Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What is the Steeltown Entertainment Project?
- I have an idea for a screenplay or a TV show. Can Steeltown help me?
- I know someone who works in the entertainment industry who has Pittsburgh roots, but is not on the Pittsburgh List. Can you add them to your Pittsburgh list?
- How are you different from the Pittsburgh Film Office, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and/or WQED?
- Why do you have links about technology places if you are concerned with nurturing the entertainment industry here?
- How can I help Steeltown?
Answer: The Steeltown Entertainment Project ("Steeltown") is a Pennsylvania non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Our mission is to nurture promising talent and to incubate meaningful and commercially viable entertainment projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We succeed in this mission by aiming to accomplish several things: 1.) Connecting former Pittsburghers working in the entertainment industry with resources in the region (people, businesses, universities, etc.), 2.) Educating emerging talent through mentoring experiences, and 3.) Fostering economic development by nurturing and seeding entertainment projects that will provide employment and investment opportunities.
Programmatic events such as the Steeltown Film Factory will identify emerging talent and potential projects in the region, incubate them (what Hollywood calls "development"), and ultimately help commercialize them so at least a part of the profits of such efforts come back to the region. By connecting these local resources and entertainment advisors, Steeltown will help to establish Southwestern Pennsylvania as an "entertainment greenhouse." Such a greenhouse will help to market the region in a unique and powerful way, retain and attract talent, especially young people drawn to this business, and help jump start a dynamic industry that, in success, provides timely returns on investment.
Answer: Steeltown is not a studio or a production company, which are the places where scripts are normally purchased and developed. With its limited resources, Steeltown strives to serve the region through the Steeltown Film Factory, which will demystify this process and provide new contacts for aspiring talent in the region. Hollywood in general can be a frustrating place to get a script read. Established producers or studios often will not accept unsolicited material. Many established agents will not read scripts unless they are from a writer with credits.
Some general advice is--
First make sure the screenplay is as good as it can be. Over 50,000 screenplays per year are registered with the Writers Guild of America. And only a handful of that 50,000 get produced. It is hard to write a good screenplay, but if you work at it, you can achieve what University of Pittsburgh graduate student Stephanie Lord did - she won the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting amongst over 5,000 competitors. Stephanie honed her craft by re-writing scripts, reading scripts she admired, taking classes and getting feedback. There are many screenplay contests out there like the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting and Final Draft's Big Break. Studios like Disney and Fox also sponsor competitions. But first you have to write a good script.
Do not just rely on friends' feedback -- get some good critics to give you feedback. Aspiring screenwriters should look at the FAQ "writers" section of Pitt In Hollywood which provides references to industry standard books like "Screenplay" by Syd Field, "Story" by Robert McKee, and "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldmann. You can also go to the Writers Guild of America website to read interviews with working screenwriters.
Once you have completed your screenplay, get some constructive critique. Some screenwriters have found it quite useful to send their screenplays to Steeltown advisor Asher Garfinkel's company, Readers Unlimited, for a "test run." Asher is the author of "Screenplay Story Analysis: The Art and Business." His story analysts have years of experience reading for studios, agencies and major production companies. For a reasonable fee, they provide objective, honest feedback to writers. Asher has been a great resource for many here in Pittsburgh.
Aside from this service, there are many young people who have been nurtured by Pitt In Hollywood and Steeltown, now working in Hollywood. To get in touch with them, you might try signing up on the Pitt In Hollywood website and sending a general email to those who are now in Los Angeles or New York.
And now a word about television. Ideas for television shows are easy. Anyone can say I want to do a screenplay about a group who hangs out at a bar, but that does not make it "Cheers." Anyone can say I want to do a screenplay about doctors who socialize in hospitals, but that does not make it "Scrubs" or "Grey's Anatomy." Money is not usually made in television unless a show goes into syndication, so people who put up tens of millions of dollars are looking for a "showrunner." A showrunner is someone who has a track record of writing successful shows to offset that risk. Television shows do not hire entry-level writers. They hire based on "spec" scripts. Spec scripts are scripts written on speculation and not paid for, which usually are sample episodes of TV shows currently on the air. Agents generally want to see more than one sample. Sometimes two half-hour sitcoms. Sometimes one hour dramas, depending on what the writer's aspiration are. Again, the Writers Guild of America has more information and when the Steeltown Film Factory goes forward, television writers will also come back to Pittsburgh to further clarify and provide access to this world.
Answer: Please email email@example.com or call 412-251-0890 to let us know. Or, if you are someone on the list who would like to update your credits, please let us know.
Answer: Steeltown was co-founded by Pittsburgh expatriates who wanted to give back to the region as a whole. From its inception, Steeltown has strived to bring together the region's arts, educational, and non-profit communities.
As mentioned earlier, our mission is to nurture promising talent and to incubate meaningful and commercially viable entertainment projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania by connecting former Pittsburghers who are working in the entertainment industry with the region's human, cultural, educational and economic resources.
The Pittsburgh Film Office was started in 1990 to promote the greater southwestern Pennsylvania region as a great location for movie, television and commercial productions. Once a production has been financed, they bring their production to the region to help the local economy. Studies have shown that for every $1 spent in the region directly on film production, up to $2 comes into the region in related expenses such as crews staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, etc. Some of Steeltown's advisors and programs can benefit the Film Office's mission. For example, in April 2007, Steeltown brought New Castle native, Pitt alumnus, and Lions Gate producer John Dellaverson back to Pittsburgh to speak to the community. At that time, John and the CFO of Lions Gate also met with Governor Rendell to discuss film tax incentives. As a result, $70 million of tax incentive legislation was passed in July 2007 and more productions were slated to be shot in Pennsylvania later that year.
Pittsburgh Filmmakers is the nation's oldest and largest Independent Media Arts Center, and services students at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and other educational organizations. Many of the students who have interned on Steeltown projects have received training from Filmmakers. Steeltown's goal of commercializing entertainment projects is something that traditionally has not been part of Filmmaker's mission. However, Steeltown and Pittsburgh Filmmakers have worked cooperatively to develop the Steeltown Film Factory and will launch the Steeltown Film Factory at the Three Rivers Film Festival in 2009.
WQED Multimedia, the first community-sponsored public television station, shares much of Steeltown's mission in terms of the development of socially meaningful content. Many of Steeltown's advisors worked at or were inspired by this historic institution. Together, these expatriates, Steeltown and WQED can build on the legacy of Mr. Fred Rogers, who made thousands of programs at the station while at the same time challenging others to create entertainment that "makes good attractive." Since January 2007, WQED has graciously provided office space to Steeltown, and these two organizations are working together on several upcoming projects.
Answer: A recent Newsweek cover story displayed the 23-year-old inventor of "Facebook" who turned down $1 billion from Yahoo because his advisors felt that the company was worth around $8 billion, comparing the company to MTV. As evidenced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs' relationship with Disney, we live in a world where entertainment and technology companies often intersect. More particularly to Pittsburgh, in discussions with Don Marinelli at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and Lenore Blum, director of Carnegie Mellon's Project Olympus, it became apparent that these are both fields which attract young people, require risk, but have the potential for delivering returns on investments in a timely way. Too often Pittsburgh fragments its resources. In building Southwestern Pennsylvania's entertainment sector, we must collaborate and bridge resources.
Answer: For most of its four year existence, Steeltown has survived on the volunteer efforts of many passionate supporters, both in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Please feel free to reach out to us if we can be of service in promoting the growth of the entertainment industry in Pittsburgh, or if you wish to make a contribution of goods, services, time, money or even a letter of support to the organization. Steeltown is also looking for sponsorships and underwriting. To make an inquiry or donation, or to become a volunteer participant at any level, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 412-251-0890.