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The Daily News
June 21, 2002

Out of the Myst

by Melissa Spangler, Daily News Staff Writer

'Myst' clears: District-made movie bases plotline on details of local urban legends

Urban legends are stories passed around by word of mouth. They often have a few grains of truth to them, but the details change based on who is telling the story and where the story is being told.

We've all heard these tales, from when we were little, gathered around a campfire telling ghost stories, to driving around as teenagers down dark, windy roads. You know the ones: Alligators in the sewer, the hanging body whose feet bang against the door of a car containing an amorous duo...

Urban legends are even those e-mail forwards we send to each other containing a story that we just have to keep reading. It's no e-mail that's merely glanced over and deleted. They always grab our attention because the legends are told in such a way that we want to know what is going to happen next.

Local filmmaker John Fries was addicted to these stories growing up, because his neighbor and English teacher told them, so now he is producing a movie about urban legends in the Pittsburgh area, "Blue Myst Road."

"I fell in love with the genre of these stories," Fries says. His teacher, Ted Bergfelt, has a role in the film. "It's really cool that he's in it."

"Blue Myst Road" started filming in early November, and Fries says it has been both challenging and easy in different ways. A year before the filming started, casting was done.

"I picked local actors I knew," he says. "Everyone is involved voluntarily." Fries asked them if they would consider playing a role instead of holding auditions: "Ninety percent of the cast is all friends."

After the film was cast, a "read-through" of the script was done Halloween weekend in 2001. Pittsburgh Filmmakers agreed to let Fries use their new soundstage for the reading.

He says he couldn't ask for a better group of actors. "They've all been really talented. They are doing this (film) in addition to their jobs."

Fries says there was no production budget established because "Blue Myst Road" is an independent film. Other producers include Mike Martin and Chip Kelsch.

Fries is a marketing communications and public relations professional who began making short films while still in high school. He has written and produced many videos with Martin, along with documentaries and radio commercials.

Fries always kicked around ideas of films he could make. "It kept coming back to urban legends." "Blue Myst Road" focuses on three of those tales - The Green Man, Blue Myst Road and the Woman in the Bookstore.

"The Green Man" is told in various parts of the Pittsburgh area. It is about a man, played by Greg Matecko, who had an accident back in the 1950s - a horrible one that would change his life and how he interacted with people. His face was permanently disfigured, and physicians had to surgically create a new one.

"Blue Myst Road" is about an out-of-the-way road in North Park. It's actually called Irwin Road, but it is commonly known as Blue Myst Road, Fries explains. The road has been the subject of countless stories and recalled experiences, such as secret meetings and weird occurrences, Fries adds.

"The Woman in the Bookstore" is about a small bookstore in Pittsburgh. A man stops by to find a bit of scary reading for Halloween night. He meets a woman in the shop, and there is something mysterious about her.

An interesting aspect of the film is that scenes do not take place at the actual locations of the urban legends. One key scene for the "Woman in the Bookstore" is shot on the South Side - Eljay's Used Books - an independently owned store. For Blue Myst Road, Fries found two other locations to use.

When the movie is ready to be released later this spring, Fries plans to show it at area film festivals. "We have to find some good places to show it." Fries also will have a party for the actors and actresses and will give them all copies of the video.

As for the production of the movie, Fries chose digital video, and used non-linear editing in the post-production stage. Fries says there was little digital manipulation in the film. "Everything was very, very natural."

"With major filmmakers like George Lucas and Stephen Soderbergh enthusiastically embracing digital technology, we figured it to be the right medium at the right time," he says.

"I spent a few months writing the screenplay and putting it through a few rewrites until I was satisfied with the flow of the story and the dialogue," he continues. "I wanted it to sound and feel right and be appropriate to the characters' personalities."

Fries said he put a lot of time into writing the script, because he wanted it to be believable. "I really believe strongly in the story," he says. "After you watch it, you get something out of it."

(c)The Daily News 2002



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