Pittsburgh: Hollywood’s Rising Star

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles regarding Pittsburgh and the motion picture industry.

Tinseltown. La-La Land. The Big Orange. All of these are nicknames for one legendary location: Hollywood. Hollywood, a district of Los Angeles, California, has long been the center of American film. With many A-list movie stars residing in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, its “magic” has become almost fabled. There is no doubt that Hollywood remains the home of stars, directions, and producers, and houses thousands of sets and big name production companies, but a new city is poised to steal the spotlight: Our very own city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is quickly adding acclaim to its reputation. Not only has it been chosen as the Best Place to Live several times by Forbes Magazine, it boasts historical landmarks and a thriving job market. Pittsburgh, located between the Three Rivers (Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio) is recently becoming a top spot for filming, given its wide range of landscapes. “There is such a diversity of location, it can look like anywhere in the world. And it’s cheaper!” says Dawn Keezer. Ms. Keezer is the director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, an economic development agency for Southern California that markets film. The organization is non-profit, serving only to generate attention to this Pennsylvania region and attract filmmakers and other industry projects.

“Pittsburgh has been great since the early 1900s. Pittsburgh is friendly, and there is a very talented local crew base.” Ms. Keezer says. According to her, Hollywood benefits from using Pittsburgh as a location. It is cheaper to produce films here and there is a bevy of local talent stemming from community theater programs as well as universities like Point Park and Carnegie Mellon.  In addition, Pennsylvania has the best film tax credit in the country. Considering the Pittsburgh Film Office’s job is to market this city to the producers in California, this makes their job easier! But not only is Pittsburgh good for Hollywood, Hollywood could prove to be very good for Pittsburgh as well.

Several big-budget blockbusters have been shot in Pittsburgh over the past few years. Among them are The Dark Knight Rises, Love and Other Drugs, and Jack Reacher.  Smaller films, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Promised Land also garnered critical acclaim and attention. Many people in Pittsburgh now have stories about meeting celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Tom Cruise, and Emma Watson around town. Aside from these superficial elements, being the filming base to movies like these brings wealth to the city. Film teams spend a lot of money to use large venues like PNC Park. Local actors get paid. Teenagers have the chance to be extras in movies. Films like the aforementioned Perks of Being a Wallflower include now-iconic scenes showing the emergence from the Fort Pitt Tunnel and the view of the skyline. If prospective movers were not convinced by the economic value of the city, surely a beautiful shot like that can help with the final push to their decision!

For Pittsburgh citizens wishing to get involved in film, Ms. Keezer recommends visiting pghfilm.org. There are lists of upcoming opportunities for acting and extras. She advises to keep an eye on the list, because the more famous Pittsburgh gets for something other than football, the more projects there will be! Recent films shot in Pittsburgh and outlying areas include Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carell, and Out of This Furnace, with Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, and Zoe Saldana. Getting into film might have seemed a lofty and unattainable goal with Hollywood so many miles away, but now that the industry is moving closer to home, why not take a shot?