Austin Trunick and Robert Kidd started making movies together when they were barely teenagers.
Back then all they had was their parents' clunky VHS camcorders.
Now they have an HD video camera, heavy lighting equipment, New York actors, an executive producer, crew members and a budget approaching the mid-five figures.
Gus Gonzalez, assistant director, left, Shaun Hazelett, executive producer, and Austin Trunick, writer / co-director, watch the monitor as they film a scene in Kinsman for the psychological thriller, ‘‘Katie55.’’ Trunick is from the Kinsman area. To see or purchase this photo and other items, visit cu.tribtoday.com
But they're still making movies in Trumbull County.
Trunick, a 2003 Joseph Badger High School graduate who now works as a publicist for DC Comics in New York City, returned home last weekend for principal photography on ''Katie55,'' a movie he wrote and is co-directing with Kennon Hulett.
Kidd, who graduated from Badger a year later and Ohio University in June 2009 and is working locally as a photographer and substitute teacher, is director of photography on the film.
Check it out
''Laceration Lane,'' a short student film written by Austin Trunick and directed by Kennon Hulett, can be viewed online at www.imdb.com.
''It's a about a girl, a college student who is living a double life on the Internet primarily through her YouTube account,'' Trunick said.
She posts videos pretending to be a high school student and becomes a minor celebrity.
''But the characters from the life she made up start showing up in her real life,'' Trunick said. And when she tries to eliminate her fictional alter ego, ''The characters she made up won't let her. They take over her life.''
While the story was inspired somewhat by lonelygirl15, a popular YouTube video diary that was revealed to be a hoax, the idea primarily came from a subsequent study that claimed one out of three identities used on the Internet is false.
Trunick wrote ''Katie55'' with the intention of trying to sell it, but the plan changed the more he talked about it to Kidd.
''Through our discussions, we decided, 'Why don't we make this?,''' Kidd said.
And the only place that made sense to do it was back home.
''People are very accommodating here,'' Trunick said. ''In New York, just to shoot on the street you need a permit.''
''(Whereas) I showed up at a township meeting, and they asked what they could do to help us,'' Kidd said.
Greater Cleveland Film Commission helped the crew secure permission to film on the shores of Lake Erie in Ashtabula on Wednesday, Trunick said, and tax breaks for film production passed last year in the state of Ohio have been one of the incentives used to attract investors.
Kidd did the location scouting and other preparations here, while Trunick worked on casting and assembling a crew in New York.
Trunick decided to team with Hulett, a friend from New York University, for his directing debut.
''We lived in the same dorm freshman year,'' Hulett said. ''He always wrote these bizarre screenplays that were a little off. And the stuff I do is a little out there. We gravitated to each other early on.''
The cast and crew is a mix of New York professionals, film school friends of Kidd's from OU and some of their old Badger classmates.
It's a young crew, with Kidd estimating an age range from 19 to 31 for everyone involved.
Of course, that doesn't include family members, who are feeding and housing the cast and crew and providing set locations.
The road in front of Kidd's parents' home on Perkins-Greenville Road served as the location for a car accident scene in the movie (two Kinsman police cruisers helped regulate traffic at each end on the road). Extension cords powering all of the lights were running to the Kidd's garage, and the large home became the production base, where gear was piled in the foyer and actors could get makeup, a piece of homemade pie or some much-needed warmth between takes.
Trunick and Hulett budgeted two days of overnight shooting - 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. - to film the accident scene, but they were juggling the schedule Thursday to do as much as possible because of the fear that a snowstorm expected on Friday could make it difficult to match exterior shots.
It's nothing they didn't anticipate.
''You have to be a little flexible,'' Kidd said. ''You just have to be willing to to grin and bear it.''
If Ohio's weather is an obstacle, shooting back home presents other benefits. Except for two days of filming in Jersey City, N.J., where they constructed a makeshift set to film all of the video diaries, everything is being shot in northeast Ohio, including at many of the places Trunick was picturing when he wrote the script, like the beach in Ashtabula.
''I spent summer after summer after summer there,'' Trunick said. ''I thought I'd write around that place, that we'd find a beach somewhere. It was amazing to be able to shoot there.''
The other location was a friend's house where they regularly had parties in high school. The flow of the scene was based on Trunick's memory of the layout of the house, and Hulett couldn't believe how the set matched the script.
''She thought it was eerie being at that house,'' Trunick said. ''I described it to a T.''
Filming locally will be finished on Feb. 14. The budget for ''Katie55'' is around $30,000 to $35,000, but the final tally will depend on the post-production costs and what they end up spending on items such as soundtrack music.
''When I was originally writing the script, there was one song I was absolutely in love with,'' Trunick said. ''Once we started doing research, I realized it could cost more (to get the rights) than the budget for the entire film.
''There are enough independent bands out there, some that I have connection to (through his work in public relations),'' Trunick said. ''I'm hoping to do something cool with the soundtrack.''
Trunick said he hopes to have a cut of the film completed to show people by August, and he said the film will be finished by October so they can start submitting to film festivals for consideration.
While the scale (and the cost) of their work has grown, Kidd said the working relationship between he and Trunick hasn't changed much since they started making movie a decade ago.
''We grew up together. We watched the same movies, probably at the same time. We speak the same language.''