If it's good enough for Paris, it's good enough for Pittsburgh.
Two years ago, the City of Lights was celebrated in Paris, je t'aime, a compilation of 18 short films in which a variety of filmmakers paid homage to the French capital's charms. After seeing Paris, Andrew Halasz recalls thinking: "It would be really cool if somebody did this in here."
Thus inspired, Halasz, an assistant professor at Point Park University's cinema and digital arts department, and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer, an instructor at Chatham University, set out to capture the 'Burgh with a similar compilation of short films. Prospective filmmakers citywide were invited to submit treatments, and the best were chosen by a panel of Pittsburgh film vets that included Tony Buba, Melissa Martin and Faith Dickinson. With funding from the Pittsburgh 250 Community Connections and Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative, cameras began rolling.
The result is Greetings From Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives, a 100-minute feature comprising nine short films, each of which celebrates the history, people, micro-culture and attractions of one neighborhood.
Greetings is a whirlwind tour of city neighborhoods, as depicted by the following local filmmakers: Nelson Chipman and Jeremy Braverman (Regent Square), Jason Georgiades (Bloomfield), Matthew J. Fridg and Jenn Golling (Homestead), Timothy Hall and Marc Nieson (Hill District), Justin Crimone (Downtown), John Rice (South Side), Justin Francart (Oakland), Sam Turich and Gab Cody (Lawrenceville) and Ray Werner (Strip District). (If your neighborhood didn't make the first cut, take heart: Halasz hopes the project can continue.)
Ideally, the work will charm outsiders, and educate them in our ways of neighborliness, easy city living and reserved parking spaces. But it's the natives who will surely howl with delight to see local landmarks and shops, and familiar if fictional Pittsburgh characters.
While filmmakers were tasked with highlighting a neighborhood's "cultural and architectural gems," that doesn't necessarily mean dry and high-minded: Gems featured in Lawrenceville's "Mombies," for instance, include the venerable 19th-century Allegheny Cemetery, but also Arsenal Lane's kitschy bowling mural on Butler Street and the post-industrial spaces alongside the former Heppenstall plant.
Each neighborhood is unique, of course, but Halasz was not surprised to see at least one common theme emerge. In some way, he says, each film dealt with "the transition in neighborhoods, the movement of older residents to newer residents, or the reconciliation between the two."
The film premieres Thu., Sept. 25, at Regent Square Theater, in Edgewood. After that, Greetings will go on tour through Nov. 8, making eight stops throughout Pittsburgh with screenings booked in each of the featured neighborhoods. Most will also include receptions and a Q&A with filmmakers. Imagine: Your neighborhood ... coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
Premiere screening, with reception. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Sept. 25. Regent Square Theater, Edgewood. $10 (all other screenings $5). For a complete schedule of upcoming screenings, see www.pghneighborhoodnarratives.com.
- Photo: Timothy Hall
- Director Sam Turich (left) consults with cinematographer Mark Knobil while filming "Mombies" in Lawrenceville.