A fan of scary movies, actor and writer Eric Wolf walked out of a theater after watching a horror film and said to his wife, “I could do better than this.”
So, when his wife, actress Kristen Anne Ferraro, challenged him to do it—he did.
The result is a campy, scary ghost story: A Deadly Legend, shot in the Catskills last spring, now available for screening in millions of American homes.
It features several local and regional actors, including Ossining resident Tatiana Szpur. Tatiana also may be familiar to patrons of Julia McCue’s Tarrytown restaurant Horsefeathers, where she worked while making the movie.
Like many scary films, A Deadly Legend starts out with everything going well. A family that owns a lakefront resort hires a construction crew to do some excavation. The crew inadvertently unearths the “Stonehenge” of North America and chaos ensues.
Wolf hired more than 100 cast and crew, including Szpur, who plays the very scary, ethereal ghost, Luci.
“I get uglier as I’m losing energy,” she said, adding that her makeup and wardrobe team did an amazing job transforming her from an attractive young woman into a creepy ghost.
“This is the biggest role I’ve gotten in five years of auditioning,” said Szpur, who said she has been passionate about acting since she played the lead in her sixth grade play. “I feel so lucky that I had this experience before the pandemic.”
Szpur, who studied drama at Trinity College in Dublin, said she’s determined to pursue more feature film roles based on the positive response to A Deadly Legend. Like most actors, she has a day job to pay the bills. She works at a medical clinic. But, with this scene-stealing role as a very wicked ghost, she’s hoping her acting career will take off.
In addition to casting Szpur, the producers brought in professional cast and crewmembers from around the Hudson Valley region, including veteran actors Judd Hirsch and Corbin Bernsen. They shot the film at a camp near Wurtsboro, N.Y. The film has high production values, cool makeup and wardrobe, and several special effects.
“Working with the cast was a thrill for me,” Pam Moriarty, a first–time feature director, wrote in her director’s statement. “They brought so much to the script and made this come alive.”
These independent filmmakers were fortunate to wrap production before the pandemic hit, and basically shut down the film industry around the world.
They were editing the film when Wolf said he realized that there would probably be no or very limited theatrical distribution or film festivals in 2020.
“The pandemic really threw a wrench into our distribution strategy, especially because there were no in-person festivals,” said Wolf, who plays “Mike” the construction crew manager.
The filmmakers headed to Santa Monica last November to attend the American Film Market, determined to find distributors.
“We knocked on doors and had some appointments, but mostly we just walked in,” said Wolf.
In February 2020, they attended the Berlin film market to meet with foreign distributors. Turns out horror is a very popular genre, enabling Wolf to sign several key distribution deals with High Octane Pictures and Gravitas Ventures, among others.
Wolf said the film was privately financed but declined to share the budget. He said they were on track to recoup their investment.
Jane Applegate is a producer and entertainment industry career coach who lives in Verplanck, N.Y. She’s the author of Hair on Fire: An Insider’s Guide to Producing for the Big and Small Screen, available on Amazon.