Kent State University To Create Third Feature Film, Kickstarter Fundraiser Launched

Written by former student Bryan Kelly, the terror-filled tale weaves the story of five young actors who reenact a grisly murder-suicide that occurred at Heathridge University 20 years ago. However, they come to realize it’s not just a simple reenactment. The students soon learn one thing – evil is real.

At this time, more than 50 aspiring filmmakers are tackling the groundwork for this movie in a three-hour preproduction class taught by Traci E. Williams, associate lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC). From working on teasers to casting talent, this is a real film production.

“I’m always trying to top the previous project,” Williams said. “And ‘Hell at Heathridge’ will do just that.”

For this project, Williams is teaming up with JMC Associate Professor David Smeltzer to give students a taste of the real-world film industry. With Williams’ experience working with Hollywood icons such as George Clooney and Denzel Washington, and Smeltzer’s experience creating the award-winning documentary “Lucy in Disguise,” they create a knowledge-packed team. Also bringing her 16 years of expertise in the TV and film industry, working on shows like “Charmed,” is senior Estee Hodge.

“Nobody else is doing this,” Hodge said. “Not even world renowned film schools.”

To prepare for the summer shoot, student directors Tyler Pina and Caroline Abbey are leading the preproduction phase. Pina and Abbey are working together with a large student crew to schedule, budget and cast the film to get ready for the shoot starting June 10 and ending August 3.

KSU Independent Films will then premiere the film in front of hundreds at a red-carpet event in 2013. Soon after, “Hell at Heathridge” will hit the international and national film festivals. The producers are also looking to secure a distribution deal for the movie.

“We’re totally revolutionizing the electronic media production program,” Pina said. “This is the biggest project of our lives.”

Williams is hoping to use the success of “Hell at Heathridge” as a platform to launch a film program at Kent State.

“My vision, my dream, is to one day have a full, functional sound stage here at Kent State,” she said.

Even without an official program, Williams and her students have already created two other feature films: “Breaking News,” a national award winner, and “Research: The Musical,” a musical comedy with original songs written and scored by students.

Williams and Smeltzer continue making films out of their dedication to give a whole range of students real-life working experience – even those students outside the electronic media production major.

“It doesn’t matter what your major is. I will find a use for you,” Williams said. “From accountants to fashion designers, anyone can join and help out.”

Everyone involved in this film project is truly dedicated, she said. Not only are they using this experience to help launch their careers, but they are making a name for Kent State University and filmmaking in Ohio as well.

For more information about the film or how you can donate, visit KSU Independent Films’ Kickstarter page at or visit its website at

POSTED: Monday, April 29, 2013 12:00 AM
UPDATED: Thursday, December 08, 2022 12:46 PM
Brandon Koziol