Jonny Duerr, now a senior at Wilmington University, directed, produced, and co-wrote "Meeting the Wickersons" which will be screened at the Smyrna Opera House.

A Dover college student and Polytech High School graduate will host the premiere screening of his first feature-length film Friday, May 16 at the Smyrna Opera House.

Jonny Duerr graduated from Polytech in 2008 where he got involved in acting, radio, and TV.

“My two biggest mentors there were Sharon Crossen, the drama teacher, and Robin Strom-Mackey, the radio/tv teacher,” Duerr said. “I did several short films in high school and acted in many plays. I actually originally went to college to be an actor. I took up radio and TV just because it sounded interesting and found out I was actually good at it.”

Now Duerr is getting ready to graduate from Wilmington University with a degree in film directing.

“Meeting the Wickersons” is his senior project, but he also plans to enter it in film festivals.

To make the movie, he called on some of his friends from Polytech, Kara Boland, with whom he co-wrote the screenplay, and Lance Williams. Boland and Williams are two of the lead actors in the film, along with Boland’s friend, Nicole Samuel, from Philadelphia. They all volunteered their time.

Filming took about three weeks, and was mostly done in Dover with the exception of a scene in Clayton; however, the entire process from conception to editing took about eight months.

Duerr said the movie isn’t for everybody.

“It’s an experimental film,” he said. “It’s not the typical story-telling process. It’s more risky. I think it has the potential to be a cult film with a niche following, but it’s not the kind of film that will have mass appeal.”

“Meeting the Wickersons” is set in 1972, and the story revolves around a woman who is being interviewed by a parapsychiatrist, who finds out “some dark things about her family history,” Duerr said.

As for why the premiere is being held at the Smyrna Opera House, Duerr said it involves a Facebook post and a 1965 Buick Skylark.

He posted a notice on Facebook, asking if anyone had a car that could be used in the movie, but the car had to be an older model since the film is set in 1972.

Monika Dougherty saw the post and offered her 1965 Buick Skylark. However, since Dougherty is also on the Smyrna Opera House Guild, she asked Duerr if he’d be interested in screening the film at the Opera House and asked the Opera House executive director Bernadette Sahm about scheduling it.

Sahm said the event was a natural partnership to help promote and showcase local talent.

She and her husband watched the film several times.

“It held our interest as we were teenagers in 1972, the time the film was set. We could appreciate the attention to detail in the fashions and staging,” Sahm said. “I am not going to say that I have a thumbs up or down vote on it, but I certainly could appreciate the amount of work that went into creating it.”

After the screening, Duerr and the actors will hold a question-and-answer session with the audience.

And Duerr said there may be a lot of questions.

“It’s a bizarre film. There are some scenes people might not get,” he said. “I’ve had some people like everything, while others have said it’s really off kilter.”


WHAT Premiere of the film “Meeting the Wickersons”

WHERE Smyrna Opera House, 7 W. South St., Smyrna

WHEN 7 p.m. Friday, May 16

TICKETS $5, available at the box office through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling 653-4236, or online at