By Liza Wilson – 11th Grade, Oakland Catholic High School
Can Pittsburgh become the new Hollywood? Pittsburgh’s fastest growing industry is film, and recently, blockbusters such as The Avengers (2012), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) were filmed in the city. Many extremely popular movies have been shot here in the last few decades, including Flashdance (1983), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and of course, Night of the Living Dead (1968). While these movies have revived the film industry in Pittsburgh, many of the people working on these movies come from other cities, such as Los Angeles or New York City. Pittsburgh natives have the will and the talent to get involved in the industry, but many feel they lack the opportunity to do so.
To involve younger filmmakers in the industry, Steeltown Entertainment Project offers the Teen Film Crew Intensive, a year-round internship for middle and high school students to learn about the process of filmmaking. In this program, the participants visit movie sets and meet producers, directors, and actors to learn the basics of lighting, audio, camera operation, editing, and storyboarding through hands-on activities.
Amber Farr, the Program Manager for the Steeltown Entertainment Project, explained that this summer, the Teen Film Crew has worked on the set of The Next Reality Star Pittsburgh, met with film professionals, created “5×5’s” (25-second videos), and filmed public service ads. In addition, the interns have received paid offers to film local events.
Through the Teen Film Crew, students have the opportunity to work with many organizations around Pittsburgh. For example, they have worked with the nonprofit group Amachi Pittsburgh to create a Call-To-Action Video, as well as made an informational video about Pittsburgh’s summer youth employment initiative, Learn & Earn. Recently, the students conducted interviews with Jerome Bettis and NFL Films. Their videos are viewable to the public on Vimeo.
While some participants sincerely wish to make a career for themselves in the film industry, others see it as just a fun hobby. Farr says that this diversity of participation is encouraged because the goal of the program is “to give the opportunity to every student that wants it.”
The CEO of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, Carl Kurlander, has worked as a writer for several popular film projects, such as St. Elmo’s Fire and Saved By The Bell. He explained a common misconception that surrounds the film industry: “People think that because they can watch TV, they can make TV.” Viewers usually don’t understand the complexity of film and the work that is required to make quality content. He believes that as Pittsburgh becomes a more popular destination for the film industry, more Pittsburghers should be involved in the production of these films. Steeltown’s Teen Film Crew gives students the opportunity understand the intricacy of TV, movies, and short films and encourages them to be part of the Pittsburgh film industry in the future.
Along with introducing participants to the inner workings of the entertainment industry and helping them to develop the soft skills of film production, the interns also gain the life skills of collaboration, perseverance, accountability, critical thinking, communication, and creative expression.
Overall, Steeltown’s Teen Film Crew provides students with the skills and experience to make films and inspires them to participate Pittsburgh’s growing entertainment industry. I hope that as Pittsburgh’s film industry grows, more Pittsburgh natives can use their talents to make great films, whether that be in the form of acting, filming, editing, or producing.
Liza Wilson is 16 years old and a rising junior at Oakland Catholic High School. She lives in Monroeville, PA. Her interests include foreign affairs and languages. She enjoys rowing and watching movies.