Filmmaker Shooting Boxing Tale in Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN – Joseph Vaglica felt like he was being drawn to Youngstown to make a film.

The Florida man has been shooting “Standing in Youngstown,” a boxing film that he wrote, directs and stars in, for several months. He hopes to wrap shooting in the spring and have the film ready for a local screening in late 2023.

Vaglica visited Youngstown for the first time in 2019, when he got a role in a streaming series. The series didn’t pan out and he returned to Florida but he couldn’t get Youngstown – or the city’s love of boxing – out of his mind.

An amateur boxer himself, Vaglica had previously started writing a script about a boxer. He suddenly felt compelled to return to Youngstown to turn it into a movie and moved back to the city late last year. He hired Susan Sommers Sussman of Salem as a co-writer to help him finish his script.

Vaglica had never been to Youngstown prior to 2019 and had no knowledge of the city, but felt a kinship to it.

“When I was here [in 2019], I discovered how unique Youngstown is compared to other towns, and that it is a big boxing town,” Vaglica said.

“Standing in Youngstown” is the fictional tale of a man who loses his path and eventually finds it again with his fists.

Vaglica plays the lead character, Tony Milano, who goes into a tailspin after the death of his father – losing his job, his wife and his house.

“He is forced to get out of his comfort zone,” Vaglica said. “With nothing left to lose, he decides to start boxing again as a form of redemption for his father, and moves to Youngstown, where his uncle lives.”

Vaglica admits the plot “gets a little ‘Rocky’-ish”  at times but takes its own direction.

“[Tony] just wants one pro fight,” Vaglica said. “He had never had one.”

Preston Steele and Joe Vaglica in a scene from “Standing in Youngstown.”

About 30% of the film has already been shot, with scenes at Southside Boxing Club, F.D. Mason funeral home, Belmont Cemetery, C’s Waffles in Liberty, Bareknuckle Tattoo in Austintown, and the Stambaugh Auditorium steps.

Vaglica was born in Brookyn, New York, but has lived in Florida since he was 5.

He launched his film and acting career after working as a ringside photographer on the set of the 2018 film “Creed 2,” which continues the “Rocky” saga.

“It was a dream come true,” the “Rocky” fan said of that stint.

After returning to Florida, he attended Truthful Acting Studios in Orlando, Fla., for classes.

Vaglica’s crew for “Standing in Youngstown” includes William Long, assistant director; Justin Long, sound operator; and Zackary Spaulding, cinematographer.

The cast includes former pro wrestler and Youngstown resident Preston Steele, Paul Gustovich, Darnell Boone, Natalie Kander,. Philip Albenze, Dylan Hughes and Vaglica in the main roles, along with former boxing champion Kelly Pavlik in a cameo scene, Tony DiMuzio, Robert Mellon, Ron Sorace, Jim Osso, Ross Carlo, Charles Murzda, Merritt Greene and others.

To contribute to the film’s GoFundMe account, which is titled Standing in Youngstown, click here.

Pictured at top: Joe Vaglica runs through downtown Youngstown in a scene from his upcoming movie.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.