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Pittsburgh Film Office needs a new director

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It seems like nobody likes Dawn Keezer. Well, somebody does: She just got married. Keezer is the head of the Pittsburgh Film Office. She was once accused of embezzling money from the Film Office. Then they audited her and she was cleared.

Funny thing, though … the guy she's marrying? He was convicted of embezzling money from the Los Angeles Film Office, though Keezer will tell you that he pleaded "no contest." That one always cracks me up — like it doesn't mean you're guilty or something. It means you're not contesting the charges that you broke the law. Sounds like a guilty plea to me.

Anyway, isn't it a weird confluence of events that Keezer was accused and cleared, but her husband was accused and pled "no contest"? And that both situations involved film offices? And now they're getting married? Of course I'm wildly out of bounds: Keezer was cleared. She was never even charged with a criminal offense. It's just a coincidence. A weird, unlikely, bizarre, freaky coincidence.

If you haven't been following this soap opera, the Film Office tries to attract movies so they're shot in the 'Burgh. They're also, theoretically, supposed to nurture local film projects. Critics say they don't do enough of the first, and don't do any of the second. Keezer says she's got proof they've attracted several major motion pictures.

If you get involved in the tennis match of watching these people trade charges and counter-charges, your head will eventually start spinning around, Exorcist-style. (That's a dated cultural reference for you old fogies out there.) It's not easy to tell who's right. One thing is clear, however: A bunch of people in Pittsburgh's film industry despise Dawn Keezer.

They say she's abrasive. That she won't give you the time of day unless you're a big shot. That many of the films she takes credit for attracting came here for reasons that had little, if anything, to do with her intervention.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Keezer on a number of occasions. I used to interview her on a TV show I hosted a couple of years back. She can be off-putting, as many will attest. But that doesn't necessarily mean she's not a good Hollywood suck-up.

Now, she's moving to L.A. with The Embezzler. That's a good Batman character name. (And that's an even more dated cultural reference for you old fogies out there.) The logic of her move is that if you want to catch fish, you go where they're biting. And that's Hollywood.

Then again, isn't it weird to have the head of the Pittsburgh Film Office living somewhere else? I suppose we could put our economic-development offices in other cities too: Because if we want to attract jobs from elsewhere, we've got to be headquartered elsewhere. But we don't do that. The people in charge of attracting jobs from elsewhere live and work here.

The Film Office flap has gone public, to the point where there's a petition signed by prominent players in the artsy-fartsy film community — about 40 signatures in all. That should be embarrassing for Keezer. But it doesn't really seem to be. She's furious, but it's a controlled fury. She thinks she can ride it out. We'll see.

Charlie Humphrey of Pittsburgh Filmmakers signed the petition. So did John Haer of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA), and former Film Office board member Catherine McConnell.

Another signer is Adrienne Weir, who co-produced an independent film in Pittsburgh, The Bread My Sweet. It starred Scott Baio. OK, so Nicholson was busy: It was still a success by independent standards, it had a Hollywood name, and was conceived right here in the 'Burgh. Weir says she didn't get diddly-squat in terms of help from Keezer.

Keezer's lackey sent me a multi-page timeline of all the sucking up Keezer and her crew supposedly did. But it doesn't prove anything.

There's a reason all these prominent artsy types don't like Keezer. Whatever it is, you don't hire a schmoozer who alienates colleagues by the dozens.

If Keezer were a mayor, she'd be Tom Murphy. If she were a president, she'd be George W. Bush. If this were high school, she'd be the least popular person in school. If this were a reality show, Keezer would — and should — be voted off the island.

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