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‘Youngstown’ gets local premiere this weekend in Boardman

Movie gets local premiere this weekend in Boardman

Stephanie Hunt, left, and Andy Faulkner star in the movie "Youngstown," which was shot in the area in 2019 and will have its local premiere this weekend at Boardman Movies 8. (Submitted photo)

“Youngstown” is the title and the setting for a new movie.

That’s no lie, although one of its characters is a habitual liar. The other main character? Not so much. She’s incapable of telling a convincing lie, which is a big problem for someone in the witness protection program with a new identity.

The low-budget comedy, conceived by former Liberty resident and co-producer Jesse Reed and co-producer / co-writer / director Pete Ohs, will have its local premiere this weekend at Boardman Movies 8.

“I’m from Youngstown, went to grades 1 to 12 at Liberty, left Youngstown and went to school in Cincinnati and moved to New York,” said Reed, who is a graphic designer. “Whenever I’d visit Youngstown for the holidays and we’d get together with friends at the bowling alley or Plaza Donuts, I’d start texting Pete, ‘You should shoot a movie here at some point. There are so many great locations. It would make such a rich backdrop for any sort of film.'”

Ohs, who directed the feature “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away” starring Julia Garner (“Ozark”) and music videos for Best Coast and Wavves, got those occasional texts for a couple of years before he came up with an idea he considered shooting here.

After watching another film that he believed was unconvincing in portraying the awkwardness of high school, he thought about making a movie about a guy who goes back to his hometown to give advice to high-schoolers.

“Clearly, that is not the movie we made, but that is where the initial idea came from,” Ohs said. “The other idea is I wanted to make a movie the way I used to make things as a kid. I’d get together with friends, we’ d talk and make jokes, come up with something on the spot we thought was funny, and we’d start to film it. It was really fluid and collaborative, a really playful way to make something.

“The way in which the story ‘Youngstown’ came about was going to Youngstown, meeting the people and sort of absorbing what Youngstown had to offer and letting that lead the story and the characters.”

“Youngstown” is the story of Isabella (Stephanie Hunt), a Valley native who’s been given a new name, Sarah Jayne Russell, and a new home in Connecticut by the witness protection program. But Sarah / Isabella can’t hide her Youngstown ties, and with the Canfield Fair approaching, she decides to take a trip back home in spite of whatever risks may exist there.

Along the way, the woman who can’t tell a lie meets a guy (Andy Faulkner) driving a stolen pickup truck who can’t tell the truth. Together they explore the Mahoning Valley that Isabella loves — with scenes shot at Plaza Donuts, Kravitz Deli, Howland High School, Niles Iron & Metal, The Royal Oaks and many other identifiable locations — and end up at the Canfield Fair.

“We didn’t get any written paperwork or official shooting permits, but we always talked to managers and owners,” Ohs said. “We were not trying to sneak in and do something without anyone knowing. We wanted to make something with Youngstown, and it feels better when they’re happy we’re there. The only lying was in the movie.”

“‘Youngstown’ was shot over two weeks in late August / early September of 2019 with most of the dialogue improvised by Hunt and Faulkner and with Ohs serving as director, cinematographer and crew.

Hunt has had recurring roles / multiple-episode story arcs on several television series (“Friday Night Lights,” “The Resident,” “Californication”). Faulkner has a shorter resume but is a friend of Ohs’ and had appeared in an earlier project Ohs directed that used a similar process.

“I only met Stephanie less than a year prior (to making the movie),” Ohs said. “When I met her, she told me a story of a dream she’d had the night before. The way she told the story, it was so captivating and engaging, I thought, ‘This person is special. This person is fun to listen to’ … Andy is one of my best friends and a great storyteller. I just knew he was also this fun person to talk and listen to.

“They only met once before the shoot and got along so well. They just had a wonderful dynamic.”

All the other actors in the film were cast locally — either they were friends of Reed’s family or they responded to an ad seeking actors that ran in the Youngstown Vindicator. Everyone who responded to the ad was cast, Ohs said. They met with the performers, asked them what days they were available and then planned scenes and wrote dialogue that best suited them.

So far, the film has been shown at a couple of film festivals out west, and it will be shown at a festival in Poland (the country, not the village) in November. Details still are being finalized, but “Youngstown” should be available on Amazon around Thanksgiving, free for Amazon Prime members or as a paid rental.

But what’s most important to Reed and Ohs are the local screenings.

“While we were making the movie and dreaming about the future, we just wanted to have the movie play in a movie theater there,” Ohs said. “The fact that’s going to happen, it’s gone full circle. It’s the thing we’ve been looking forward to. Just having a full theater watching the movie is a dream come true.”

And it will be a full theater. Advance sales are strong enough that they’ve cut off online sales for the 7:30 p.m. screenings on Friday and Saturday and added a 9:15 p.m. screening Saturday. Some tickets may be available at the door for the early showings.

“It’s unexpected,” Reed said. “Me and Pete were talking, ‘If 40, 50 people came, it won’t feel too empty’ … To have it reach capacity, sell out is amazing. Now I’m more nervous because there are expectations.”

If you go …

WHAT: Local premiere of the movie “Youngstown”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7:30 and 9:15 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Boardman Movies 8, 469 Boardman Poland Road.

HOW MUCH: $4. Some tickets may be available at the door, but the 7:30 p.m. screenings on Friday and Saturday are nearly sold out and online sales have been cut off.

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