"Man, that kid totally doesn't belong here," Mo Madono was thinking. But that's how she knew he did: The kid wandering through the streets was Ryan Woodring, a CMU student who'd come to gritty, oft-neglected Braddock to participate in Film Frenzy, an event Madono had helped organize to get people to make some videos really fast in a community she wants everybody to know more about.
Three Film Frenzy shorts -- including the one Madono made with Woodring and event co-organizer, Merissa Lombardo -- screen at the Dec. 12 installment of Film Kitchen.
Madono and Lombardo are among the artists with studio space at the Ohringer Building, a once-vacant Braddock landmark that's part of Mayor John Fetterman's push to get creative types to jump-start the community. Film Frenzy was Madono's version of an event she'd participated in at Buffalo's Squeaky Wheel Media Arts: small groups making complete shorts in a condensed time frame.
In this case, participants gathered at noon on Sat., Sept. 30, to conceive and shoot their works, with finished videos to screen at 5 p.m. Sunday. The only rules were that you had to incorporate three objects: a candle, an egg and a white T-shirt.
About 15 people showed -- few of them, surprisingly, the filmmaker pals Madono and Lombardo had expected. Participants broke into five groups and fanned out through town; four groups finished on time, turning in pieces four to six minutes long.
The videos screening at Film Kitchen include "Clockin' Out," an absurdist workplace comedy shot in a vacant office by Mark Bisi and Matt Stidle, and "beautiful strange," an impressionistic piece by Jessica Fenlon (whose Viewer Discretion series, at Brillobox, showed all four Film Frenzy pieces Nov. 28).
"Memory Piece," by Lombardo, Madono and Woodring, is perhaps the most striking of the lot. It was shot in a picturesquely trashed vacant church Fetterman had pointed out. The surreal pseudo-narrative climaxes with a waterfall of white paper and a dramatic shot up through a brick passageway to blue sky.
"It was really fun just being able to wander around Braddock and to be able to use things in all the buildings," says Lombardo, a 25-year-old scenic painter and carpenter on film sets.
Madono, who works at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, is a native of Japan who grew up in Squirrel Hill and caught the video bug while away at college. Based on the 40 people who turned up for the Oct. 1 screening, at Fetterman's flat, she thinks Film Frenzy has a future.
"We really want it to happen again," says Madono. "This is something we're just going to keep trying to evolve."
In fall 2003, about 20 Robert Morris University students formed a filmmaking club. Guided by instructors in the school's then-fledgling documentary program, they picked a documentary subject: County Controller Dan Onorato's quest to unseat County Executive Jim Roddey.
Half the group, led by student producer Brian Brown, shadowed Onorato from senior centers to the streets of Bloomfield; the other half, led by Erica Peiffer, followed Roddey.
Due to the student filmmakers' schedules, the 25-minute "Portrait of a Campaign" took two more years to finish, premiering on the RMU campus this past January. It also screened at the Three Rivers Film Festival, and is reprised at the Dec. 12 Film Kitchen.
If that production time-frame seems drawn out, consider the students' knowledge base when shooting began. "Hardly any of us knew anything about the political process," admits Peiffer, today an RMU documentary center staffer. "Everyone wanted to do it because they wanted to make a movie"
Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., Dec. 12 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood. $4. 412-316-3342, x178