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Locally filmed movie set for debut in Indiana

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Director David Altrogge (left) and cinematographer Michael Hartnett line up a camera angle and gaffer Alan Jaskewicz (right) repositions equipment while shooting footage in Indiana County for the recently completed feature film 'Twin Reflex.' The film is being released through the Indiana based Vinegar Hill film company and will be debuted Saturday for a hometown audience.
Actors Hank Fodor (facing forward) and Jack Culbertson run through a scene seated at a table while a crew member adjusts a microphone during filming of the movie 'Twin Reflex' in Indiana County.
Director David Altrogge has a discussion with unseen crew members during fliming of the movie 'Twin Reflex' in Indiana County.
Lead actor Jack Culbertson prepares for a scene during filming of the movie 'Twin Reflex' in Indiana County.

David Altrogge is bringing paranoia, delusions, lies and even murder to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

On Saturday, the Indiana County-born filmmaker and Vinegar Hill, the film company he co-founded with Ian Murphy, will debut their first feature production, “Twin Reflex,” for a local audience at the Indiana venue. Altrogge directed the film.

The local unveiling is appropriate since “Twin Reflex” was shot in the Indiana area with a cast and crew dominated by Indiana County natives and Indiana University of Pennsylvania alumni.

In the film, the main character, Roy Cawl, deals with his insomnia by keeping tabs on his reclusive neighbor, Mr. Robb. Cawl becomes suspicious of Robb's activities and decides to break into Robb's house. But he finds more than he bargained for and he becomes the prime suspect when Robb turns up dead. As for the rest of the plot and even the title ....

“Well, if i told you, I'd have to kill you,” said Altrogge when asked about the title. “Just kidding. I can't tell you why it's called ‘Twin Reflex.' You'll have to watch the movie to find out.”

And so, you're invited to a free public screening of the feature at 7 p.m. Saturday in the KCAC's Toretti Auditorium, at Wayne Avenue and Pratt Drive on the IUP campus. Fans can then join the cast and crew for an after-party at 9 p.m. at The Coney restaurant and night club, 642 Philadelphia St., Indiana.

“It'll be a night to remember,” Altrogge said. “We wanted the first showing to be in an awesome theater. We think the movie is worthy of a great first screening. It's a film that's bursting with mystery and intrigue.

“I have friends who are working in Los Angeles who are envious of Vinegar Hill (named after the Indiana landmark steps that lead from Water Street to Jimmy Stewart's boyhood home). Indiana is an incredible town for filmmakers. The community has been so supportive of us over the years and throughout this project. There's no way we could have made this film anywhere else.”

The distinctively Indiana County flavor runs all through “Twin Reflex,” both in front of and behind the camera.

Murphy, the film's executive producer, is an IUP alumnus and Indiana native. The film's locations and props supervisor, Dorah Rice, is also an Indiana native, and several other cast members have Indiana ties as well.

But you need look no further than who is on-screen to find strong local ties. Jack Culbertson, who plays Cawl, is an IUP graduate, as is Emily Brooks, who plays Cawl's sister, Karen. Hank Fodor, a Blairsville native and IUP alumnus, is Cawl's friend, Dice. All three were students in IUP's theater department.

“Dice is indeed the best friend to Roy,” said Fodor. “(Dice is) really the only thing Roy has left. At least that's how Roy feels. My character, Dice, is a police officer in the town. Roy and Dice were old high school buddies and most of their friends have left the area. Karen and Roy's relationship is not great, and I feel that Roy depends on Dice a lot just to keep him grounded.

“I've worked with David on commercials and short films, but a full-length is a completely different process. So much goes into it. More than people know. I've met so many great people working with Vinegar Hill, and they've worked so hard to get this film perfect.”

“Twin Reflex” was conceived in February 2011. Altrogge and crew filmed for six days in June 2011, 16 more in January 2012 and then three more days in September 2012.

The editing process took about nine months, not only in post-filming but throughout the production. This enabled the Vinegar Hill team to see very early what elements of the film were missing or needed reworked. Then they were able to shoot additional footage to fill in the gaps.

When major movie studios decide to reshoot scenes or add footage, it impacts the film's bottom line in a negative way. But Vinegar Hill stayed within its modest $30,000 budget and stayed on course to produce a film Altrogge feels will keep his audience riveted.

“'Twin Reflex' is huge for us,” said Altrogge. “The company was founded for one reason – to make feature films. Our hope is that this is to be the first of many story-driven films that are produced right here in Indiana.”

Vinegar Hill, which is celebrating its seventh year, financed about half of the budget. The other half was financed through, a crowd-funding website that allows fans and other individuals to network and pool their money in support of the film.

Not all of the support has come in the form of financing.

Altrogge said Vinegar Hill has enjoyed strong cooperation from the community in its filmmaking endeavors. He sees great potential to keep making films in Indiana County and to keep Vinegar Hill rooted here.

“Indiana has a rich history of filmmaking, being Jimmy Stewart's hometown,” said Altrogge. “We hope to continue that tradition with this film and the films that we have in development.”

Beyond the Indiana debut of “Twin Reflex,” Altrogge said, “We'll be marketing the film to a national audience. We're planning on marketing it to the hundreds of thousands of aspiring filmmakers out there. We really think this film will connect with them in a unique way.”

“Twin Reflex” will be released on iTunes, Amazon and eventually Netflix later this year. DVD and Blu-Ray copies will also be available.

“This is definitely a springboard to something bigger,” said Altrogge. “Our next film is going to blow this film away. We absolutely cannot wait to start production on the next film that we'll be shooting in Indiana County.”

That film is an adventure story called “The Condition” set in a future America. Altrogge says he's staying mum on other details “until we're a little further along in production,” but he hopes to shoot much of the feature in Indiana County again.

To reserve tickets for Saturdays's screening or to watch a trailer, visit

John B. Smathers is a freelance writer.

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