By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
HERMITAGE — Two Hickory High School students are inviting the community to see a film they hope will give people “Something to Write Home About.”
Chase Brown and Maxwell Cianci wrote and shot the film about the pressures teens face and how some decisions they make in response to those pressures can turn out disastrous.
The senior filmmakers got the blessing of school administrators and the help of many within the community to produce “Something to Write Home About,” which will be screened at 1:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Hickory auditorium. Members of the public are invited to attend both screenings.
Chase and Maxwell have been making short films and commercials together since the sixth grade. Samples of their work are available on YouTube and their Facebook pages.
“Something to Write Home About” came from the demise of the “Mr. Hickory” program, a pageant for boys that tried to raise awareness of the problems of drugs and drinking, particularly at prom time, and money for the prom.
Chase and Maxwell fashioned a story about four students – played by Jake Andrusky, Gerald Koledin, Erin Hoffacker and Nate Mastrian – facing relationship troubles, uncertainty over the impending move to college and the availability of drugs and alcohol.
Maxwell said Hickory is like any other school in that there are young people who gravitate to drugs and alcohol.
0002000004D7000005924D1,“At Hickory, they’ve done anything they possibly can to stop it,” he said. “But, you can’t.”
Chase said students are not always aware of the consequences of drug and alcohol use.
“It’s a problem where people need to think about what they’re doing before they do it,” he said. “We want to show them what could happen to you and your friends. This all happens in a five-day period. From Monday through Friday, everything changes for these characters so much.”
“This is important to us,” Maxwell said. “We want to get the word out that this is an actual issue. It isn’t just a little student film.”
Hickory Principal Chris Gill said he sees “Something to Write Home About” as “another option” in promoting positive behavior in students, in line with past efforts such as the Prom Promise, mock funerals and mock accidents.
Gill said he talked with Chase and Maxwell about what would be in the film before giving them the OK to shoot scenes in the school and during school time. He said he wanted to make sure it would deliver a positive message.
The filmmakers said they hope using students as actors and the students’ real names as their character names will help young people feel a personal connection to what happens on the screen.
00020000079100000A6378B,Gill said emotional reactions are important to students, and he thought that showing students a movie made by and starring their classmates will help trigger such a response.
Chase and Maxwell began writing and shooting the film in January, using their own camera equipment.
“We had a $0 budget,” Chase said.
“I think the most we paid was Gerald Koledin paid $3 for a pretzel at the mall,” Maxwell said. “Other than that, it’s been mostly gas and time.
Working under such conditions, “makes it fun,” Maxwell said. “I feel some of the motivation has been to do what we can with what we have.”
Thanks to the community, they actually ended up with more than they would have had on their own.
The Spadafora family opened their house to 30 kids to film the party scene, and allowed the filmmakers to use their editing software, which is better than what Chase and Maxwell had
Tiffany Daley permitted her restaurant, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Sharpsville, to be used for a scene, and even cooked for the crew. John Flynn opened up Flynn Funeral Home in Hermitage, and helped the auteurs line up shots.
“All the people who helped us have been fantastic,” said Chase, who plans to study film production at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh.
“No one gave us a hard time about anything,” said Maxwell, who is undecided about where to continue his film studies.
The filmmakers put out a call for student involvement and found a job for every student who signed up.
While the film tackles serious subjects, there is humor and entertainment value in it, the filmmakers said.
“We want you to laugh, we want you to cry and we want you to be affected by it,” Maxwell said.
“Something to Write Home About” is expected to run 30 to 35 minutes. Adults are asked to make donations with all of the money going to the Hickory prom. Any school groups who would like to see the film can make arrangements by calling Hickory at 981-8750, Ext. 1000