Wednesday, October 1, 2008
‘Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives’ Premiers to a Sold-Out Audience at the Regent Square Theatre
“This was a project that emerged after Kristen and I saw ‘Paris Je t’aime last year,'” Andrew Halasz, project co-creator along with Kristen Lauth Shaeffer, told the audience before the show began. (“Paris Je t’aime” is a compilation of 18 short films celebrating the neighborhoods in Paris, France.) “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do this in Pittsburgh?’”
Audience members were glued to the screen as Neighborhood Narratives took them on a sometimes amusing, sometimes dramatic, but always interesting ride through neighborhoods such as Bloomfield, Oakland and the Strip District.
Following the premier was a reception at the Concept Art Gallery where audience members had the opportunity to meet some of the filmmakers and actors involved with the project.
“This was the biggest thing that I was ever a part of,” said an excited Timothy R. Hall, whose short film, “What Green Could Be,” told the story of a young man who grew up in the Hill District.
Hall was right – if its sold out premier was any indication, Neighborhood Narratives was going to be huge.
“We had such a great turnout,” said Shaeffer, referring to the crowd that gathered for the premier. “It made us so happy to see that Pittsburgh supported our film because that’s really who this was for.”
An hour and forty minutes long, the film opened with a story about the South Side and ended with the hosting neighborhood, Regent Square. Bloomfield, Downtown, the Hill District, Homestead, Lawrenceville, Oakland, and the Strip District were also featured.
Each story had its own unique style, and each successfully captured the personality of its characters and setting. At more than one point, the audience erupted into raucous laughter or enthusiastic applause. “Mombies,” filmed in Lawrenceville, was a mock-horror tale about the contagious nature of motherhood. The audience was in stitches as the main character went screaming down Butler Street with stroller-pushing mommies in pursuit. “Notes in the Valley,” on the other hand, had its viewers on the edge of their seats as a mysterious letter opened the door to an emotional past.
“I thought they did a really good job of pacing the movie to showcase the variety of genres touched on by the different films,” said Jason Sox, who attended the premier. “The drama was mixed between the humorous movies in a way that enhanced them both.”
The next screening of Neighborhood Narratives is scheduled to take place Oct. 3 at The Pump House in Homestead. Tickets are $5 each.
“We’re looking forward to sharing these stories with the rest of Pittsburgh,” said Shaeffer.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
What Green Could Be
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the ninth in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation.
Throughout the years, artists and historians alike have been drawn to the story behind Pittsburgh’s Hill District – and for good reason, as the area has seen a lot of change since its heyday in the 1930s and ‘40s, carrying with it a rich cultural history. In fact, the Hill, as it is fondly known in the ‘burgh, was once considered to be the center of African-American culture, steeped in art, literature and music. A decline in the steel industry, however, and the construction of the Civic Arena forced many residents to leave the neighborhood beginning in the ‘60s. Today, the area is slowly being revamped.
While numerous works of art chronicle the Hill’s history, local filmmaker Timothy R. Hall, 58, has opted to capture the spirit of the neighborhood in a unique and unconventional way – through a style of filmmaking known as “photo roman.” Tim’s film, part of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives project, portrays a very human element of the Hill using only still photos and sound to tell his story.
“It’s really a pseudo-biographical kind of thing,” said Tim about his narrative, What Green Could Be.
Like his creator, the main character grew up in the Hill District at a time when many people were leaving. Eventually, the pursuit of an education and later, a career, prompted him to relocate as well.
But if there’s anything we learned from the Wizard of Oz, other than the fact that it eerily syncs up to Dark Side of the Moon, it’s that sometimes you really do have to step away from the comfort zone to appreciate what’s in your backyard.
When circumstances bring the main character back to his birthplace, he is shocked to discover how much he missed it.
“It’s a growing process,” explained Tim. “As he slowly eases back into the neighborhood, he realizes that he has a different kind of appreciation for the Hill.”
The same is true for Tim, who also returned to the neighborhood he grew up in. While he appreciates today’s version of the Hill, he also confesses that it’s a “shell of what it used to be.” That contrast between the old and the new, and the emotional journey of the residents who lived the transition, is conveyed through his main character’s experiences.
“This takes all of that and nails it down to one person with experiences,” he said.
Tim is a passionate photographer, so using photo roman to tell his story was an obvious choice. He was very meticulous about how and when his photos were caught, and didn’t limit himself to one style either.
“It’s about images being caught the right way with the camera,” he said.
To do that, he would drive down Centre Avenue and make a note of the way things looked in certain light. Later, he would return to get his shot, using only the natural light provided.
Of course, What Green Could Be wasn’t his first photo roman. Tim also produced one about the intimidations of going back to school as an adult – a theme he can relate to, having recently graduated from Chatham University with a master of fine art’s degree in digital and film photography.
What Tim hopes to achieve with this photo roman, however, is to give another perspective on life in the Hill – through the ever-watchful eye of the camera.
“I want people to leave there [after seeing his film] thinking, ‘Hmmm … that’s an interesting variation on the theme,’” he said.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tommy and Me
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the eighth in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in a weeks for the next profile.
A Saturday afternoon spent strolling through the Strip District is a mysterious kind of fun, luring Pittsburghers with ethnic fare, fresh produce, and gourmet coffee. The challenge lies in navigating one’s way through a sea of street merchants without surrendering to each and every persuasive aroma. It’s like Ulysses and the “song of the siren,” except the song is really an enchanting smell that threatens to overwhelm the wallet.
For some, such as local filmmaker Ray Werner, 69, this unique part of town is more than a Saturday trip – it’s a treasure trove of memories. Years ago, Ray and his wife transformed the No. 7 Engine Co. – the building now known as the Firehouse Lounge – into a family-owned advertising agency. It was not only the first historically restored building in the Strip, but their agency was also the first service company to be established in the area.
This is one reason why Ray chose the Strip District as the setting for his Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives film, Tommy and Me. But he also holds a deep appreciation for the culture of the Strip.
“The Strip really draws its own crowd. It has its own personality,” he said.
The majority of Ray’s narrative takes place in a store called Mike’s Stuff, modeled after and filmed in Mike Feinberg’s novelty shop. An old friend of Feinberg’s, Ray said that “the film couldn’t take place anywhere but the Strip” because Feinberg’s store is truly one-of-a-kind.
The main character, and narrator, is Schmoo – a young new hire at the novelty shop. When a homeless man named Tommy makes a habit of panhandling outside the shop, Schmoo decides to “make him useful.” So, he puts a retail scarf on Tommy. Sure enough, passers-by come into the shop to purchase the scarf “the guy out front” is wearing. Recognizing an opportunity, Schmoo makes a habit of outfitting Tommy in merchandise.
One day, when Tommy dons Steeler pajamas, he is given the nickname “Steeler Santa.” The Steeler Santa quickly becomes a Pittsburgh icon.
“It catches on and people love the guy,” said Ray. “He’s a media celebrity.”
Ray’s story takes its listeners on an emotional journey, allowing them to fall in love with Tommy while at the same time introducing them to the harsh realities of street life. When asked how / when his fascination with the homeless started, Ray begins with “I’m a very serious bread maker …” As he continues, one also learns that Ray plays concertina in an Irish band called Hooley and that the flute player’s brother ran a non-profit organization dedicated to the homeless. The brother’s name is Dr. Jim Withers, and the organization is called Operation Safety Net. The bread came in when Ray, Jim and several others distributed 200 loaves of fresh, homemade bread to Pittsburgh’s homeless.
“Ask their name. No one ever asks their name,” said Ray, remembering Jim’s advice on how to treat the homeless.
But Ray’s compassion for the homeless runs even deeper than his film lets on. Tommy and Me is dedicated to Jim, and all proceeds from the screening at the Firehouse Lounge will benefit Operation Safety Net. Ray also cast four homeless men as extras in his film. Johnny, Michael, Ray (not Werner) and George were the only extras to be paid.
According to Ray, the filming of Tommy and Me went extremely well – thanks to good weather, a “terrific” cast and crew, and the generosity of local residents / businesses. The Steelers organization also came through for Ray. One of the scenes was filmed in Heinz Stadium, and the organization was eager to grant permission when it learned of the connection to Operation Safety Net.
But perhaps the best part of filming Tommy and Me was that it allowed Ray the opportunity to work alongside his wife and four kids – Larkin the production designer, Brendan the editor, Brian the financial consultant, and Katie the Production Assistant (along with Ray’s wife Susan).
“This was a real family production,” said Ray. “I proved to my kids that I can still work a 21-hour day,” he added, laughing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Notes in the Valley
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the seventh in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile.
Walking down Eighth Avenue in Homestead is like being on the set of a movie. One could almost picture the town as it was in its prime – a bustling shopping district nestled in the steel valley, families weaving in and out of its pretty storefronts …
And while some of those storefronts don’t look as pretty as they once did, having since lost their allure to cracked glass and empty shelves, the Homestead scene has acquired a new and mysterious charm of its own. Heading into the Waterfront from Eighth Avenue is reminiscent of the scene in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens her door to Technicolor, blinding herself with vibrant shades of ginormous plastic flowers. The contrast between the old Homestead and the new is as blatant as those flowers, with history outlined in every petal.
To Matthew Fridg, 27, and Jenn Golling, 30, Homestead was a movie waiting to be made, which is why they selected the neighborhood for their short film contribution to Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives.
“When you drive through Homestead, you only get this little sliver. You don’t really know what’s there,” said Matthew, who also lives in Homestead. “It has a lot of personality, mystery and enchantment, especially the library.”
In fact, their story begins in Homestead’s Carnegie Library where a young female employee finds a mysterious, unopened envelope dating back to the 1940s. After digging through the library’s archives, she is able to track down more information about the addressee – a fascinating woman whose life eerily mirrors her own. The young girl’s findings lead her to a World War II veteran who was a friend of her 1940s counterpart, and through his stories, she is quickly caught up in a search for answers. All the while battling the temptation to open the letter.
“In trying to solve the mystery of the letter, the lead character answers some questions in her own life,” explained Matthew.
The filming took Matthew and Jenn through some of the hidden gems of Homestead and Munhall, such as the library and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Museum. At least one of the scenes takes place in a mansion formerly owned by Andrew Carnegie. According to Matthew, the current owners of the mansion had reverted the furnishings back to the way they were originally, which was a perfect fit for the film.
There were also some architectural shots of the main strip in Homestead, which served as transitional pieces.
On the first day of filming, the crew was shooting about two blocks away from the Waterfront when a train derailed.
“The helicopters and sirens threatened to shut us down,” recalled Matthew, who directed the film and produced it in conjunction with PMI (Production Masters Inc.). “We couldn’t hear anything. Luckily, we were able to get our footage and get out of there.”
But that wasn’t the only challenge the pair faced. According to Jenn, who co-wrote the script with Matthew, a huge underlying scene was re-written the night before filming.
“You make one change to the script and it ricochets throughout the whole thing,” said Jenn, laughing good naturedly. “I stayed up until three or four in morning making changes, but we ended up really liking the rewrite. The actors had the final script in their hands eight hours before filming. They were champs.”
As someone who wrote many plays in college, several of which won awards, Jenn has a deep appreciation for talented actors.
“I can’t act. I’m one of those people who sounds like they’re reading lines. That’s why I stick to writing,” she explained. “I always tell the actors, ‘Once I hand the script to you, you know the characters better than I do.’”
Jenn works with Matthew’s wife, which is how the two came to collaborate on the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives project. Matthew graduated from IUP with a bachelors of science degree in communications media. He always had a passion for filmmaking and moved to Pittsburgh to work on the Hollywood features that were shot here in the last few years. Currently, he serves as a director for award-winning production company PMI, located in downtown Pittsburgh.
While “Notes in the Valley” is not Matthew’s first short film (his previous short film, “No More Sunday,” has screened at several film festivals around the country), it was Jenn’s first movie script. Both were very happy with the way things turned out.
“It really got my creative juices going again,” confessed Jenn. “I’m excited to do more writing.”
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Regent Square Theater, 7:30 pm
September 28 - Bloomfield Screening
Brillobox, 8:00 pm
October 3 - Homestead Screening
The Pumphouse, 7:30 pm
October 5 - Hill District Screening
Hill House Theater, 2:00 pm
October 12 - Downtown Screening
Harris Theater, 2:00 pm
October 21 - Southside Screening
Rex Theater, 7:30 pm
October 23 - Oakland Screening
Melwood Screening Room, 8:00 pm
October 30 - Lawrenceville Screening
Your Inner Vagabond, 8:00 pm
November 8 - Strip District Screening
The Firehouse Lounge, 7:00 pm
Tickets are $10 for the premiere and $5 for all other screenings.
Keep watching our website for additional details:
Monday, August 11, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the sixth in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile.
Situated in the cross-section of four municipalities (Edgewood, Pittsburgh, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg), Regent Square has managed to carve out its own identity, framing brick-paved streets with Victorian architecture and large canopy trees. A single strip running through its middle provides local residents with all the basic amenities that a modern life requires – food, drink, shopping and entertainment. For exercise, there is Frick Park. And for happy hour, the front porch.
It is in this small, but charming neighborhood that local filmmakers Jeremy Braverman and Nelson Chipman tell their story for Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. Both residents of Regent Square themselves, Jeremy and Nelson came up with the outline for their film while swapping stories with neighbors.
“We talked to people from the neighborhood and shared our favorite stories, things that were unique to Regent Square,” said Jeremy. “A lot of that stuff found its way into our film, such as the front porch happy hours. Those are pretty big around here.”
Their film, called “Regent Square,” is about a New Yorker who is forced to relocate to Pittsburgh when his wife lands a job with UPMC. For him, the transition was not an easy one. For Nelson and Jeremy, who are also big city transplants, the move to Regent Square was a no-brainer.
“I was immediately taken with the neighborhood even before coming here,” admits Nelson, who moved from New York about a year ago. He researched the neighborhood online prior to the move. “There are some amazing, friendly people in Regent Square. I met more people in my first week here than I met in all seven years on my street in New York.”
Jeremy uprooted from Chicago about five years ago.
“We were both really excited to come here. So we took the angle, ‘What if we came here and didn’t like it?’” he said, referring to the idea for their film. “This is a story about someone who has to accept changes in his life.”
Acceptance can be found in unlikely places, as “Regent Square” proves. When the main character breaks his ankle in Frick Park, it is his older, legally blind neighbor who volunteers to drive him to the hospital. The incident helps to break down some walls for the skeptical New Yorker, as he gradually learns to appreciate the neighborhood.
Filming in Frick Park was important to Jeremy and Nelson because they feel that the park is “a huge asset to the neighborhood.” In fact, the two meet on a regular basis to jog the park’s trails.
They were also fascinated with the historical aspects of Regent Square, which they tried to incorporate into their film. It is said that George Westinghouse encouraged his executives to build houses in the area. The larger, grander homes of the Westinghouse execs greatly contrasted those of the lower-paid workers, who lived in more modest “Hulley” homes.
“Regent Square appears to be very diverse in terms of economics,” said Nelson. “You can get a small apartment or condo … and then right down the road are these huge homes.”
According to Nelson, the neighborhood was very cooperative during filming. Many of the businesses in Regent Square are independently-owned and were more than willing to help out. Dunning’s Bar and Grill, for instance, provided the cast and crew with free lunches. Others provided discounts. The Regent Square Civic Association funded the catering for food and drinks.
Both Jeremy and Nelson are instructors in the cinema and digital arts department at Point Park University and were grateful for the opportunity to work on a project together.
“Jeremy and I live on the same street, we ride the bus together and we sit three offices away,” explained Nelson. “We were looking for an opportunity to collaborate on a project together. Plus, we’re obviously big fans of Regent Square, so it was serendipitous that this came along.”
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the fifth in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile.
You don’t even need to live in the Southside to know that it’s nearly impossible to find parking there. All it takes is one trip to the Tiki Lounge – parking 10 blocks away in a dark, deserted lot with “Towed at Owner’s Expense” signs everywhere you look, but one other car to make you naively think it might be okay – and you’ll swear allegiance to the Port Authority and overpriced cabs forever.
For residents of the Southside, parking is a raging war with narrow one-way streets and territorial neighbors. Once an empty spot has been captured, the victor marks his / her prize with whatever’s available … say, a milk crate.
And it is from this milk crate, on this perpetual battleground, that John Rice, 52, draws inspiration and a title for his short film.
“Milk Crate” is the story of two Southside neighbors with nothing in common but a parking spot. When Charlie, a cantankerous old Polish guy, finds out that the young, Asian punk who has moved into the neighborhood has dared to move the milk crate designating Charlie’s spot, he is more than a little displeased. Naturally, conflict ensues as ethnic and generational differences come to a head.
“I went on the Internet and found a few Polish words that I wanted Floral Duster to use,” said John, referring to the scene where Floral Duster, a local woman who keeps a keen eye on the street confronts the new neighbor in her native tongue. “I lucked out because the actor who played Floral Duster [Lillian Misko-Coury] knew how to speak Polish already.”
In fact, John felt fortunate to have ended up with the cast he did. The film contains very little dialogue (most of which is peppered with Polish and Japanese), so the actors’ body language plays a key role in telling the story.
“I thought casting was going to be my biggest challenge, but it couldn’t have turned out any better,” he said.
The inspiration for “Milk Crate” was derived from John’s own experience as a Southside resident in the early ‘80s. He lived in a two-bedroom apartment on S. 15th street where the guy beneath him – also named Charlie – held the coveted parking spot hostage with a milk crate.
“When I heard of Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives, I thought, ‘Why don’t I expand on this,’” recalls John. “We actually shot the film one block away from where I used to live.”
A film instructor at Point Park University and former co-owner of a TV commercial production company, John is no stranger to film. However, this will be the first short film that he shot, wrote and directed since graduating from Penn State in ‘77.
“I really wanted to be a part of this project,” he admits. “I submitted three story treatments because I wanted to make sure that one of them got picked.”
Now in post-production, John looks back on the filming process with gratitude. Local residents / businesses were extremely cooperative during filming and supportive of his efforts, he says. Southside police from District 3 controlled traffic and Gmiter’s Funeral Home allowed residents and film crew to park in their lot so the filmmakers could control the parking at the location.
“I have a million people to thank,” he says, very sincerely.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Justin Crimone and Jason Georgiades, both featured earlier on our blog, have wrapped production. Once again thanks to Timothy Hall, you can check out their production stills right here. Stay tuned for profiles and production stills from two additional wrapped productions, John Rice's South Side short, Milk Crate, and Jeremy Braverman and Nelson Chipman's Regent Square short, Regent Square. Congrats, filmmakers!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the fourth in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile.
A leisurely stroll through Schenley Park, followed by intimate conversation at a local coffeehouse … an afternoon made for lovers.
Or, in this case … ex-lovers.
Local filmmaker Justin Francart, 25, chronicles the final farewell between an ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend through his short film, “PPT.” His film, set in the youth-ridden neighborhood of Oakland, breaks away from traditional tales of romance in that the young couple isn’t even a couple at all. They’re two people with a strong connection who get together for the last time before one leaves town.
“It’s sort of a bittersweet, after-the-fact love story,” explains Justin. “But there can be happiness in accepting the fact that you’re saying goodbye,” he adds.
While Justin’s story isn’t necessarily about Oakland – rather, it’s a story that happens to take place in Oakland – he chose this setting for a couple of reasons. First: It’s an adaptable neighborhood, meaning that there’s a lot that to work with in terms of scenery. Second: with Pitt and CMU right there, Oakland is a hub of younger people. And as Justin points out, “a lot of young love has blossomed there.”
For being a “last minute kind of guy,” Justin surprised himself with how far along the project is – he’s already wrapped up shooting the film and is well ahead of schedule.
“It’s weird for me because I’ve never been in that kind of a position before,” he admits. “I haven’t shot a film in five years, so I wanted to approach this as organized as I could.”
In fact, the last time Justin did any filming was when he was a production major at Ithaca University. He’s since transferred to Pitt and graduated with a degree in film studies. His mom was the one who spotted the ad for Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives.
“God bless her,” he laughs. “She’s always looking out for me to do something with my career, my life, anything related to my major.”
With a bulletin board full of ideas, Justin had no trouble coming up with a plot synopsis. He sat on the idea for a while, submitted his story at the last minute, and the rest is history. According to Justin, the actual filming couldn’t have gone any smoother thanks to a talented and committed cast and crew.
“It was pretty painless, and I was excited about that,” he said.
Most of the film was shot outdoors, so Justin had to rely on the unreliable Pittsburgh weather.
“I wanted an early summer, late spring shoot,” he said. “So I was praying it wouldn’t rain. We ended up having some really nice days.”
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the third in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile.
They transform church parking lots into something magical, casting a spell thick with powdered sugar, flavored syrup, big spinning wheels and Chinese finger traps. Occasionally, they throw in the pony ride, ferris wheel or dunking machine.
But you can always count on the duck pond.
And no matter how advanced the world may claim to be, it can’t ever seem to suppress the childish thrill it gets when summer opens her doors to the fair.
So, naturally, when local filmmaker Jason Georgiades heard about Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives, he was drawn to the idea of crafting a story around St. Joseph’s fair in Bloomfield. After pulling in friends Chet Vincent and Russell Brandom, his idea became a reality. Chet and Russell wrote the script for “St. Joseph’s,” and Jason has already begun to turn it into a short film.
“You have such a great mix of people at fairs,” said Jason. “It’s almost like a dichotomy, a clash between old world Pittsburgh and the city’s youth.”
So, why Bloomfield?
“It’s a very rich neighborhood with a certain element of Pittsburgh in it,” he observed.
Somehow, Bloomfield has managed to strike a balance between traditional and trendy. A 22 year-old Bloomfield resident himself, Jason points out that the neighborhood not only retains its older residents, but also attracts the younger generation.
And St. Joseph’s fair brings them all together.
But Jason’s film will address more than the multi-generational melange that is Bloomfield. “St. Joseph’s” also captures the unexpected chemistry between two young people who meet at the fair – conservative, community-based Ann and hip, urban arts Charlie. While they couldn’t be more different, there is an undeniable spark between the two that can only be credited to the mysterious, meddling influence of the fair.
“There are some surprising connections made in that type of environment,” Jason points out.
The environment he refers to is that of a full-blown, bustling church fair – an environment, he admits, that will be difficult to recreate. But fortunately, Jason’s in for the long haul.
“Ten percent of the challenge is actually shooting the film, and 90 percent is problem-solving,” he says. “We’re hoping to get some stylistic shots of looking at a real fair.”
A studio arts major at Pitt, Jason plans to highlight a “whole different side of Pittsburgh” in his film.
“My generation is more temporary. I think there are a lot of people my age who view Pittsburgh as a loading dock or a halfway point,” he comments.
But as a young filmmaker and artist, Jason speaks from experience when he says that Pittsburgh is a great place to build your name cheaply. He’s already made several films, one of which was a Steeler documentary called “Steal Phantom.”
“I love Pittsburgh. My involvement in the Neighborhood Narratives project is the perfect example of what this city has to offer,” he said. “It’s important to be able to afford your lifestyle and expand on it. The opportunities here are endless.”
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the second in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation. Be sure to check back in two weeks for the next profile, as Jason Georgiades explains why he chose Bloomfield for the setting of his film.
You swear you’ll never have children. You’re too independent, too impatient, and, have no time for dirty diapers and mashed bananas.
But then one by one, your friends give way to marriage and parenthood, leaving you to ponder your once ideal bohemian lifestyle.
And so sets the scene for “Mombies” … Gabrielle Reznek’s and Sam Turich’s short film addressing the unexpected and contagious nature of motherhood.
Their story was birthed (pun intended) from their own experience as new 30-something parents and takes place in the “mombified” neighborhood of Lawrenceville. The idea for the film’s title – Mombies – is a play off of “Zombies: Night of the Living Dead,” but Gab was quick to point out that, unlike their zombie counterparts, Mombies are not actually dead. They are the undead, and “sooner or later, they’ll get you,” she explained. “They have a kind of ethereal glow to them.”
In fact, the original title for the film was “Mombies: Night of the Living Bred,” but they dropped the second half early on. It now just goes by “Mombies.”
The comparison to zombies is not an unfair one, however. Since having their baby, Gab and Sam have learned that, for the first 6-12 months, “parenthood turns you more or less into zombies.” Their beloved baby is now 10 months old.
The couple used to live in Brooklyn, N.Y., and slowly watched as “mombification” transformed once hip, artistic neighborhoods into headquarters of what Sam jokingly referred to as “the stroller mafia.”
“We were living the dream. And then, all of a sudden, everyone started getting pregnant and getting ‘real’ jobs. And soon enough, it happened,” said Sam, referring to the maternal outbreak.
He and Gab also see Lawrenceville as a community in transition.
“The artists who moved in to renovate the neighborhood are watching in surprise as more mainstream families move in to areas that have now become ‘cool.’ Or, to their horror, are raising families of their own.”
Sam and Gab, who call Lawrenceville home, hope to capture this titanic clash of forces in their film. They wrapped up shooting mid-April and are now in post-production.
“There is this great scene where the heroine is screaming down Butler Street with a pack of mombies running after her,” laughs Sam.
According to Gab, Lawrenceville was extremely supportive of the film. Local suppliers donated food and equipment, and she and Sam had no trouble securing locations to shoot the film. As for casting, the local “mommy group” happily stepped up to the role of “mombies.”
The weather and Mother Nature were also cooperative.
“We wanted bare trees and naked branches to give Allegheny Cemetery that stark look. We were racing against spring to finish shooting before the buds came in,” recalls Gab.
Interestingly, the production of The Road (with Viggo Mortensen), which was shooting in the area at the same time, had a similar problem according to the New York Times.
“We really learned what kind of a neighborhood Lawrenceville is,” said Gab, “There’s a lot of life underneath the whole Lawrenceville identity.”
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Editor’s Note: As Pittsburgh celebrates its big 250, Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer have found their own way to commemorate the city – through a series of short films collectively titled Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives. To make their project even more interesting, Halasz and Shaeffer invited local filmmakers to submit story treatments highlighting one of the many diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. This article is the first in a series profiling each of the filmmakers selected for participation.
Is Pittsburgh really having trouble retaining its youth?
When it comes to the young generation and Pittsburgh, there are two very different points of view – one is that 20-,30-somethings are leaving the city in droves, barely taking the time to grab their degrees and kiss mom goodbye. The other is that, yes, the grass is in fact greener, but they’ll be back. They always come back. [sinister laugh]
Local filmmaker Justin Crimone, 35, is not only a firm believer of the latter, but feels so strongly about the magnetic, oft overlooked appeal of the ‘burgh that he’s creating a short film about it – The Bus Stop. His story will be one of 12 featured in Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives, a collection of short films highlighting the diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Justin chose downtown for the setting of his film.
The relationship between young adults and Pittsburgh is fickle, going from “I have to get out of here” to leave, regret, miss and return. But while it’s hard to imagine the why or how behind such a relationship, Justin’s film will use a single, well-beloved vehicle of expression to illustrate the tortured love affair between Pittsburgh and its youth … the Port Authority Transit (PAT).
His story focuses on an aspiring actress from Pittsburgh who abandons her hometown for the glitz and glam of Hollywood. When her mom takes ill, however, the Hollywood hopeful finds herself back in the ‘burgh. Strangely enough, it is her experience on the PAT bus that makes her long for her hometown again.
When asked if his story stems from personal experience, Justin mentions something about “meeting weird people on buses.” (We understand, we’re from Pittsburgh too.) Justin hopes to capture the strange, inexplicable allure of these bus characters in his film.
He credits the original idea for the story, however, to Ilia Forouzan and Brandy Rhea – the two main writers. Rhea also plays the lead role of Jessie in the film.
According to Justin, “It was their experiences that drove the main character to move to LA.”
Born in Somerset, Pa, Justin moved to Pittsburgh eight years ago when he enrolled at Pitt University. Of his friends that left the city, many have either come back, or expressed the desire to come back.
“When you’re struggling to survive, you start looking back on things that are familiar,” he said.
In the meantime, Justin will happily hold down the fort.
“I love it here,” he admits. “It’s one of the most beautiful cities, full of architecture and history.”
While the coolness of Pittsburgh may be the best kept secret since Milli Vanilli, Justin can’t wait to spill the beans. For him, Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives was an opportunity to let the ‘burgh shine and put his minor in film history to good use. While this won’t be his first film, it will be the first time he actually had actors rehearse beforehand.
The experience alone makes the project worthwhile, but, reminds Justin, “I’m doing this to have fun too."
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Congratulations are in order for filmmakers Gabrielle Reznek and Sam Turich as they wrapped production this past week on the Lawrenceville narrative, Mombies. Check out a few production stills taken by our very own Timothy Hall, and keep your eye on our blog in the coming weeks for profiles of each individual Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narrative film. (Bookmark us!)
Monday, March 17, 2008
Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives will celebrate Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods through short films created by filmmakers with a special connection to these neighborhoods and city. These narratives will provide a unique portrait of the communities through fictional personal stories that reveal the experience and character of the neighborhoods in which they take place. This project will create a sense of community amongst some of Pittsburgh’s most talented filmmakers, give a voice to our individual neighborhoods, and foster feelings of connectedness between all members of all Pittsburgh communities.