Pittsburgh filmmaker Cayce Mell raved about the talent and growing reputation coming out of the City of Bridges. Mell's feature-film debut "Monongahela" showcases the thriving talent and the picturesque landscape of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.
"Pittsburgh can create its own feature film and do it in such an amazing way, and we have the talent to do that here," she said.
"Downtown, and the cityscape obviously have an urban feel, but you can travel a few minutes away and suddenly you're on a farm," she said. "There's amazing and diverse locations that can really bring almost any story to life."
Charlie Vrugitz, head of sound for "Monongahela," said there has been more than 300 films shot in Pittsburgh through the years.
"Really, you can shoot anything here as long as you don't need a desert or ocean," he said.
Vrugitz, a former police officer, is just one of the interesting stories among the film's cast and crew. After 15 years as a law enforcement intelligence officer in Columbus, Ohio, Vrugitz left to pursue a life in film. He's worked on various Hollywood productions.
"It was a risk, but it was something that I knew I always wanted to do," he said.
Pittsburgh native and Duquesne University student Scott Sullivan, 23, landed a lead role in the film despite little acting experience.
Sullivan, who plays the character "Mick," originally auditioned for a small supporting role.
"It happened by accident really," he said. "But I must've matched (Mell's) vision for the character, and it's been great."
Alex Russo, 22, has taken a more traditional route to starring in front of the camera. Russo, who plays "Kate Walsh," in the film, has been modeling and acting for most of her life. The Ohio native landed roles in five feature films to date, as well as a one-episode spot on Reno 911.
Jake Mulliken, 26, plays "Ben," a quirky, British aficionado of mystical creatures. Mulliken, a native of Kentucky, has been a full-time actor for five years and has worked in Hollywood. He's had small roles on the television shows "Breaking Bad" and "In Plain Sight."
Rounding out the cast is Christopher Mele, 51, who plays "Charlie," a paranoid conspiracy theorist with an affinity for guns. Mele has performed in more than 40 films.