By Marah Morrison
“The Worst Christmas Ever” is a film centering around a teenager who finds out she is pregnant, and whose life goes downhill over the course of one unfortunate Christmas Eve.
The dark comedy, dysfunctional family drama and coming-of-age film was produced by the Mahoning Valley Film Initiative. Johnny Chechitelli, the writer and director of the film, said he spent over a decade in Los Angeles, California working in the film and entertainment industry.
Chechitelli said when he moved back to the Mahoning Valley, he wanted to write a script. He said he has other screenplays, but he wanted to write something new.
“I just wrote this organic kind of story,” Chechitelli said. “It just came to life.”
Chechitelli said the idea of the film had to do with being reunited with his family again. He said he has two older sisters and a 17-year-old niece.
“I started to think to myself, ‘Well, what if I wrote a character that my niece could relate to?’” Chechitelli said. “I wrote it all over the course of three months.”
Chechitelli said in late 2016, the Mahoning Valley Film Initiative was formed. The group consisted of film makers and crew members in the local area, and they shot the film for $10,000.
“We shot with state-of-the-art equipment, we had a crew of over 20 people,” Chechitelli said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Chechitelli said it was great having the local community involved in the film, and a lot of local cast, crew and businesses chipped in. He said it was a dream come true and said everyone who knew him back then knew he was going to make movies.
“We can’t wait for this movie to come out because then people are going to see that you can do real stuff here,” Chechitelli said.
Chechitelli said the film was a labor of love and he credits the crew for being an amazing team of hardworking people. He said the movie won’t be out until next year.
“We’re in post-production now,” Chechitelli said. “By the end of this year, we’re going to submit to all the big film festivals.”
Cindy DiRusso, the producer and casting director of the film, said the movie provided an opportunity to work in Youngstown specifically and getting to know the lay of the land. She said the community has come together from a talent and small business perspective to form a comradery for the film industry in Youngstown all together.
“From a producer’s standpoint, that’s fantastic,” DiRusso said. “It’s been great to actually relocate to Youngstown to continue doing what I love.”
DiRusso said she has also been living in Los Angeles, California for 10 years working in the reality TV industry. She said it’s been great to find others like her in the Mahoning Valley.
Wuyuni Wantatah, one of the cast members of the film, said he was around really good people with solid integrity that were working for something positive and creative. He said it felt natural to him doing the role of the character he portrayed in the film.
“It shows that the world is so connected now,” Wantatah said. “The characters are very relatable.”
Wantatah said there were a lot of credible people on the project. He said different things were changed and moved around as far as people and locations in the film and there were a lot of obstacles, but it still came together.
Laura Lynn Cassidy, who plays the lead role’s mother in the film, said the film provided an opportunity for her to be a part of her first movie. She said she has been on television nationally before, but never behind the scenes of a movie.
“This is a beautiful opportunity,” Cassidy said. “To have that opportunity to kind of get dipped into the movie business and the movie making process.”
Cassidy said even though the film was a small production, it felt huge. She said it was a blessing to be given this opportunity to do the movie because it involved a wonderful cast and crew, and it was a great way to get started in the movie industry.
“No matter where you go, if you have roots in the Youngstown area, you always come home,” Cassidy said. “It’s a very caring community and we look after one another, and I think that was really brought through with this film.”