Closed Scott church serves as set for film

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Scott Peters, a 25-year-old filmmaker who grew up in Ross, had many people to thank when he stepped to the lectern Saturday night at the former St. Ignatius Church in Scott, where he and his writing partner made the film, "Escape from St. Quentin's."

Mr. Peters and fellow filmmaker Tony Poremski hosted a free screening of the movie for the cast, crew and friends of the project at the church on Ignatius Street in the Glendale neighborhood of Scott.

Mr. Peters thanked the cast and extras who portrayed church parishioners in the story of 10-year-old Danny, a mischievous genius who attempts to escape Sunday services to play a game of football with his friends. The lead role is played by Nick Staso of Washington, Pa.

The film follows Danny's attempts to trick his overbearing parents, avoid the death stare of a nun and wiggle through a tiny window in the church's storage room. With his artful preparation, he may have a chance unless unexpected complications sideline him for all eternity-- or at least another hour.

The independent film cost about $20,000 to make. Extras were not paid but received free food and T-shirts.

"It was a lot of fun to see all the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the film," said Veronica Guns of Mt. Lebanon, who played a church parishioner.

"The young people who put this together showed a lot of dedication and made sure everyone was having a good time on the set. I don't think anyone on the crew was over 30 years old," she said.

Laurie Mann of North Fayette said being an extra was "a blast."

"I really liked the project because it was a consistent, traditional, humorous movie like those shown on Nickelodeon," she said.

Over the years, Ms. Mann said she has enjoyed appearing as an extra in about 20 films shot in Western Pennsylvania, including "Jack Reacher," which stars Tom Cruise. Mr. Peters said he wanted to make the extras an important part of the movie, and his idea paid off.

Some of the biggest laughs at the screening came when "the church lady" turned around in her pew to give the young actors a stern look of disapproval every time they whispered in church.

At the screening, Mr. Peters thanked the Rev. David Poecking, pastor of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Carnegie, for allowing him to film at St. Ignatius, which closed in 2011 and had served as a worship site for the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners. Since the church is no longer used for religious services, Father Poecking was able to make it available for filming.

The cast and crew, numbering more than 100, were at St. Ignatius for two weekends in January to make the film. They changed the name of the church on the sign facing the street, which prompted several Glendale residents to call Father Poecking and ask about the new church, he said.

Mr. Peters credits his mother, Mary Anne Peters of Ross, who has a background in graphic design, for the sign and posters for the movie.

The script that he and Mr. Poremski wrote was selected from more than 180 entries last year for third-place honors in the Steeltown Film Factory script-writing competition, sponsored annually by the Steeltown Entertainment Project to encourage local writers and filmmakers.

The writers won $5,000 from Steeltown and leveraged that money to raise more on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two websites where artists and filmmakers can showcase their projects and appeal for donations to fund their work. They raised $5,000 from Kickstarter and more than $1,500 from Indiegogo. Family members and friends also contributed to the project.

Doree Simon, who went to St. Teresa of Avila elementary school in Ross with the filmmakers, worked as producer for the movie.

"We are going to enter festivals and after that distribute DVDs of the movie," she said.

"The movie plays for kids so well. It was very rewarding to see them get into the story and see it happening in front of them," she recalled as one of her best memories of the project.

It was a long process, taking almost two years from the initial idea to finished film, Mr. Peters said. Mr. Poremski said he's ready to relax a little now that the film is complete, but he's also ready to do more writing. Plans are in the works, he said, to turn the project into a TV series.

If the project becomes a TV series, there are plenty of extras ready to help out.

Frank Wilson drove from his home in Wheeling, W.Va., to appear as an extra and came back Saturday for the screening.

"I wanted to support the project," he said. "I had a lot of fun. ... They were special to work with."

Details: www.facebook.com/EscapeFromStQuentins.

neigh_north - neigh_south

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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