“Baby Frankenstein,” a locally filmed and family-friendly monster movie, was released this week on numerous streaming platforms, including Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.
Coughlin High School graduate Mike Rutkoski and Wyoming Area graduate Jon YonKondy spearheaded the production of the comedy/drama film.
“This is a little film; I don’t kid myself,” said Rutkoski, whose credits on the film include acting, producing and writing. “But it’s my little film and Jon’s little film and we’re proud of it. A lot of films never make it from A to Z; they just never do for whatever reason. It’s very cool; it really is.”
Rutkoski now lives in New York, but his fondness for his hometown is evident in that he shot the film in the Wyoming Valley.
“Everything shot in New York feels like it was shot in New York. Everything shot in LA feels like it was shot in LA,” YonKondy said. “We have a lot to offer around here.”
As the director, YonKondy gave the film a distinct Northeast Pennsylvania fall-time feel, as it was shot over seven days at locations including Pizza L’Oven, Chacko’s Family Bowling Center and a double-block home on Grove Street in Exeter.
Long before he collaborated with YonKondy, Rutkoski experimented with the concept in a seven-minute sketch — “Baby Frankenstein Unbound 1.0” — uploaded to YouTube in 2008.
Six years later, in 2014, Rutkoski began writing and rewriting “Baby Frankenstein,” and he connected with YonKondy the following year. The two are now close friends.
“It’s almost five years ago to the week that Mike reached out to me via Facebook Messenger,” YonKondy said. “He caught wind of a film that I had shot and was looking for a local director to help bring his little ‘Baby Frankenstein’ monster to life.”
The film follows Lance Wilton, a kid who just moved to a new town with his saintly mother and her unsavory boyfriend. Almost immediately, Lance discovers an unlikely friend, “Baby Frankenstein,” an artificially created “prototype” on the run from the powers that be.
The title character, played by Rance Nix, is more “E.T.” than your typical monster. Special effects makeup artist Lisa Forst is credited with visually bringing the character to life.
“When we cast Rance, he was such a high-energy, positive guy and that’s how we knew he was going to be our ‘Baby Frankenstein,’ ” YonKondy said. “We allowed him to bring as much of that as he could into the character. We wanted to let Rance be Rance and I think everyone’s going to fall in love with this wonderful guy.”
While it is now available to the public, “Baby Frankenstein” first showed its potential on the film festival circuit, winning about eight awards at the 22 different festivals in which it was entered, Rutkosky said.
“It’s pretty cool to see that strangers like the movie, because, you never know,” Rutkosky said. “You know family and friends will say they like it, but when you take it out to the rest of the world to give it a real acid test, that’s what the film festivals offer.”
The first reviews recently started trickling in from outlets like Flickering Myth, whose author, Matt Donato, took exception to “Baby Frankenstein’s” promotional posters — which depict a scary, animated creature emerging from a box with a twisted smile, rather than the lighthearted character seen in the film — but otherwise had good things to say.
“It’s so seen-it-before but genuinely family-focused and pure at heart,” Donato wrote. “Honestly? Cult appeal is in tall order.”
The film, whose budget was $50,000, was not officially rated by the Motion Picture Association of America but a PG rating seems appropriate.
Matt Bufano is a sports writer for The Citizens’ Voice, primarily covering high school athletics in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Born and raised in Luzerne County, Bufano is a 2013 graduate of Penn State. He joined The Citizens’ Voice full-time in September 2013. He’s covered just about all sports in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a primary focus on field hockey, basketball and softball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2060; or @CVBufano on Twitter