Let’s Talk About Art: Claude O'Steen

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

When Claude O’Steen made his first film, he had no idea it would take him across the world.

“I was wildly delusional,” he says about his early aspirations and the decision to make a feature-length film. But he was also determined.

He started writing it in 2002. Principal photography – he shot it on super 16mm film – started in 2004.

It took more than a year to complete. Post-production took another year. But a 30-minute cut of the film, which he called “An Untold Tale Told,” would help gain him entry into New York University’s film program in 2007.

Born in Florida and reared in Texas, Mr. O’Steen decided to apply to NYU's new Asia campus in Singapore rather than stay at the New York campus. “I had to fly all the way there for a 30-minute interview. I flew home and got the acceptance letter a month later,” he recalls.

He fell in love with the location and lived there for five years. After he graduated, but still in Singapore, he was hired to help produce a Coca-Cola commercial. (Mr. O'Steen gets director of cinematography credit.) Even at 90 seconds this spot tells a heart-warming story. (To view online: www.youtube.com/watch?v=72fRuE8vmo0.)

He says his childhood sparked a desire to create movies. Specifically, time spent around the dinner table, where his father would weave tales for the family. “People would stop eating and just watch him. Just listen to his stories,” he says. Mesmerized, it was the beginning of his love of the narrative.

Besides his father’‍s influence, he was encouraged to start writing by a teacher in middle school. He began with screenplays, which eventually turned into filmmaking.

A year ago he joined the full-time faculty of Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Part of his responsibility is teaching in “The Filmmaking Intensive,” an eight-month career-oriented program designed to launch students into the film industry. He says his teaching philosophy fits right in here, which is learning by doing – a truly hands-on approach.

“When making films, I craft them to comfort or entertain people, to let them escape,” says Mr. O’Steen. “I guess I’ve always been inspired by films that seem bigger than the screen.”

For more information about Pittsburgh Filmmakers or the Filmmaking Intensive, visit PFM.edu.

By Joe Bisciotti for PF/PCA

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