines in the corner and the technical crew experimented with spotlight locations, simulating the sun on a gray day. Cinematographer Heidi Markley, Messiah class of ‘14, viewed shot after shot in her camera lenses, calling Wingert over for his approval. Finally, she called “quiet on the set” for scene one.

“We’ve kind of been joking on set that if it’s a good movie then it’s everyone’s movie, but if it’s a bad movie, then it’s just my movie,” said Wingert. “I want people to be comfortable coming into the project, but if it turns out bad, not to feel like it’s their responsibility. I’m willing to take that on myself.”

Nancy McCown, Messiah associate professor and communications department co-chair, expressed great confidence in the budding filmmakers.

“The team they have put together is very talented,” said McCown. “I think it’s a real testament to the program and to the relationships of the (three leaders) that they have so much support from the students and the faculty of the department. They couldn’t do the film on their own.”

Crucial to Monday’s shoot was the support of Pietro “Pete” Spatafora, owner of Caruso’s in Rothsville, who welcomed the production crew to take over the restaurant for the day.

“I’ve know David since he was a little boy,” said Spatafora. “He asked me if he could do this here, so I said, ‘Yeah, why not.’ Give him the chance, to help him out for school. I wish him a lot of luck.”

Spatafora was giving them much more than “a chance.” In addition allowing the crew to use the restaurant space, he also came in early on his day off to prepare baked ziti for the crew.

“Pete has been very gracious,” said Wingert, “not charging us for anything, providing us food for the day and opening up.”

Becky and Royce Wingert proved themselves gracious parents, opening their home as a base camp for “The Neighborhood” operations.

“There was filming at our house yesterday,” said Becky, “and throughout the neighborhood, in some neighbors’ garages, basements.”

Filming at the Wingert house was nothing new, David has been doing it his whole life. Only these days, he brings a full crew, including several Messiah students who camped out at the Wingert house for the weekend.

“It felt like we were back in the dorm,” said Royce.

Once production and post-production have finished, the team plans to premiere the short film at Messiah College’s film festival, Splice. Next, they will move on to a wider film festival circuit before releasing the short film on Vimeo and DVD.

McCown is pleased with the wide array of students the “three strong leaders” have brought together, including an alumna as cinematographer and underclassmen gaining valuable experience working on the film. Messiah film students go on to a variety of fields related to film, from videography to Hollywood, explains McCown.

“We have a student who graduated some years ago, a really talented screen writer who has won some acclaim, and just last year, one of his scripts was picked up by Natalie Portman, who is producing it right now. We have another student who is managing AbelCine, which is a production equipment rental house, so he’s chosen the technical side of things.”

How does faith inform the Messiah education?

“In every course that we have, our students are challenged to think about how their faith speaks to how they learn and grow and do their craft. As a filmmaker, you might think of it as tied to ethical issues related to filmmaking … why would they do a shot the way that they do it, how would they relate to people working on their crew? Sometimes it affects the subject matter that they choose, but we think more of it as interacting with others, and living out their faith or their craft in a behind-the-scenes kind of way.”

Wingert began the days’ shoot with a prayer and spoke quietly and personally to individuals when giving direction. Caracci maintained her composure amidst her many duties as producer, warmly greeting and thanking everyone who was there.

“What we appreciate most about our film experience at Messiah,” said Caracci, “is all the people we’ve had the opportunity to meet, get to know, and work with.”

Katie Grisbacher is a writer and editor living in Lititz. She welcomes your comments at kgrisbacher@gmail.com. 

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