YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Filmmaker Adam Michael moved to the Mahoning Valley last year and is making the most of the location.
Michael specializes in short films – anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes – and recently finished his first locally made endeavor, “Theater 4.” It’s about a young woman who enters a movie theater and finds herself trapped in her own dark drama. It was shot in one night at Golden Star Theater in Austintown.
“I love short film work because it is challenging,” Michael says. “I have to tell a complete story in five to 20 minutes.”
Michael wrote and directed “Theater 4” and produced it through his film company, Candid Life Entertainment. He has submitted the 20-minute film to film festivals and will post it for free on the Candid Life Entertainment YouTube channel as soon as festival rules permit him to offer it to the public.
Frank Moses, co-owner and president of New Castle, Pa.-based Golden Star, says it’s the first time a movie was shot at one of his theaters.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the film,” Moses says, “especially considering it was filmed in just a few hours. The main actress [Ali Ferda]did a great job and really pulled you into the story.”
Moses says he would work with Michael again should the opportunity arise. “He was very professional and open with the process,” he says.
Michael’s next film project is “113 N Indigo Dr.”
The film – it is actually three short films that will total one hour and be released simultaneously – is about a man who appears to be normal but is secretly holding women captive in his home.
It will be shot during a week in early May at a farmhouse in Andover. Each of the three short films focuses on a different captive girl, with the overarching plotline running through all three.
The small cast includes Anthony Dain of Columbus, Megan Lynn Hostetler of Indianapolis, Adrienne Lauren of New York, and Leah Harper of Cleveland.
Michael is making “Indigo Dr.” on a shoestring budget of $5,000; he has an indiegogo.com account set up for those who want to donate.
When the project is finished, he plans to have a premiere screening at a local theater and also submit it to film festivals.
“There is a lot of human trafficking in this area and that is what inspired me to write this story,” Michael says, adding that he wants to raise awareness of the problem. He will donate proceeds to Cleveland Missing, a nonprofit that offers support and resources to the families and survivors of abductions.
The plot bears a resemblance to the notorious case of Ariel Castro, who held three women in his Cleveland home for three years before they escaped in 2004. It was a news report that shocked the nation.
“Everybody knows this story,” Michael says. “I didn’t want to say that I took [his movie’s plot] from that Cleveland situation. So I intentionally didn’t read the details so as not to copy it.”
Michael and his wife moved from Cleveland to Austintown about eight months year ago. “It just seemed like the right place to be at this point in our lives,” he says.
The native of Vineland, N.J., attended Elizabethtown College in Lancaster, Pa., and then worked in the higher education field in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where he met his future wife. They moved to her native Cleveland and stayed for four years before moving to the Mahoning Valley.
“We have people we are close to living in the Youngstown area,” Michael says. “We are adventurers and don’t like to stay in one place too long. But we really like Ohio. We love the art community in the Youngstown area. There is a lot of history here and also a lot of filmmakers in this area.”
Writing, directing and producing films has always been Michael’s passion and he now works full-time as a filmmaker and podcaster. He made his first film four years ago and the completion of the “Indigo Dr.” trilogy will bring his total output to 10 films.
Michael’s podcast, Rewarding Conversations, has 32,000 followers.
For his next film project, he will make a documentary on David Vosburgh, who founded Opera Western Reserve in Youngstown in 2004 and served as its artistic director until retiring a few years ago. Michael will shoot the film in Massachusetts, where Vosburgh lives, later this month.
Vosburgh was a Broadway actor and opera singer who worked on New York stages for decades. He later moved to Youngstown, where he was an instructor at Youngstown State University and a pillar of the Valley’s arts community for two decades.
Michael chose Vosburgh as his topic after learning about from Lynn Ohle, who works for him. Ohle has served as a production assistant on Michael’s most recent films.
Michael is not sure what the run time of the documentary will be but says it will be longer than a short film. He plans to have public screenings in the Youngstown area when it is complete later this year.
Pictured: Filmmaker Adam Michael says he loves the arts community in the area.