by Kelly McKinney
September 22, 1999
Prexies could be in Pictures
Washington may pin down spot as setting for film; area wrestlers may get some exposure
Washington High School likely will serve as the backdrop in the filming of an independent movie next month, as proposed by a California production team in town Tuesday to ask for cooperation from city and school officials.
The low-budget film is based on a script written by James Petulla, originally of Oil City, and his experience as a champion high school wrestler coached by his father.
“To me, this is a father-son love story,” said Petulla, who now lives in the Los Angeles area. “this may turn out to be a $250,000 film that my kids and their grandparents watch, but I hope not.”
Petulla was joined by his director, Alan Vint, and line producer, Albert Hasson, in addressing Washington Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo, high school Principal Bill Watson, wrestling coach Frank Rotunda and Washington Mayor L. Anthony Spossey. Everyone in attendance had read the movie script.
DiLorenzo said she didn’t anticipate any opposition from the school board in allowing filmmakers to use the building on a limited basis. However, she did object to some of the profanity used in the script. The movie men, dressed in jeans and casual shirts, said they had no problem editing out some of the foul language.
And after about an hour of casual conversation the mayor also spoke up in support of the project.
“The city will cooperate in whatever way we need to,” Spossey said.
In return the 90-minute movie will give the school district and city positive publicity by preserving Washington as the setting for the story. Prexie uniforms will be used in the wrestling matches, and other school references will appear throughout the film.
The movie-makers originally planned to use Oil City as the setting for their film, Petulla said. But the area has changed since he graduated from high school in 1977, he said. People active in high school wrestling suggested his team take a look at Washington.
“We love the school,” Petulla said, making reference to the wrestling room, locker areas, trophy row and hallways.
The staff and students seem friendly, and everything looked very clean, he said. Local high school wrestlers already interviewed as potential cast members have been an added bonus.
“Some of these guys are really interesting to us,” Vint said. “We met the kid that he wrote the story about. He read for us, and truth was there.”
The team has had conversation with 19-year-old Jacob Young — who plays Rick Forrester on “The Bold and The Beautiful” on CBS — about starring in the film. Although Young was a state wrestling champion in high school, he might not be as truthful in the role as someone still active in the sport, Vint said. He would not name the local wrestler being considered for the lead role.
The script — with the working title, “Reversal” — includes scenes in a high school, a private residence, a diner and a convenience store. Two wrestling matches will need to be staged, for which community members could serve as “extras” pretending to be other wrestlers and fans. Filming is expected to take three weeks and is tentatively scheduled to begin Oct. 21, with the first five days focusing on the high school.
“We’re not, by any means, taking the school over,” Hasson clarified.
The camera crews may need to set up and do preliminary work in specific areas during some parts of the school day, but as many scenes as possible will be shot after school, he said.
Petulla said the crews also will observe the school’s recommended security measures, such as wearing identification badges. The crew will pay for any additional security needed to control curious onlookers at the school or other location, he said.
The movie is not being backed by any of the major movie companies, so it likely will be distributed at a grassroots level, Vint said. However, it could be picked up at a film festival by one of the larger distribution companies if that is the route Petulla chooses to take, he said.
Either way, independent films are a gamble, and there’s no telling if “Reversal” will end up as a home movie or in theaters across the country.