Steeltown Youth Film Crew and Pittsburgh Area Non-Profit Team Up to Share Untold Story of Community Impact

Steeltown Youth Film Crew and Pittsburgh Area Non-Profit Team Up to Share Untold Story of Community Impact

Steeltown’s partnership with Amachi is pioneering, national model 

Amachi Pittsburgh is a non-profit organization with the important mission of helping the children of incarcerated parents. Looking for help in spreading the word to attract attention to its charge, Amachi is teaming up with Steeltown’s Youth and Media program in a pioneering partnership.

These children are classified by the U.S. Department of Justice as “the most at risk for future delinquency or incarceration.”

“We’re a small organization with limited resource, but the need that we fill is so great, and we really need to get the word out,” says Anna Hollis, executive director of Amachi Pittsburgh. “One of our grant providers suggested that we get in touch with the Steeltown Entertainment Project and see if they could help us.”

The outreach from Amachi couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  Steeltown’s Youth and Media program, is always looking for ways to give Pittsburgh youth hands-on experience with film-making.  Carolyn Hare, executive director of Arts for Autism, runs the Joey Travolta Film Camp for two weeks every summer, and she approached Steeltown about a way to extend youth film opportunities to a year-round basis.  Arts Autism was able to outfit Steeltown with a grant to identify socially conscious, non-profit organizations, and put together promotional videos for those organizations. Amachi was the perfect fit, and the timing was perfect.

“We were just ready to begin looking for non-profit organizations who might be interested in having our youth produce a video for them when Amachi reached out to us about a video production,” says Steeltown President and CEO Carl Kurlander.  “The timing was perfect, and they were looking for exactly what we were trying to provide. This was our first video in a series of what we believe is a pioneering model of bringing together kids from all over Pittsburgh and allowing them to be producers on real videos for real clients in need of visibility.”

“Without Steeltown, we wouldn’t have the means to produce a video like this,” Hollis says. “The final product of the video will play a major role in Amachi’s 10 year anniversary celebration, Amachi Hachi Pachi, on October 2 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The video will help us show the community the kind of work we’re doing, and how we develop collaborations in the non-profit sector with organizations like Steeltown.”

Beyond the debut at the party, Amachi has long-term goals for utilizing the video to spread the word about their organization.  They plan to share it on their website, YouTube, and on their various social media channels to help demonstrate their value to the community and source volunteers, donors and investors alike.

There is more to the video than simply spreading the word of Amachi, though.  The production process of the video provided an opportunity for Amachi’s youth to get involved with a film-making project, alongside of the already very diverse group of Pittsburgh youth who were a part of the project through Steeltown, and use it as an gain exposure to the film industry, and most importantly, use it as a channel to learn and grow.

“We’re all about youth and family empowerment at Amachi. We know all kids have unlimited potential, and we want kids to dream big, but it’s hard for them to dream big about a dream that they don’t even know exists,” says Hollis. “This kind of exposure to the industry is a great opportunity to young people.  I was blown away when I walked in and I saw the youth putting together the set with all the lighting and the serious film equipment…I felt like I walked onto a real Hollywood set.  This is exactly the type of project that can help us educate our children and families and ultimately help them to break the cycle of poverty that leads to crime and incarceration.”

This project is just the first of a series of films about Pittsburgh non-profits that the Steeltown Youth and Media film team will be producing, and Hollis was happy to be in on the ground floor. “Hopefully Steeltown can do this for other non-profits,” she says. “This is as great of an opportunity for Steeltown as it was for Amachi—this unique collaboration.  It is an opportunity to learn how the unique collaboration among non-profits can further advance the work we are all doing for the Pittsburgh community.”

Hunger: The Hidden Crisis

Raiona Thompson, Raenika Crew, Nara Hernandez, & Cynthiya Mahumane

2014 Take a Shot Winner: High School Judge's Vote 2nd Place

Raiona, Raenika, Nara, & Cynthiya tell the story of the national hunger crisis, delve into how it has affect those in our own city of Pittsburgh, and suggest ways in which we can help to solve this important problem

If Only We Had Known

Gateway Video Club

2014 Take a Shot Winner: High School Judge's 1st Place

The Gateway Video Club tells the story of Demi Brae Cuccia, a student who lost her life as a result of dating violence, in an effort to bring awareness to the dangers of dating violence and with the hope of ending this problem among teens.

Steeltown Entertainment Project Connects Hollywood to Pittsburgh’s Entertainment Industry

Five Film Factory Finalists Made Their Pitch to “The Chair” Producers on March 15

Steeltown Entertainment Project’s annual Film Factory competition kicked off in front of a capacity crowd of the region’s entertainment community at Carnegie Mellon University’s Purnell Center for the Arts on March 15.

The highly anticipated event brought together nearly 250 local independent filmmakers, writers, actors, and production professionals for “The Writers’ Pitch,” where the competition’s five finalists were put through their paces and received feedback and analysis by veteran producers Chris Moore (“Good Will Hunting,” “American Pie”) and Corey Moosa (“All is Lost”). 

This year’s five finalists are: Julie Jigour, Stephen Knezovich, Anjali Sachdeva, returning Film Factory finalist Randy Kovitz, and Michelle Wright (yes, the WTAE-TV anchor).

Steeltown also launched its new Community Showcase, a digital resource that houses the scripts and corresponding crowd-funding campaigns of this year’s 20 competition finalists. The showcase aims to enable every film’s production in Pittsburgh in 2014.

And for the first time the organization awarded a $1,000 seed-money prize to filmmakers David Thigpen and Lisa Kicielinski (see sidebar on home page).

Just another quiet day at the office for Steeltown.

“Our mission is to build a sustainable entertainment industry in Pittsburgh and this annual competition is one key way that we educate and connect local talent and Hollywood professionals like Chris and Corey,” says Steeltown CEO Carl Kurlander.

Moore and Moosa are in Pittsburgh filming a new TV series, “The Chair,” a Steeltown co-production that follows dueling first-time feature directors as they simultaneously make the same movie. 

In its fifth year, the Film Factory has a history of opening doors in this difficult-to-enter profession.  The organization’s new Community Showcase, matching grants initiative, and expanded training programs are designed to foster a human infrastructure of artists and technicians to support this growing industry. 

“What excites me the most is their [Steeltown’s] focus on making the Film Factory more collaborative and workshop-based, building relationships and connections to create the best scripts and films here in Pittsburgh,” says past Film Factory victor David Fedor (“Roll the Dice”). “It’s not only about cutting checks, it’s about working together and cultivating a community of filmmakers  — that’s the Pittsburgh way of doing it.”

Another Film Factory veteran, Kicielinski of New York-based The Collective, says that the competition provides invaluable film and industry training.

“Steeltown is super organized, professional, and has extensive contacts,” says Kicielinski. “The access it provides to peers and mentors is extraordinary – I could pick Chris Moore’s brain about locations, using local talent, and how to work on a budget.”

Since the Film Factory’s inception, dozens of local filmmakers, writers and technical staff have found employment in the entertainment industry; more than 10 movies have been produced due to the annual competition.

“It’s great to see so many Film Factory ‘alums’ now working in town on projects like ‘The Chair,’ continues Kurlander.  “I’m also pleased to report that the Film Factory‘s national reach is really showcasing all the talent in this city – it demonstrates that Pittsburgh is a great regional production center.”

The winner of the 2014 Film Factory Competition’s Ellen Weiss Kander Award (up to $30,000) will be unveiled on May 17 at Point Park University.