Providence College senior Estarlyn Hiraldo, of Lawrence, got the idea for his third short film from underground passageways on campus.
He released "Into the Frame," a week before Christmas.
The 12-minute psychological thriller, available on YouTube, tells the story of Carla, Arianna and Jessie, three friends who are sophomores at an unspecified college.
Carla, spellbound by writings in an old journal that she finds in her new apartment, is soon besieged by recurring visions and overcome by a desire to locate and explore a tunnel the journal describes.
Carla's obsession worries her friends. And their responses to her altered mental state heightens tension in the film.
"It looks at how this tears apart and challenges their relationship," Hiraldo said.
Hiraldo made the film at the college in 2019 on a shoestring budget – writing, directing and editing it himself.
His story idea sprang from actual tunnels on the Providence campus. A number of older buildings there once housed psychiatric wards with tunnels below them.
The creepy passageways are a familiar campus conversation piece among students.
Hiraldo is a sociology major and film minor.
He will pursue filmmaking as a career, and is applying to graduate school programs in California and New York.
Hiraldo spent the spring semester in the Czech Republic, in Prague, studying film. The semester abroad was cut short after three months when COVID-19 emerged.
Hiraldo spent the fall semester taking five classes remotely from home. He lives with his mom and dad and two younger sisters.
Hiraldo moved with his family to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic when he was 10 years old. He first became interested in film at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, from which he graduated in 2017.
He made his first short film the next year as a freshman at Providence College.
It's called "Heritage" and was shown at El Taller Arts Café in Lawrence. It's about him claiming his cultural identity and includes clips of daily life in the Dominican Republic.
"Into the Frame" is an experimental work, said Hiraldo.
"I wanted to create something that challenged the notion of your three-act story," he said.
He left the ending open to interpretation, letting viewers ponder the outcome.
He says he learned from making this film that a good movie has its own path.
"You have to let a great story live on its own," he said.
See the film at: youtube.com/channel/UCOCTlLE8akbPZLXHCEuYhSg