Pittsburgh premieres new independent film on YouTube

Courtesy of Paragon Studios | Couple Sarah (Taylor Augustine) and Jack (Justin Andrews) visit a fortune teller for relationship insight in the new short film, “The Fortune Teller: Secrets.”

Emma Polen | News Editor

Feb. 2, 2023

A couple enters a fortune teller’s establishment, sitting down hesitantly. “Many people walk in my doors doubting, but leave as believers,” the fortune teller says.

The latest installment in Pittsburgh filmmakers’ independent creations, “The Fortune Teller: Secrets,” premiered Sunday, Jan. 29 on YouTube.

The five-minute short took place in a single scene, as new couple Sarah (Taylor Augustine) and Jack (Justin Andrews) request the guidance of a fortune teller (Jessica Nigra).

The fortune teller asks the couple if there is anything specific they want to ask the tarot cards, and then she proceeds to see a secret about their love revealing itself in her reading.

The fortune teller’s words begin to convince Jack and Sarah that there might be something more sinister hiding within their “perfect” relationship.

Sarah’s last words before the camera fades to black are, “I have to tell you something…”

By the end of the short film, the fortune teller had instilled more doubt into the couple’s relationship than certainty.

Before the premiere, Augustine shared that she was looking forward to the work the film’s team had put in to create the five-minute scene.

“We had a pretty small cast and crew, but I really think we were able to put something high-quality together,” she said.

Though Augustine has acted in the Pittsburgh film scene before, this was her first time writing for one of her films.

“[Writing]’s probably one of the things I’m most nervous about. I really wanted the story to have an arc and progressively get a little more intense and for the ending to not be too obvious, so I hope that plays well on-screen,” she said.

Augustine was not alone in creating the clever story in her short film. Jeff Michaels, the editor and producer of “The Fortune Teller,” also played an important role in its completion.

“From the time we turned on the camera and some lights, to the time that the final render was pumped out, it was three days,” Michaels said.

Michaels is new to the Pittsburgh film community, but not to the industry. Moving from Georgia, the Hollywood of the South, he is hoping to gain rapport as a film producer “known for fast turnaround,” he said.

“I think all in all it came out really well,” he said. “But it can always be better.”

Michaels hopes to expand his production company, Pathos Entertainment Group, so he has more of a team to help with camera, lighting, audio and post-production work.

For now, “I’m going to keep my plate relatively clear,” he said. With his reel of 2022 projects just released, he is “starting from square one” for his 2023 reel, and planning to connect with more projects and people in Pittsburgh.

Augustine explained that she and Michaels first met back in October through the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Community Facebook Page. Together, they have worked together on three short scenes.

“The first one [is] still in post-production and the second, ‘Emily’s Interrogation,’ [is] already released,” Augustine said. “Jeff is not only talented, but he’s also a great person to work with. He does his preparation for pre-production, is professional while filming and is quick and creative with post-production.”

Augustine looks forward to sharing her next projects with the film community. She and Michaels are both taking part in Pittsburgh’s 48 Hour Film Festival this May.

Michaels is also anticipating more projects with the Pittsburgh filmmakers he’s met so far that have been “kind and easy to work with.”

“I’ve been here for a short amount of time and enjoyed it,” Michaels said, “and [I’m] looking forward to what Pittsburgh has to offer filmmakers now and in the future.”