90.5 WESA | By Zoe Fuller
Published March 16, 2023 at 5:30 AM EDT
On a recent February Friday, in the warm GRW Theater of Point Park’s University Center, sit a couple dozen undergraduate filmmakers. One by one, they pitch their project to the room, scouting for crew, talent and funding.
This is Pitch-Burgh, a networking event for film students in the Pittsburgh area where attendees pitch film projects and seek collaboration from peers.
Aditi Sridhar is an undergraduate film student at the University of Pittsburgh, and preparing to pitch her own upcoming short film “Aloo Poori.” It’s her senior thesis project, a film she will have to write, fundraise for, direct, edit, and submit by the end of the semester.
Sridhar said she hopes Pitch-Burgh might be where she casts the remaining roles in her films, and where she can start some buzz about her project.
“I’m just worried about, you know, keeping people engaged and keeping under the time limit and also not really being able to bring people into the world of the script to engage them,” said Sridhar.
Pitch-Burgh is attended by 11 local universities, from the larger state-related schools like Pitt and Community College of Allegheny County, to smaller private colleges like Chatham University and recent addition Westminster College. The event was put on by the Pittsburgh Film Office, and is the brainchild of director Dawn Keezer.
“It was probably three or four years ago [when] I met with some of the heads of the film departments at various universities and had found that they all didn’t know each other,” Keezer said. “There was no way for them to all be able to collaborate and communicate effectively.”
Events like this, Keezer hopes, can help to build the local film industry and accommodate those entering into the workforce. Pittsburgh has become an increasingly popular location for filmmakers, especially with recent productions including “A Man Called Otto” and “American Rust: Season Two.”
Online magazine MovieMaker ranked Pittsburgh in the top 10 cities to live and work in as a filmmaker for 2023, competing against institutions like Chicago, Il. and Montreal, Quebec. Pennsylvania’s 25% tax credit on projects primarily shot in the state is drawing productions nationwide, and Keezer hopes to see the incentives grow so the state can stay competitive.
“Gov. [Josh] Shapiro has already signaled that he’s going to support this industry. He’s planning on dramatically increasing the film tax credit program,” Keezer said. ”We’re currently at $100 million. Any increase is welcome because the program is always oversubscribed and under-funded at this moment in time, because we always have more work than we have credits.”
As production increases in Pittsburgh, education in film and media is finding itself in high-demand. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of Bachelor’s degrees awarded in visual and performing arts have risen 50% since 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a Bachelor’s degree as the typically entry-level education for producers and directors.
In 2018, media arts center Pittsburgh Filmmakers closed their filmmaking classes that helped to supplement local colleges like Pitt and La Roche University in McCandless. Since then, these universities have been developing their own programs to meet the growing film industry. La Roche has expanded their program by adding a filmmaker-in-residence position and internship positions for students at local production studios.
Carnegie Mellon University began offering a bachelor’s degree in film and visual media in 2019. Programs are even beginning at the high school level, with WQED Film Academy and Point Park’s Camp Hollywood teaching teenagers filmmaking basics.
Teachers like Associate Professor Helena Vanhala of Robert Morris University are seeing the changes both in and out of the school halls, and how the film climate might be opening up new doors.
“I think Pittsburgh is a film city. Filmmakers come here because there are so many commercial films coming to town,” Vanhala said. “So there’s a big industry here, both for those who are commercially interested, but those who are also independent filmmakers. So this is a film city.”
Now more than ever, film students like Sridhar say they feel like they have a reason to live and work in Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh in general as a city is just such a small town energy with kind and caring people who want to help and not receive anything in return, which I think is rare to find when you enter the entertainment industry in bigger cities like Los Angeles or New York. So I do like that’s what excites me about possibly being in a place like Pittsburgh post-graduation, is that that community is a given.”
Come this April, the projects Sridhar and her peers pitched will be completed and submitted before graduation. Come next fall, Pitch-Burgh and the Pittsburgh Film Office will screen a selection of these works where interested audiences can see what kind of stories the next generation of filmmakers are telling.
On behalf of Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh
Presented by Jennifer Carriere, Local 161 Script Supervisor and Women in Film & TV-Atlanta member. In the last few weeks, Jennifer has done live online interactive workshops for New York Women in Film & TV, Women in Film & TV-Atlanta, Women in Film & Video-DC, and Women in Film & TV-Louisiana, on the topic: “How to Become a Script Supervisor and Get Jobs in 2023”. This free, online, live interactive workshop provides an enormous amount of education, covers the Script Supervisor’s responsibilities & Daily Steps A-Z, includes a live Continuity Breakdown workshop with a short script (everyone’s favorite), plus plenty of discussion and Q&A.
This is a free learning opportunity. There is no cost to you for this high-value 90 minute presentation on what it takes to be a successful Script Supervisor.
In 90 minutes, we cover:
-What does a script supervisor do?
-Why should you consider becoming one?
-Script Supervisor Daily Steps A-Z
-(and everyone’s favorite part) We do a Continuity Breakdown TOGETHER using a short script – tons of fun and really helps people see they can handle this job!
-Ask Me Anything Q&A + Discussion
As of now, we have presentations scheduled for Tuesday, March 14th @ 7:00pm ET and Thursday, March 16th @ 7:00pm ET that we would love for you to attend.
Tuesday March 14 @ 7:00 PM -CLICK THIS LINK:
Thursday March 16 @ 7:00 PM – CLICK THIS LINK:
* This program is not being conducted by Women In Film Pittsburgh. There is no expectation of a job offering and the group conducting this workshop is not directly affiliated with Women In Film Pittsburgh – we are providing a resource which the user should conduct their own due diligence prior to making any financial commitment.
Get Ready for An Amazing Challenge!
The weekend? May 5 – 7, 2023
The challenge? To make a film in only 48 hours!
o Filmmakers from all over the Pittsburgh, PA area will compete to see who can make the best short film in only 48 hours.
o Write, shoot, and edit a short film over the weekend and see it PREMIERE on the BIG SCREEN!
o All Welcome! First-timer to Hobbyists to Amateurs to Professionals!
o Take your filmmaking to the NEXT LEVEL!
Wherever you are currently in your filmmaking journey, the 48 Hour Film Project is a valuable next step!
o Make your FIRST film… the first of many!
o Create a film (or another film!) for your reel
o Practice new techniques — in a low-risk setting
o Find new filmmaking partners to work with, beginning on a (very!) short-term basis
o Create work to help show off your skills to find that next job!
The winning film will go up against films from around the world at Filmapalooza 2024 for a chance at the grand prize and an opportunity to screen at the Cannes Film Festival 2024 Short Film Corner!
Visit the 48 Hour Film Festival Pittsburgh’s website ( www.48hourfilm.com/pittsburgh ) for more details.
* The Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Project Events are sponsored by The Pittsburgh Film Office, The Oaks Theater, StudioME, Lightbulb Rentals, Spotlight Costumes, Ensemble Actors Studio, Construction Junction, Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh, WQED Film Academy, Pop District / The Warhol: Academy , The Cinema Psychos Show, Cavo Night Club, Riley’s Pour House and Goat Milk Fudge Productions!
Forged in steel, the Mon Valley may soon become a hub for the big screen.
A film studio housing sound stages is one of two flex buildings being developed at the historic Carrie Furnaces property as part of its long-awaited revival.
Officials gathered Thursday at the sprawling site bordering Swissvale, Braddock and Rankin for a groundbreaking in advance of construction, which could start on both buildings sometime next spring.
Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said her goal is to turn the former brawny industrial site into a campus for the production of TV shows and movies. It has been dubbed the Film Furnace.
“We’re going to make this the center for the film industry,” she said.
The Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania is overseeing the transformation of the site, which features 55 acres of developable land.
It plans to start with the construction of a 60,000-square-foot tech flex building next year, to be followed shortly thereafter by the work of the film studio.
The projects represent the first tangible pieces of development on the property, with the imposing Carrie Furnaces serving as a dramatic backdrop of its past — and perhaps as a prop for its future.
“This truly is a phoenix rising from the ashes,” said state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Monongahela, who is co-chair of the Senate’s Film Industry Caucus and a film office board member.
Ms. Keezer said the type of film village envisioned at Carrie Furnaces will help the region to compete more effectively with states like New Jersey, Georgia and New York, which are building their own facilities.
“Today’s really an amazing day. It’s been years in the making. And we’re thrilled to be able to tie the history of our past with where we’re going in the future,” she said.
The region, Ms. Keezer noted, is on a roll in terms of film production.
Last year brought 11 projects, with another 10 scheduled for this year. They represent about $300 million in investment and 10,000 jobs, she said.
The Pittsburgh Film Office has received $2.85 million in state redevelopment assistance capital grants and a $3 million federal grant to help with the construction.
Coupled with private investment, Ms. Keezer is confident the funding will be available by next spring to start work on the 60,000-square-foot film studio.
“We want it to be the go-to place for the film industry in southwestern Pennsylvania,” she said.
She ultimately hopes to create up to six sound stages on the property and attract other film-related offshoots like props, costumes, casting and special effects as well as restaurants, coffee shops and the like to serve the people working there.
“We see it as a real catalyst for the building and all the positive changes happening down here in this area,” she said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald envisions the Carrie Furnaces complementing Hazelwood Green and other former mill sites in McKeesport and Duquesne that are being redeveloped.
Those facilities that “used to be such a production haven for steels and metals way back when are now going to be a haven for technology and film and IT and life sciences and all of the things Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region is becoming,” he said.
Before work can begin on either of the first two buildings, the RIDC will be installing roads, utilities and other infrastructure, President Don Smith said.
Including those costs, the first flex building development is expected to total about $20 million, he said. The film studio will cost “in the teens of millions.”
Mr. Smith doesn’t anticipate a problem attracting interest in the first building, which is being started without a signed tenant.
“I think there’s a lot of possibilities. We’re actually seeing probably some of the strongest industrial demand that we’ve seen certainly in my 14 years in the business. It ranges everywhere from R&D to light assembly to manufacturing.” he said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said the redevelopment of the site has been “a long time coming.” He said his grandfather worked at the Carrie Furnaces for 40 years.
In addition to helping with the $3 million in funding for the film studio, Mr. Doyle was instrumental in securing a federal grant to build a flyover ramp into the site that was crucial for its redevelopment.
“Like many of us here in the region, it’s made a lot of us sad to see this site sitting empty and being an economic burden on the surrounding communities when its redevelopment could bring new businesses and jobs to the area,” he said.
“So I’m very pleased that today we’re breaking ground on the first phase of this very important project.”
The RIDC believes the 55 acres of developable land could accommodate as much as 600,000 square feet of new construction. Another 11 acres are available west of the site for a potential future phase.
RIDC officials have an option to purchase land from the county’s redevelopment authority, which is the owner of the property.
The Carrie Furnaces tower 92 feet over the Monongahela River and were once part of the U.S. Steel Homestead Works. The site, which dates back to 1884, has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
First Published October 13, 2022, 5:17pm
90.5 WESA | By Margaret J. Krauss Published October 14, 2022 at 5:35 AM EDT
A slate of federal, state, and local officials gathered Thursday to break ground for a 60,000-square-foot tech space near the historic Carrie Blast Furnaces in Rankin. All said they expect development on the site, which once churned out iron to feed the region’s storied steelmaking industry, to forge new possibilities for the Mon Valley.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Congressman Mike Doyle, whose grandfather, Mike Doyle, worked at the Carrie Furnaces after emigrating from Ireland. Doyle, the U.S. representative, helped to secure funding for the site over many years.
“There’s been a steady stream of investment and focus on bringing this site back to life,” said Donald Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, or RIDC. The site, he predicted, will soon host “great jobs that will sustain families across our region, and contribute to the economic prosperity of these three important towns that this site touches: Swissvale, Rankin, and Braddock.”
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that what was once a haven for metals production is now going to be “a haven for technology, and film, and IT, and life sciences and all the things that Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region is becoming.”
RIDC aims to attract new companies with a pair of 60,000-square-foot buildings that can be converted to a variety of uses, as well as by further building out the infrastructure on the 55-acre site with new roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks. RIDC is also working with the Pittsburgh Film Office to create “The Film Furnace,” a film studio with a sound stage and other facilities to attract television and movie productions.
A purpose-built soundstage is “really needed by our clients,” said Dawn Keezer, who directs the Pittsburgh Film Office. In 2021 and 2022, more than 20 projects were shot in Pittsburgh, bringing more than $300 million and 10,000 jobs to the area, she said. The sound stage is expected to only increase the region’s draw.
While RIDC is acting as the developer on the site, the land is owned by Allegheny County. In September, county officials announced a multimillion dollar effort to build a non-motorized connection between the Carrie Furnaces and the Great Allegheny Passage. On Thursday, officials said that investment allows the site to piggyback on the investment all along the GAP, from Downtown through Hazelwood and Hazelwood Green.
The Carrie Blast Furnaces were part of U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, and employed thousands of people before they closed in 1982. Nonprofit Rivers of Steel has worked to preserve the furnaces as well as open them to the public.
Smith thanked Rivers of Steel for their work in preserving and sharing the story of the furnaces, “so that our kids can understand what this region was all about back in the day, while we’re busy creating what this region’s going to be about in the future.”
RYAN DETO | Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 1:50 p.m.
The Carrie Blast Furnaces, a National Historic Landmark, on July 10, 2019.
RYAN DETO | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Local Pittsburgh officials at a ceremonial ground breaking for the Carrie Blast Furnace site on Oct. 13, 2022.
Officials on Thursday announced that two, 60,000-square-foot buildings will be built on the historic Carrie Blast Furnaces site in Rankin.
The first is being marketed as a tech flex space and the other will be a film sound stage and production facility.
Roads and other infrastructure for the 55-acre site are starting construction this year. Carrie Blast Furnaces is a preserved brownfield site that was part of the Homestead Steel Works.
The site is being developed by the Regional Industrial Development Corp. Its president, Don Smith, said at a news conference the film building will be the first purpose-built soundstage in the Pittsburgh area. He said the two buildings are part of eight total plots that RIDC expects will eventually bring hundreds of jobs to Carrie Furnaces.
“This site represents economic progress for our region,” Smith said. “A site for jobs that will sustain families.”
Smith recognized U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, for helping to secure millions of dollars in funding for the site, including the initial federal dollars for a flyover bridge that made the site accessible.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Doyle, who added that his grandfather worked at Carrie Blast Furnace after immigrating from Ireland. “We have been working hard to put abandoned properties like this back into use again.”
The initial tech-flex building and its infrastructure will cost nearly $20 million, which includes a combination of federal budget appropriations and private grants and loans and equity provided by RIDC.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald called the site “hallowed ground” because of the steel industry’s’ role in building the country and winning wars.
“As the Mon Valley used to be used for the production of steel, now it will be for the growth of tech, life sciences and other industries,” Fitzgerald said.
He said the site is situated well for access, as it is located near the East Busway and will soon be getting a bike-and-pedestrian trail extension thanks to a $9.2 million allocation from Allegheny County.
Pittsburgh Film Office Director Dawn Keezer said the development would be a boon for the local film industry. She said film clients really needed a new space.
Smith also expects the buildings will help boost the film industry, as two repurposed sound stages in the area have recently been taken offline.
“This will tie the history of our past with where we are going into the future,” Keezer said.
Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .
Photo courtesy of Ron Baraff / Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.
Carrie Furnace breaks ground on tech/flex space with a film studio in the works
The monolithic steel-era ruins of the Carrie Furnace have long been a popular backdrop for film and video — from the Christian Bale crime thriller “Out of the Furnace” to “American Ninja Warrior” to Wiz Khalifa’s music videos. Now, the massive site along the Monongahela River is getting its own movie studio.
“This will be the first purpose-built sound stage facility in the region,” says Dawn Keezer, director the Pittsburgh Film Office. “It’s really needed by our clients. We had 11 projects shoot in 2021. We’ll have 10 projects shoot this year. They’ll be bringing with it about $200 million in new money to the economy, and we’re talking about 10,000 jobs.”
While funding and the final design for the studio are pending, Carrie Furnace is getting its first new building, a 60,000-square-foot tech/flex space designed to attract the kinds of companies that are fueling Pittsburgh’s economy. Officials from the city, state and neighborhoods helped break ground for the project on Thursday morning.
“This Carrie Furnace site was the economic epicenter of this region and created family-sustaining jobs for so many,” says Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) which is developing the site.
“And we all know about the difficulties that happened with the deindustrialization of the United States; it certainly hit Pittsburgh harder than most. But thanks to the efforts of so many folks, there’s been a steady stream of focus and investment in bringing this site back to life.”
The building and infrastructure will cost $20 million coming from a combination of public and private grants and loans and equity provided by RIDC.
Rivers of Steel will continue to preserve the remaining Carrie Furnace steel mill as a national historic site, showcasing the region’s industrial heritage.
“When my grandfather immigrated from Ireland and landed in Swissvale, he got a job at Carrie Furnace,” says Congressman Mike Doyle. “And he worked there for 40 years. And his son, Mike Doyle, worked a few miles down at the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock for 30 years. And his son worked two summers at J&L (Steel) and said, ‘I don’t want to be a steelworker.’”
Doyle notes that he helped secure $3 million in the House’s 2023 spending bill for the film production facility.
“All of us who grew up here are proud of the legacy our fathers and grandfathers left us,” says Doyle. “They did hard, dangerous work here at Carrie Furnace, and they did it to support their families … that’s why it’s been a labor of love for me to work to preserve Carrie Furnace.”
Dear Zoe is a powerful coming-of-age story of resilience in which teenage Tess enlists the support of her biological father – a lovable slacker – and the charming juvenile delinquent next door in the aftermath of the death of her little sister, Zoe.
The movie is based on the novel by Pittsburgh author, Philip Beard, and the screenplay adaptation was written by Pittsburgher Melissa Martin, and Pittsburgh native, Marc Lhormer. Marc and his wife, Brenda, produced the film under their shingle Zin Haze Productions. The movie was shot entirely in Pittsburgh, PA in the fall of 2019. Key locations included Braddock, Kennywood, Squirrel Hill, downtown Pittsburgh. This movie is truly a love letter to our beautiful city!
Directed by Gren Wells (The Road Within), Dear Zoe stars Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy), Jessica Capshaw (Grey’s Anatomy), Vivien Lyra Blair (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Justin Bartha (National Treasure) and newcomer Kweku Collins.
Dear Zoe can be seen in select Pittsburgh theaters and will be available to rent or buy on multiple video on demand platforms as of Friday, November 4!.
Don’t Miss A Chance to Attend the Red Carpet Premiere of Dear Zoe on Wednesday, November 2!
5:00PM Red Carpet Arrivals and Hosted Reception, August Wilson African American Cultural Center, 980 Liberty Avenue
6:15PM Opening Remarks
6:30PM Dear Zoe Screening
8:00PM Q&A with Cast
$95 tickets go on sale September 24th at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. A share of net proceeds will go to Pittsburgh’s The Caring Place, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports grieving children and their families.
Purchase tickets for the premiere at the August Wilson Center on Wednesday, November 2nd: