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Sone on Cinema: From Greensburg To Hollywood, Pitt-Greensburg Student Film Wins An Oscar

by Sone Ekukole-Sone

Photo Courtesy of Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Grant Gaal, a Pitt-Greensburg senior, won The Student Academy Award for “American Slasher,” a short horror film Gaal wrote and directed. Gaal is a communications major and the president of the UPG Film Club. 

“I can’t believe I won!” Gaal said. “I’ve wanted to be a director since I was a kid and never thought my little movie would one day be presented at the Oscars.” 

Gaal spent most of last year filming on campus and in other areas in Greensburg. He recruited a couple of his friends, who are also in the film club, to help make his movie. 

Brennen Marsh, one of Gaal’s closest friends, worked as a stuntman.

“I am so proud of Grant for winning this award. I’m glad I got to help out, especially with the stunts since that’s where my expertise is. It was fun getting run over by a car!” Marsh said. 

Gaal’s film is a horror movie written in the spirit of classic slasher films like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”. Gaal is an avid horror buff who got the chance to meet John Carpenter at a convention last summer. Guillermo Del Toro impacted Gaal’s career ever since he saw “Pan’s Labyrinth” at the Waterfront. 

“Del Toro really inspired me to pick up a camera and create my own horror masterpiece,” Gaal said. 

“American Slasher” involves a game of cat and mouse between a red-neck prepper and a local serial killer. The serial killer breaks into the prepper’s house and realizes he messed with the wrong person. 

Gaal came up with the idea to subvert slasher tropes and add a fresh perspective to the genre. 

“In almost every slasher film, the audience sees the killer murdering people. In my movie, the civilian is scarier than the killer and it’s a cool idea I’ve had for years,” Gaal said. 

President Bob Gregerson was cast as the prepper and Clayton Gregg portrayed The Star-Spangled Strangler, the killer in Gaal’s film. Gaal presented his film in Village Hall last spring. 

Gaal’s mentor, Professor Kenneth Nicholson, encouraged his protege to submit his film to The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. 

“I have taught many students in my career, but I saw raw talent in Grant and I knew he was capable of big things,” Nicholson said. 

“I didn’t think I’d make it far, but here we are and now I have an Oscar sitting in my microwave,” Gaal said.

Gaal and the cast attended the ceremony in March along with his family and close friends. Students can watch Gaal’s film on Youtube for free and the Blu-Ray, which includes the director’s cut, comes out in June. 

Gaal shared his own advice for aspiring filmmakers and how he was able to gain the courage to create his movie. 

“You gotta believe in yourself regardless of what anyone says. Just pick up a camera, turn it on, and film something because you never know where it may take you.” 

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  1. From Greensburg To Hollywood, Pitt-Greensburg Student Film Wins An Oscar – The Insider – Movie News Live

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