Lynette Zielke jogged up the driveway at about 7:30 a.m.
“I’m here,” she announced, looking much more energetic than many who had already showed up for the 7 a.m. call time on this chilly day.
Ed McIntosh looked askance at her, asked who she was, figured out that he knew her from Facebook, and thanked her for coming. Zielke said she drove up from Virginia Beach.
“Holy crap,” said John Reign. “I’ve never had anyone come this far before.”
Zielke is from Brookfield and still has her parents and other family members here, but her arrival is fairly typical of how Polestar Studios of Sharpsville operates. The movie studio puts out a call for extras, and people show up. Sometimes, that initial appearance turns into larger roles or behind-the-scenes positions.
McIntosh, of Masury, was brought into the Polestar fold by a friend. He played a corpse – laying on the floor at Hot Shots in Masury for eight hours – in “Three For the Money,” and now is production supervisor, keeping film sets organized for Reign, Polestar’s chief writer, star, director and producer.
“He’s my right hand,” Reign said of McIntosh. “And my left.”
Reign is a long-time actor, comic and entertainer who came to the area after meeting Tom Stoops of New Castle, a cinematographer and actor.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” Reign said of settling in Sharpsville and making films locally. “I started to meet all these wonderfully talented people who wanted to do things in my films. I started making friends while I was making films.”
Polestar has made a number of low-budget horror films at locations in and around the Shenango Valley, including “Blood Woods,” “Bullets for Jesus,” “Diary of a Serial Killer: The Ned Woods Story” and “Forsaken Ground.” Polestar films can be viewed on Amazon Prime or at polestarprod.com
Horror films are easy to distribute, but, “I’m tired of slasher films,” Reign said. “I want to contribute something a little meaningful.”
He wrote “Finding Purpose” about an Army vet who struggles with his past and wants to make amends. Nobody wanted to finance it, so Reign paid for it himself, all $5,000 of it.
The film has opened doors for Polestar, and it hasn’t even been released yet. It looks like a distributor will handle it, but details are being worked out.
One of those open doors led to the filming of a sequel, “Finding Purpose: Road to Redemption,” which was shot at four times the budget.
That’s why Zielke was jogging up the driveway of Joe and Janet Sirochman’s home on Sharon Hogue Road on Sept. 17.
“I’ve always wanted to do one of their little things,” Zielke said of Polestar.
She ended up delivering one of the highlights of the day, a withering look of indignation and hatred that left Reign pitying her real-life husband.
The Sirochmans opened their home for a day of shooting, primarily in their garage, driveway and back yard. Their dining room became a hair and makeup studio, their living room a place to cool off and relax.
“I wanted to help Ed out,” Janet Sirochman said, noting McIntosh and her husband graduated from Brookfield High School together in 1982. “I don’t even know who these people are. I just wanted to help them out.”
Sirochman, her two daughters, Sarah and Autumn, and Sarah’s fiance’, Mark Zerefos, all were filmed in a party scene.
The filming also attracted Heidi Wlodarski of Masury. She has appeared in films such as “Body Bag,” “When the Body Breaks” and “The Worst Christmas Ever,” but had never worked for Polestar before, and wasn’t even sure what her role would be when she showed up at 7 a.m. on the chilly morning.
“I just caught the acting bug,” she said. “I didn’t even know I liked acting. It started last March.”
Aside from local talent, “Finding Purpose: Road to Redemption” has attracted a couple of industry names: Aki Aleong, who has a packed resume of Broadway, film and TV credits that has had him acting opposite Joanne Woodward, Frank Sinatra and Burgess Meredith, and Dawna Lee Heising, the former beauty queen with multiple college degrees who is best known for appearing in “Blade Runner” and a slew of horror and action pics.
For Reign, Aleong’s signature moment occurred in “Missing in Action 3,” when he killed Chuck Norris’ wife.
“I grew up hating him in that movie,” said Reign, who posted the scene to his Facebook page.
Yet, Reign had a very different role in mind for Aleong: playing his father, a role that Aleong relished.
“It’s not typecasting,” Aleong said. “I have been killing people, stabbing them, murdering them for 65 years. It’s a nice reprieve.”
Heising, vice president of Aleong’s Mustard Seed Media Group, a film and music production company, said she has been following Reign’s work for some time.
“I knew he was a great filmmaker, and I’ve wanted to do a war film,” she said.
Heising plays Reign’s wife and the frequent comedic fall guy in “Finding Purpose: Road to Redemption.”
She said she was looking forward to Reign’s and Aleong’s scenes together and how they will put Aleong in a much different dramatic light than much of his previous work.
“I’m so happy for Aki,” she said.
The atmosphere of the set, like Reign’s appreciation for Aleong’s ability, goes against the norm, Heising said.
“It’s like a family here,” she said. “That’s so different from Hollywood.”
Polestar also filmed at other locations in Brookfield, Masury, Hubbard and Hermitage, and Brookfield police helped them film road shots on local roadways. “Finding Purpose: Road to Redemption” premiered Nov. 22 in Hermitage and distribution is pending.