PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – On a strip in Florida filled with street performers dazzling audiences by throwing torches and performing bike tricks, Alex Di Marco's attention was caught by a far less extravagant, yet far more meaningful scene: as a beggar strummed on a ukulele, a bystander went to drop a dollar in his bucket. Yet before he could do so, a dog walked over, took the dollar into its mouth, and dropped it into the bucket. This musician and his dog ended up being the biggest act on the strip.
So sets the stage and inspiration for "Pretty Little Things," the soon-to-be-released, first feature film to be written and produced entirely by Point Park University students. ( >> Watch the Trailer On YouTube)
Fueled by the scene he had witnessed, Di Marco, a senior Cinema and Digital Arts film major, started writing the first version of a script that would eventually undergo 14 more extensive revisions throughout the filming process.
"I thought, here we have a story about a man and a dog," says Di Marco, who is also the executive producer and director of PLT. "Here is this little story, this little duo, up against the big guys. Just like we have this independent movie up against the studios, in a sense."
After a couple years of writing, Di Marco had the script, but it would take more than a good story to create a feature film. He needed a crew, a cast, and most importantly, the funding. Di Marco set a goal of $8,000 to be raised entirely through donations. After 60 days of promotion, Pretty Little Things' budget was completely funded by the end of May 2011.
A crew of 30 Point Park film students shot the movie over the summer of 2011 in Pittsburgh.
For Di Marco, the biggest challenge was finding hard-working volunteers willing to commit to the project. But after assembling his team, Di Marco recalls, "When the crew showed up on set, you could feel everyone's energy and you knew that they wanted to make something great."
A casting call attracted actors from all over the state and beyond, including one of Pittsburgh's own, South Hills native Mike Reeping.
A new face to the acting industry, Reeping originally met Di Marco a few years ago during an open casting call. They collaborated on some smaller short films together, and when the time came, Di Marco approached Reeping with the leading role.
"Alex knew the script and was so close with it from day one, so I trusted him with this part. Also knowing that Frank Paladino [the Director of Photography] was going to be behind the camera, and I knew he had a great eye, I accepted the role before I even read the script," Reeping says.
In the film, Reeping plays the character of Tommy Fulmer, a family man and a stand-up comedian who is just about to make his big break when he is caught with narcotics, ending his dream of reaching the Hollywood Hills.
The film begins 10 years later after his release from prison when Fulmer attempts to reunite with his estranged daughter and rekindle his career as Tommy "Funny Man" Fulmer.
"Tommy is horribly desperate for those little things, those pretty little things that a lot of people pass by," Reeping explains.
Along the way, he finds solace in the companionship of a four-legged friend who is much like himself: a wanderer and in need of a friend, and Fulmer finds himself on a selfless yet trying path to help his new canine companion.
"I want people to root for this character. I hope people will look at this guy, and whether they agree or disagree with the choices he has made, whether they are backing him up or not, I want them to see what he has done with this journey he has been handed," Reeping says.
Pretty Little Things will make its official public premiere at the South Side Works Cinema on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Family, friends and supporters will gather to watch the hour and 45 minute film, then celebrate afterwards at a cast party that will be held at South Side's premier restaurant and bar, The Library.
Although Reeping admits he is nervous to watch himself for the first time on the big screen, he is excited to see what the future has in store for the film.
Di Marco is looking forward to watching the cast and crew's hard work pay off onscreen and is eager to hear everyone's reactions at the wrap party.
"My main goal was to try and inspire people to think about what this could be and show them that we had the tools in front of us to use to make a film like this. We got the equipment from the school, we had the crew, found the actors, and in my opinion, we had the story," Di Marco said. "All we needed was the heart, and from there we could make a film."
For more information about Pretty Little Things, visit the website here .
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