Point Park students star in independent horror film

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

A cast and crew of college students produced a Horror film called Misfire with a budget that was less than 500 dollars. The film, which tackles real-world issues such as depression, substance abuse, and abusive relationships, took over a year to create.

Filming took place from April to August and after a month of editing the film was released on YouTube and FilmFreeway on September 22, 2022.

Julia Polisoto, a Point Park acting major, stars in the project, as Heather, who is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend.

Polisoto heard that Ryan Lucht, the film’s director, was searching for an actress to play the lead role and Jonah Hartman, who plays Dave, a character that struggles with alcohol abuse, suggested her to Lucht.

“The actual audition that we had one day, he set up a zoom audition, but it ended up not even being an audition,” Polisoto said. “I think I read a scene. And then we just talked back and forth about the characters…and what it meant to us.”

Polisoto grew up in Buffalo, New York, and always had an interest in musical theater. She was in multiple productions for her schools’ middle school and high school and also performed in the Academy of Theatre Arts in Buffalo. She performed in multiple productions including Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, and Drowsy Chaperone.

She eventually came across Point Park in middle school and wanted to attend the university as young as when she was in 6th grade. She decided to go to school for acting instead of musical theater because she applied for the screen reading late.

Polisoto, who is now a junior, took part in many productions, but taking a part in a horror film was uncharted territory.

“Growing up I was always terrified of horror movies,” Polisoto said. “I honestly never really watched them unless I was like a big group of people, but I always thought it’d be so interesting to act in one because it’s not normal life.”

Misfire was the first horror film she took part in and the genre is intriguing to her. She classified horror films as “terrifying,” but she enjoyed her time doing something she hasn’t done before.

Lucht urged Polisoto to watch the movie Taxi Driver. This was to help her adjust to acting in a horror film.

Hartman, a junior Point Park acting major, has performed in the horror genre before, but only once. His last time performing in one was with Lucht as the director in the short film, the Missing, when he was still in high school at Franklin Regional.

This isn’t Lucht and Hartman’s first time working together. They first performed in the same musical in 8th grade. The two are back on the same set. This time, they are toppling issues such as self-harm, suicide, mental health, alcohol abuse, abusive relationships, and body dysphoria.

“From the get-go, we want it to shine a light onto these issues, and do it in a sense that it’s entertaining to watch, but also, if you watch it, you truly take everything in,” Hartman said. “You can see that all these people are troubled, and it does reflect in a way real life.”

All four main characters struggle with their own problems and Polisoto described the film as a “warning.”

“If you aren’t checking in with your friends, and you’re not checking in with yourself and your own mental health, this is obviously a dramatized, worst-case scenario, but it goes to show that we all need to care for each other,” Polisoto said. “In this scenario, everyone was so in their own world that they didn’t get to care for one another at all.”

Lucht, who is a student at Cleveland State University, intended for the movie to create overly dramatic scenarios, but he wanted to make sure that the movie’s point came across about the importance of mental health. 

One element of the film the producers focused on was ensuring that a prop gun used looked real.

“I needed to make sure that the gun, the main prop of the film, looked like a gun because it bothers me whenever you see a movie, and it’s clearly like a cap gun or spray painted black,” Lucht said. “The gun had to have weight, it had to look real, it had to give you a sense of danger. And so I searched all over the internet for a BB gun.”

Hartman said that he loves working with Lucht and that he loved the way he gave the gun a voice and power.

“It’s a huge temptation for Jim, who is played by Vish and I think as you progress through the film, you see it and it’s kind of chipping away at this character and enticing them,” Hartman said. “If it could have a voice, it would be very soft, whispery, and kind of like a siren, trying to entice him to do all this stuff.”

The gun plays a huge part in the two-hour film. As for the production of the film, there were some difficulties with the actors having busy schedules.

“My schedule and Tim, who played Alex, were the only two schedules that aligned,” Hartman said. “The scenes where I’m with Tim, I’m in person with him, but anytime I’m in a scene with Julia or Vish, they were never in person.”

Despite the scheduling difficulties, Lucht made sure he got the scenes he could with Tim Quinn, who is a student at Mercyhurst, and Hartman on the set at the same time.

“He was able to pull it off,” Hartman said. “He got the camera angles, he got everything right. I was very impressed with how it all came out.”

Misfire was shot entirely on an iPhone using cinematic mode. This made it easier since Lucht didn’t have to lug around expensive cameras. All he needed was an external microphone and LED lights.

“I’ve just gotten better at it, but I’ve always thought that making on iPhones actually kind of even a better challenge, because that’s only one camera you got and that’s only one thing you got,” Lucht said. “Cinematic mode has been really great. The shots turned out beautifully.”

The film passed 4,000 views this week and Lucht is excited to see what the future holds in his directing career.

Polisoto is grateful she had the opportunity to work in this film and is glad that Point Park has given her a forum to be able to act.

“Growing up, I never really had an actual acting class, so there were just so many technical terms that I still had to learn,” Polisoto said. “There were many techniques I still had to learn and Point Park has provided in the first two years, such a great foundation.”

Calvin Cich, a Point Park musical theatre major who enjoyed watching Misfire, grew up with Polisoto and performed with her at the Academy of Theatre Arts in Buffalo. Cich is glad that Point Park gives them an outlet to pursue their dreams in both acting and theater.

“There are so many people who are on Broadway and in the career path right now, who came straight from Point Park,” Cich said. “I think that the training and the skills that you need for theater and acting you’re going to get here.”

Cich added that the professors at Point Park share their experiences and give them the tools they need to succeed. One professor he mentioned was Phillip Winters who performs in the Pittsburgh Theater scene for companies such as the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.

“Everything that these people are giving you, they know what’s up,” Cich said. “They know what’s going on in New York. They know what’s going on in LA. They know what’s going on and they’re going to give you the best tools to succeed in those environments.”

Will Cobb, a senior musical theater major is performing in Sondheim on Sondheim for the Conservatory Theatre Company. He said that the students he is learning with, including those who are in Misfire, helped him as a performer.

“Everyone had such a great sense of who they were as a performer and seemed so settled in themselves,” Cobb said. “They were so unique and that’s what I want to have out of a program. Somewhere that could help me find that path for myself as not just a musical theater artist but doing anything as a performer.”

April Daras, Chair of Theatre and acting and directing professor at Point Park said that she loves seeing students thrive.

“It’s so exciting to see our students being successful, doing the thing they love and understanding that it’s going to come with peaks and valleys, but that persistence, and finding the joy in every day of it,” Daras said. “It’s like nothing else. It’s very exciting and it’s a privilege.”