Four fictional women served as notable influences for a young Lydia Zagorski: Mulan, Hermione Granger, the Marvel antihero Elektra, and both Princess Zelda and her “Legend of Zelda” alter ego Sheik.
These days, Zagorski no longer needs to look up to them. Instead, she becomes them.
The Beaver County-based actor-writer recently channeled her pop culture idols into a quartet of short films that she starred in and wrote. She dabbled in some “Harry Potter”-esque magic for “The Darkest Hour,” went full assassin-spy a la Elektra in “Eos Six,” displayed Mulan levels of empathy and compassion in “Affinity,” and played out her Zelda-inspired fantasy warrior dreams in “Aromis: The Beginning.”
All those locally shot films and more will screen Thursday at Sewickley’s recently renamed Lindsay Theater and Cultural Center. Besides the shorts created under Zagorski’s LivCre8 Production banner, the evening will also include films representing local production companies Carpio Pictures, IO Films, Bit Sized Productions and Goat Milk Fudge Productions. Anyone can register for the free 90-minute program at thelindsaytheater.org.
“The quality and the work is going to blow everyone away,” Zagorski told the Union Progress. “We poured our hearts into these films, and it’s going to show. We’re all going to shine so bright.”
Thursday’s slate of short films includes:
- “Affinity,” a 10-minute LivCre8 and Goat Milk Fudge collaboration about an alien teaching humans how to harness the power of empathy.
- “Aromis: The Beginning,” a three-minute proof-of-concept short directed by Bit Sized Production’s Ben Carlucci about a warrior protecting her home from invaders.
- “Eos Six,” an 11-minute spy thriller directed by Franklin Carpio of Carpio Pictures.
- “Fallout,” an eight-minute premiere directed by IO Films’ Kevin Hejna.
- “The Darkest Hour,” a 10-minute LiveCre8 and Goat Milk Fudge co-production about a woman in danger of being consumed by her own frustrations.
- “The Good Ol’ Days” and “The Rough and Tumble,” five-minute and seven-minute shorts directed by Carpio.
Zagorski generally goes into each project with the goal of working “with really good, genuine people,” who are just as passionate about the material they’re adapting as she is. Securing filmmaking jobs can be a “hit or miss” proposition, which is part of the reason she has continued ensuring she stays busy by writing her own scripts.
“I am absolutely loving writing these inspirational stories, co-producing and meeting all these other filmmakers,” she said. “I can’t get enough of it now.”
Each of the films being screened Thursday show off a different element of her talents as an actor and writer. “The Darkest Hour” was made in Carnegie and New Brighton during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a showcase for the emotional depth Zagorski can convey, as her character struggles to find the light during a bleak period of her life.
“I’m proud of that film,” said P.J. Gaynard, who creates under the Goat Milk Fudge name and directed “The Darkest Hour.” “It’s nice for it to get shown to another audience.”
“Affinity,” also directed by Gaynard and shot in Green Tree and Lawrenceville, finds Zagorski as an alien trying to convince earthlings that empathy is the answer to healing the world.
In “Eos Six,” shot on the campus of CCAC and at the Strip District’s Cavo nightclub, Zagorski got to break out her black belt and 13 years of martial arts experience as she acquitted herself well as a gritty action star. And with “Aromis: The Beginning,” filmed partially at Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub in North Sewickley Township, she created an entire “fantasy high action” scenario that she’s hoping to eventually turn into a feature-length film.
That all these films and the ones from those other locally based outfits are being shown on a big screen at The Lindsay is more than Zagorski could’ve ever hoped for.
“I think it’s huge for all of us,” she said. “It’s definitely huge for me. The theater is one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen.”
For Gaynard, The Lindsay hosting these films is proof that it’s truly dedicated to giving “local voices a real opportunity to shine.” Events like this are arguably most valuable for spotlighting short films, which are rarely shown in movie theaters. Filmmakers have to “make every little thing count” with short films, as Gaynard put it, and this will be a rare chance to see seven attempts at that played back to back on the big screen.
Gaynard is a veteran of just about every type of filmmaking. He’s on year four of making commercials for Brentwood-based GBU Life and is currently working on multiple features. He’s also the producer of Pittsburgh’s 48 Hour Film Project, in which filmmakers have just two days to make a fully realized short film. This year’s 48 Hour weekend will be May 5-7, and the competition will be judged by filmmaker Melissa Martin, producer-editor Cara Friez and Nancy Mosser of Nancy Mosser Casting.
If you enjoy Gaynard’s work on “Affinity” and “The Darkest Hour,” you may also want to check out his movie “All Nite Skate” that’s set to screen March 26 at the Neville Roller Drome. He’s also partnering with Downtown’s Harris Theater on a Pittsburgh version of “the five-minute game,” a gimmick that originated in Los Angeles and involves picking 15 “brain-melting films,” showing the first five minutes and then having audiences vote on which one they want to watch in full.
For now, though, he’s just excited to see the turnout at The Lindsay in a few days.
“Come out to see a variety of shorts you never expected,” he said. “and learn about the Hollywood that’s created right here in your backyard.”
Part of that education for many will be discovering Zagorski, who has become her own silver-screen heroine.
“It’s like I’m doing my calling,” she said. “No matter how hard it gets, I know this is what I’m meant to do.”