Young filmmakers Scott Peters and Anthony Poremski couldn't have been more pleased when they saw the interior of the former St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Scott.
"It was perfect. Exactly what we were looking for," said Mr. Peters, who is directing the movie "Escape from St. Quentin's," a light-hearted tale about 10-year-old Danny, who is trying to get out of going to Sunday services so he can play football with his friends against a team of public school kids.
The two filmmakers co-wrote the script, which was one of three finalists in the 2012 Steeltown Film Factory script-writing competition, winning them $5,000 for their film.
One Hollywood producer who reviewed the script called it a comedic version of "Mission: Impossible" set in a church.
"We wanted to use a Catholic church for the setting all along," Mr. Peters said, but they faced an immediate challenge.
"We needed to find a church that was nonfunctioning," he said, because a movie cannot be shot inside a consecrated Catholic church, which can be used only for religious purposes.
"We were looking at an Episcopal Church in the North Hills, close to where we grew up," said Mr. Peters, 25. He and Mr. Poremski, 24, attended grade school at St. Teresa of Avila in the Perrysville neighborhood of Ross, where they became friends in the second grade when they were seated near each other in alphabetic order.
Their friendship lasted through high school and college. When they both returned to the Pittsburgh area after college, they decided to tap into their Catholic grade school memories for their Steeltown script.
The Steeltown script-writing competition is part of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, directed by University of Pittsburgh English professor Carl Kurlander. Steeltown was created to encourage the development of the film industry in Western Pennsylvania, and the script-writing contest has attracted budding scriptwriters and filmmakers. Last year it received 180 entries.
"The initial funding from Steeltown was a spark for us and a gateway to help us make the film," Mr. Peters said.
They needed more money to make the movie, so they went on Kickstarter, a website where films and other projects can be funded by interested donors. To help them reach their fundraising goal on Kickstarter, they held a staged reading of their script this fall at Philip Salvato's Third Street Gallery in Carnegie. They charged a nominal admission fee, sold T-shirts and raffled off an executive office chair donated by KMA & Associates in Lawrenceville.
After the reading, Mr. Peters saw the Rev. David Poecking, pastor of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Carnegie, who was holding his church's annual festival that evening.
"He remembered us," Mr. Peters said. "He was a priest at our church when we were going to school there. He even taught us some words in Swahili." Father Poecking, it turns out, spent part of his ministry in Africa before being assigned to St. Teresa's.
Father Poecking made St. Ignatius, which had served as a worship site until November 2011, available to the filmmakers.
"Father Dave was great, very accommodating," Mr. Peters said.
"We wanted to use the exterior of St. Ignatius for the movie because it is a beautiful church with a traditional Catholic look, but when we saw the interior, we knew we had the right location for the entire movie," Mr. Peters said.
The storage room at the church, which plays an important role in the film, even contained items such as old bingo equipment, a manger scene and artificial Christmas trees that they needed for the script, he said.
"We had fond memories of going to Catholic school, and we wanted to reflect that in the script," Mr. Poremski said.
The movie is to begin shooting this weekend and continue through January.
Extras are needed for the film. Anyone interested in being an extra must send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Carnegie Borough Facebook page contains an announcement of the shooting schedule.
The two filmmakers have plans beyond this film.
"All along we wanted to make a series based on a Catholic grade school called 'K-8,' " Mr. Peters said. "This film and a pilot script we wrote for the series -- we hope -- will show investors that we are resourceful enough to produce a quality film."neigh_west - neigh_north - neigh_south
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: email@example.com