Sunday, June 29, 2008

Justin Francart: Oakland


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.”

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