More than two years after an independent film crew came to Scranton to shoot the dark, dramatic tale of redemption that is Forged the film will be released to national audiences beginning Friday.

Set in northeastern Pennsylvania, Forged has previously been well-received on the festival circuit, including a 2010 Best Picture win at the New York International Latino Film Festival, an Outstanding Film win in the 2010 Providence Latin American Film Festival and an official selection for the 2010 Los Angeles Latino International and 2011 San Diego Latino film festivals, executive producer and JVW Inc. CEO Joe Van Wie, 33, of Scranton, said.

The process of selling the film for wider distribution began shortly after the festival selections started coming in. It was recently purchased by Maya Entertainment for its Indie Film Series. Forged will take the gritty tale shot in Scranton to New York City and Los Angeles on July 29 and San Antonio on August 5.

Details on release dates for Chicago, Dallas, Miami and San Francisco were unavailable at press time.

In addition, Forged will receive a red carpet premiere locally at Marquee Cinemas, 301 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton, on Friday, Aug. 12. Screenings will continue through at least Sunday, Aug. 14.

“I wanted it to premiere inside the city. It’s a real tip of the hat to all of the people who helped the film,” Van Wie said.

Forged is also due for release on DVD and Netflix in September.

The abrasive story of redemption wasn’t originally supposed to be filmed in northeastern Pennsylvania, however.

One month before shooting began in Texas, where the film was originally set, Van Wie and director Will Wedig let intiution drive the film.

Forged is the story of Chuco, portrayed by Manny Perez, a man fresh from prison for killing his wife. Upon his release, he must redeem himself to his now-13-year-old son, Machito, played by David Castro. The story is built upon the “amazing story of a father and son,” Van Wie said.

Shooting a Latino film in the flat landscapes of Texas was too cliche.

“We thought it’d be interesting to put the backdrop as mountains and snow, this cold and desolate town that lost industry. It’s not that Scranton is that, but we could shoot that way,” Van Wie said. “Texas wouldn’t be a character in the film… In the final cut, you see Scranton as an overwhelming character.”

Cooperation from local elected officials and the Scranton fire and police departments made securing unique locations like the Scranton Lace Building, Lackawanna County Prison, Bucktown Diner and South Side Bowl, much easier, Van Wie said. It also kept costs from skyrocketing, leaving the final cost of the film just under $1 million.

The film was made by Wilkes-Barre-based Revere Pictures, which became JVW Inc. upon the company’s move to Scranton in January.

Upcoming works include the “Joe Paterno Film Project,” an adaptation of the novel “The Lion in Autumn.” A separate documentary is currently in post-production and due for release in the spring of 2012, but Van Wie offered few details about that endeavor.

In the meantime, JVW has worked on political campaigns, ads for attorneys and more. Income from those projects doesn’t simply fund creative pictures. It also keeps the eight-man team working out of 515 Center St., Scranton.

“I have a lot of guys in this office, and all I care about is their livelihood,” Van Wie said.

He jokes that he’ll soon find failure after the unique success of Forged and La Soga, then lose touch with reality and become a “squirrel whisperer” of sorts on Courthouse Square.

In truth, he hopes to find projects that challenge the team at JVW to perform at their best, even when standing on the “absolute cusp of total failure.”

“I like taking big risks on projects,” he said. “Failure in itself can be a reward. From that point on, you learn what not to do.

“There was no back-up plan to Forged. It had to be sold.”

He hopes to continue to work in the area and make profitable films where most of his budget can benefit local businesses.

“We embraced the community to a means that we gave something to the community, not took something away. We left a lot here,” he said.

“I don’t want to shoot anywhere else. I feel comfortable here, and Scranton has been nothing but gracious to me.”

Christopher J. Hughes

Go Lackawanna Editor