Vinny Varsalona, of Galloway Township, shoots boardwalk scenes in front of The Pier at Caesars for an independent documentary he’s working on about the revitalization of Atlantic City.

When movie director Steven Spielberg needs quiet on his set, someone else makes sure everyone shuts up.

Keith Vaile, of Atlantic City, has no such luck.

Vaile is the writer, editor, director, cinematographer and executive producer of the independent horror film "The Urn."

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He was filming a key scene last month in his Atlantic City apartment with his stars, Brittany Katz, 20, of Margate, and Christina Dollard, 23, of Atlantic City when some neighborhood kids started playing in the hallway outside.

Vaile, 41, had to stop what he was doing to tell the children to be quiet. Even with the distraction, Vaile was able to capture what he wanted.

Vaile is among a growing cadre of filmmakers in southern New Jersey who are picking up digital cameras to record their stories and dramas.

The work is being sent to film festivals or ending up on the Internet on such sites as Youtube and Vimeo, giving these folks an audience they would never have dreamed of decades ago.

"Azrael," an earlier Vaile film, premiered at the Atlantic City Cinefest last year. It won best South Jersey feature. Vaile won for best director for a horror feature.

One reason more people are able to make movies is that technology has made shooting and editing a picture cheaper and easier.

High-definition digital cameras became more prevalent and more inexpensive, said Tom Sims, executive director of the Cape May Film Festival, who sees local artists submitting their work to his festival.

Even if films aren't selected for festival showings, artists can air their work on the Internet, he said.

"It doesn't mean that you will get anything for it, per say. You just do it because you just love making movies. You love expressing yourself in that way," Sims said.

Tony Picciotti, a Galloway Township-based filmmaker, just finished his sixth full-length feature in the past seven years.

"In today's film, almost all filmmakers can shoot their film and edit their film, color correct their film, and in most cases, to some degree color grade their film, so the indie filmmakers are becoming closer and closer to the Hollywood filmmakers," Picciotti said.

His latest film, "The Honor," was shot in July and last month in Hammonton and Cherry Hill. Some background scenes were shot in Galloway Township.

The film tells the story of a Christian girl with a bigoted mother who falls in love with a Muslim girl.

Picciotti is trying to finish "The Honor" in time for it to be shown at the Atlantic City Cinefest, which will be held Oct. 11 to 13. "The Honor" was shot with a $9,000 JVC 4K compact handheld camcorder.

The two lead female actresses Picciotti used in "The Honor" were found through the Atlantic City casting office of Weist-Barron-Ryan of New York.

Ursula Ryan opened the Atlantic City office in 1980. She has helped cast local actors in movies that starred Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney and Samuel L. Jackson.

There are many more independent filmmakers now than there used to be, Ryan said.

"These young filmmakers want to perfect their skills. The only way they can do it is by making low-budget, independent films where it's non-union, where they don't have to pay a lot of money to the actors," said Ryan, who added filmmakers who used her casting service have told her they put their films on the Internet. "Production costs are not that high. A lot of times, like Keith (Vaile), like Tony (Picciotti), they have their own cameras, and they shoot their own films."

Tom Pinto, of Galloway Township, and his filmmaking partner, Vin Collela, of Blackwood, Camden County, will start holding auditions for their film, "My Family's Tree," later this month. Pinto co-wrote the comedy with David Swift, a former Ocean City resident.

"My Family's Tree" deals with an Italian family and its secrets. Collela will direct it.

The pair have already been scouting local locations for the project.

The movie will be filmed next year. Interior and exterior scenes will be shot outside of Sewell, Gloucester County. They will need footage of water that will be shot either at the ocean or at a lake in Atlantic County, Collela said. A boat scene will be shot in Absecon, and a home in Galloway Township will be used as a backup to the house near Sewell, if necessary, Collela said.

The script has been around for 20 years, Pinto said. This is his shot at having a film made of it, Pinto said. Fewer backers are needed to finance a movie these days as digital filmmaking has reduced the costs of making pictures, Collela said.

Kent Green, a video producer at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, shot his first short movie on film in 2000. It was titled "Dead Within." During the past 13 years, Green has made eight short films. Green is writing a feature film, titled "Dust and Darkness," that he hopes will be his next movie project. It will be feature length, not a short film.

Green shot "Dead Within" on film, and it cost $3,500. Four years ago, Green made a full-length feature with Ernie Rockelman, a teacher at the Film Institute at Absegami High School in Galloway Township. The film, titled "Haunted Inc.," cost a little more than $1,000.

"We did own the equipment (for 'Haunted Inc.'), but that's the beauty of this digital equipment. It's cheaper now. I was able to own all that equipment and just use it, so most of my money was spent feeding the people that helped me. It's a whole new world," Green said. "All the money I spent on 'Dead Within' was on the film and processing the film."

Vinny Varsalona, 21, of Galloway Township, is a film and television major at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Varsalona spent part of the past summer filming the beach, Boardwalk and at Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City for a documentary he is making titled "The Playground."

Varsalona wants to submit his documentary about the revitalization and resurgence of Atlantic City to film festivals. Among the people Varsalona interviewed for his first major directorial effort were Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford and Greater Atlantic City Chamber president Joe Kelly. If it doesn't get accepted and shown, Varsalona, a senior, can make it available to be seen online, something that was not possible 20 years ago.

"It's definitely easier to make your own film now. It's more affordable. There are better cameras, better computer software, better editing programs. It's just easier to get everything together and get your film out there," Varsalona said.

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