Sunday, May 11, 2008

Justin Crimone: Downtown

The Bus Stop

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."

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