Pittsburgh has served as an "unconscious" incubator of entertainment talent and projects for decades, largely due to its vibrant philanthropic, cultural and university environments. Over time, this talent pool and their projects have left the region because Pittsburgh has lacked a commercially viable entertainment industry. In addition to talent and projects, revenue and profit earned from this "creative economy" has also been exported to other cities, states, and countries because of the absence of a stable entertainment industry.
The Steeltown Entertainment Project is a 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 2003 by Carl Kurlander (screenwriter "St. Elmo's Fire", writer/producer "Saved by the Bell"), Ellen Weiss Kander (a former Wall Street lawyer) and Maxine Lapiduss (writer/producer "Roseanne," "Ellen" ) as a way to tap into the talent and expertise of entertainment industry leaders who have strong ties to Southwestern Pennsylvania. Together, they recruited a prestigious board of directors, including Audrey Hillman Fisher, Kevin McMahon, Bill Strickland, David Lassman, Deborah L. Acklin, Scott Bergstein, Andrew Swensen and Lisa Frankovitch. Their objective was to bring attention to this "incubation" phenomenon and to create an organization that would provide a return on the region's investment by helping to convert its creative capital into a regional entertainment industry that would allow it to retain its talent.