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Movies Made in Pittsburgh
If you’re not from the area, you may not have noticed, but a lot of the movies that you have been seeing in the theaters lately have been set or filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Filmmakers’ search for tax breaks has led them to the steel city where they not only save money but have found beauty in its landscape and architecture and convenience in shooting in a small city. Pittsburgh too has benefitted from the film industry with all of the jobs that are created out of the need for transportation, security and other resources as well as a boost in existing local businesses. This has created a win-win situation for both Pittsburgh and Hollywood (http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/07/smallbusiness/pittsburgh-film/).
Currently, Russell Crowe is shooting a film titled, Fathers and Daughters in the Pittsburgh area. There is a call for locals to play extras in the film, a growing occurrence when Hollywood shows up on the city’s doorstep. Commuters have gotten used to the traffic delays and road closures that pop up during filming. In fact, they seem to be more forgiving about it than they are with the endless road construction projects that emerge once the weather breaks each spring. Drivers on their way to school and work are especially forgiving if they are able to brag around the watercooler or at the dinner table about driving past the filming locations and getting a peak at A-list celebrities and fancy film equipment ((http://triblive.com/aande/movies/5796515-74/movie-crowe-pittsburgh#axzz2zfiOoFor).
I can personally speak of the excitement that comes with a film being made in your hometown. Playing an extra in the football scene in, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), I got the opportunity to spend the day watching Heinz Ward score touchdown after touchdown only to be blown up by Bane. It wasn’t difficult for 15,000 Pittsburghers to spend a sweltering summer day cheering for a black and gold football team at Heinz field. In fact, it is a role that most every Pittsburgher was born to play. Still, while sitting between takes, I overheard a lot of people remark out loud, “I can’t believe we’re here. I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
It is a surreal experience for a small town like Pittsburgh to be cast in the spotlight, even if it has been disguised as Gotham City or not mentioned directly in the film as being set in Pittsburgh. Locals can point out familiar landmarks and take pride in the fact that filmmakers have manipulated their surroundings to fit into the confines of the story they are trying to tell. Also, audiences as far as the other side of the world are going to be entertained by events that took place just around the corner. It creates a sense of validity and realism within a fictional story.
Despite a boom in Pittsburgh films in recent years, the movie industry hasn’t just recently discovered Pittsburgh as a desired filming location. Over 180 movies have been shot in Pittsburgh since 1914. One of the oldest films shot in the city is the original, Angels in the Outfield (1951), which features the Pittsburgh Pirates as the team in need of assistance by heaven-sent visitors.
Pittsburgh is also credited as the birthplace of the modern-day zombie movie with George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968, which provoked numerous sequels and remakes. The filming locations for these movies, including the Evans City Cemetery and The Monroeville Mall, are still popular tourist attractions for zombie lovers.
Flashdance, All the Right Moves and Robocop are notable 80’s movies filmed in Pittsburgh. In 1990, The Silence of the Lambs, one of the only films in history to win Academy Awards in the top five categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress). The dreary Pittsburgh locations aided in the unsettling tone of the film that cemented it as the huge Oscar winner and cinematic classic that it is.
Many scenes in Kevin Smith’s 1998 movie, Dogma were shot in and around Pittsburgh, and 1999’s Wonder Boys, a story about Pittsburgh writers closed out the first century of Pittsburgh filmmaking. Many films made in recent years have not only been shot in but set in the city including, The Next Three Days (2009), Abduction (2010) and Out of the Furnace (2013). For a more complete list of films, visit: http://www.pghfilm.org/.
If you are a movie lover and are ever lucky enough to have a movie shot in your hometown, I highly recommend checking it out and even trying to become involved in the production by signing up to be an extra or even just spending a day watching the filmmakers shoot a scene. It’s a great experience to have your town featured on film and exciting to later see familiar locations onscreen. The next time you see a movie that was filmed in Pittsburgh, remember to take in the view of the landscape and local extras milling through the background and recognize how it adds to the authenticity of a story in a way that shooting on a soundstage or with professional extras cannot reproduce.