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Area residents share thoughts on roles in movie filmed locally

Sheffield High School graduate Brady O'Donnell on screen in his role as Ollie during the special screening of "Cheat" Saturday night.

“Cheat” highlighted both professional and local talent in the movie’s special screening recently at the Struthers Library Theatre.

Following selection to the United Kingdom’s FrightFest London 2023 and Santiago Horror Film Festival, “Cheat” came back home over the weekend before being pitched in the coming days at the American Film Market in Los Angeles.

The special screening opened Saturday with Sara Arlene’s live performance of her song “Deep Blue,” which is featured during the end credits of the film. Arlene, a Titusville native and current Warren resident, was accompanied by Company Townes. She developed the song after “Cheat” director Kevin Ignatius approached the band about a female-led track for the film. Although the band did not have a current song that fit the film’s aesthetic, Arlene thought to tap into her poetry and with the help of Eric Morelli adding music to her words, developed a hypnotic and dream-like song that was able to put the audience in a relaxed state prior to the jump-scare horror film they were about to experience.

“When I did my music video, which came out a couple weeks ago, I had a complete vision for it,” Arlene said. “Totally influenced by Andy Warhol and his screen tests from the 1960s. So, I love the high contrast of different colors, whether it’s black and white, or it’s the red and the blue.”

Arlene said she is always writing and being able to perform a brand-new song that was developed from her poetry meant a lot to her. She said she’s excited for the exposure the film will give her and the band.

"Cheat" directors Nick Psinakis (left) and Kevin Ignatius (right) addressing the audience prior to Sara Arlene's performance and the special screening of their second film.

“The fact that he (Ignatius) had a premier in L.A. and London, and a couple other places around the world, it’s just really really cool that my song is in there and that he featured me,” Arlene said.

Following Arlene’s performance, the audience was thrown into the fictional town of Silvercreek, where they were able to see familiar faces Brady and Carter O’Donnell, both of whom were featured in Ignatius’ previous film “The Long Dark Trail” in 2021.

“The Long Dark Trail was Kevin and Nick (Psinakis) out with their camera and whatever could fit in our car that day,” said Carter O’Donnell.

Carter O’Donnell explained that when filming “The Long Dark Trail” many of the locations were isolated, whereas during the filming of “Cheat” they were in more populated public locations. However, despite the films being different, the special screening events were very similar.

“Something very similar to The Long Dark Trail,” said Carter O’Donnell. “A lot of faces that I recognize from around the area, that know us or Kevin or someone else involved in the project and want to show their support.”

Sara Arlene performs her song "Deep Blue" prior to Saturday's special screening of the movie "Cheat" at Struthers Library Theatre.

Carter’s brother Brady, who has a more prominent role in the film as Ollie, also highlighted the differences between the two films the brothers were able to participate in.

“The first movie kind of happened as a result of that, because he (Ignatius) wanted to just film away from everybody,” said Brady O’Donnell of filming during the COVID 19 pandemic compared to present day. “With this we could play around and get that film crew in and get actors from around the country.”

Brady O’Donnell found working with more seasoned actors like Michael Thyer and Corin Clay interesting and was glad for the opportunity to learn from them.

Ignatius and Psinakis spent much of the special screening observing the raw reactions of the audience.

“Nick and I were so thrilled with the turnout and support,” said Ignatius. “Standing in the back, we got to experience the audience’s reactions to jump scares and more emotional scenes. Certainly, grateful for the support from the community as it showed.”

The pair are not slowing down, as they are already in the process of preparing their next production, again utilizing Warren County, the Allegheny National Forest, and Titusville in spring of 2024.

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