Web series produced here clashes with dark forces

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A creepy new supernatural Web series, "Spellcaster," is premiering just in time for Halloween.

"Spellcaster" was filmed in the Pittsburgh area using local actors and crew. The nine episodes each run 10 to 15 minutes.

The story centers on three characters -- Mikhail (Vincent Bombara), a mage or magician, and his two young apprentices, Sean (Kaleb Kenner) and Meagan (Krystal Wallbaum). Sean is a hustler who enjoys using his skills as a magician to con people out of money with shell games. Meagan, who's rescued by Mikhail after a brutal attack on a dark street, becomes an eager and knowledgeable student of magic.

"Spellcaster" follows their battle against a host of dark forces -- hobgoblins, ghosts and evil magicians.

"I always liked the fantasy genre and read a lot of books -- 'Dragonlance' novels, 'Forgotten Realms,' 'The Lord of the Rings,'" said "Spellcaster" creator Joey Skrinjorich. Mr. Skrinjorich, 26, was born in Pittsburgh but grew up on a farm in Shanksville. He went to Valley Forge Military College, and then transferred to Point Park University, where he studied criminal justice.

He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2005 and accepted a commission as an armor officer in 2008. He's now deployed in Kuwait.

In college, he started watching Web series, including the comic sci-fi series "Red vs. Blue," and started thinking about producing his own, but at the time he lacked the resources.

After graduation he was talking with a friend, Elwood Brant -- the director of "Spellcaster" -- who wanted to make a film. They decided to team up and launched their own production company -- AIF Productions. They experimented with a few short comedy Web series. "Spellcaster" is their first major production.

"I am a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi movies and TV shows. When I was sitting around trying to think up an idea for our next project, I kept coming up with ideas for magical shows set in a medieval time period," Mr. Skrinjorich said. "I knew that to do it right and make it look really good would require a lot of time and money that Elwood and I didn't have."

And so the series is set in present-day Pittsburgh. The city's narrow neighborhood streets and alleys, overgrown with sumac and weeds, provide a gritty backdrop for this clash between forces of magic. Look for a great battle scene between Sean and a hobgoblin under the Bloomfield Bridge in episode two.

"Spellcaster" is dark and edgy, but it also has a sense of humor. It achieves some interesting special effects, and its supernatural characters are imaginative yet realistically rendered.

Mr. Skrinjorich plans on a second season of "Spellcaster." The next one will have 15 episodes.

"Spellcaster" episodes will be online at AIF's YouTube channel www.youtube.com/aifvideos and the AIF Productions website www.aifproductions.com starting today.


Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.


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