Pittsburgh Entertainment Summit
In October of 2003, Steeltown hosted the Pittsburgh Entertainment Summit at WQED, the nation's first community public television station, on the soundstage where Fred Rogers filmed his shows. There, over a dozen of Pittsburgh's top entertainment luminaries including Steeltown advisers "300" producer Bernie Goldmann, "Chicago" director Rob Marshall, Jim Carrey/Vince Vaughn/Ellen DeGeneres manager Eric Gold, "Lizzie McGuire" creator Terri Minsky, "Two and a Half Men" director Jamie Widdoes, "Ice Age" writer Peter Ackerman, director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) returned to talk about their roots and discuss ways to help their hometown become more of a player in the entertainment industry. The result was a Mid-Atlantic Emmy-nominated television program, The Steeltown Entertainment Summit, produced in collaboration between Steeltown and WQED's "OnQ".
Within months of the Summit, producer Bernie Goldmann and director George Romero obtained funding for George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead", a sequel to the legendary "Dead" movies George had previously set and shot in Pittsburgh. They worked closely with civic leaders to try to film the project in their hometown, but Hollywood economics forced the project to Canada, revealing the limitations of the region's approach at the time. Through the generosity of these Advisors, in July 2005 Steeltown hosted a Pittsburgh premiere of the movie which attracted some of the most prominent filmmakers of our time, including Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, for what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called "the greatest love fest for a non-sporting event this town has seen."
As a direct result of that event, Steeltown adviser and Oscar-winning special effects artist Greg Nicotero helped bring to his hometown a project he was working on, "R.L. Stine's Don't Think About It," which combined Pittsburgh's traditions of family entertainment and horror. Steeltown, partnering with The Hatchery and Universal Studios, attracted this production-which had previously been headed to Canada-to Pittsburgh by raising an almost one-third equity investment of the approximately $3 million dollar budget. As a result, over 115 jobs and $2 million dollars of outside ancillary spending were brought into Southwestern Pennsylvania when the movie was filmed here in the Fall of 2006. The end product, for which Steeltown receives a prestigious "above title" credit, was picked up by the Cartoon Network where it received top ratings for its targeted "tweens" demographic.
Steeltown has also helped to stimulate a recent resurgence in filmmaking in the region by bringing in Lions Gate producer John Dellaverson, a New Castle native and University of Pittsburgh alumni. John reconnected to the region through Steeltown co-founder Carl Kurlander during a shoot for the Steeltown-inspired documentary "A Tale of Two Cities," amidst over 200 other Pittsburgh's expatriates who had gathered to sing "Won't You Be My Neighbor" in a park in Beverly Hills. Subsequently, in April 2007 the organization brought John back to speak with students and regional leaders about the economics of the film industry and how Pittsburgh might better compete. During this trip, John and Lions Gate's CFO met with the Governor and a group of state legislators letting them know what it would take to drive production to Pennsylvania. They shared with the Governor their support for a model that has become a powerful economic force in New Mexico, Louisiana, and Canada. Consequently, in July 2007, Pennsylvania passed legislation making our state competitive in terms of film tax credits and as a result, major Hollywood films are now filming in places like Kennywood Park, generating tens of millions of dollars for the local economy, with still more are on the horizon.
During 2007, while developing "The Pittsburgh Polio Story" with WQED, Steeltown was struck by how a sector, in this case the Pittsburgh medical sector, was created through institutional funding and organizational support. Steeltown is now working with WQED on an initiative, which would help do for entertainment what has worked so well with medicine in this region.