Braddock Hills man turns to Web to complete UPMC film

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Tony Buba just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the final editing of his latest documentary film, "We are Alive! The Fight to Save Braddock Hospital."

But the prolific filmmaker said joining Kickstarter -- a website that allows people to make donations in any amount to fund a specific cause -- was more about the exposure than the money, though he raised more than $13,000 from 129 supporters.

"You get the word out that you're making something," he said. "You realize no one's going to give you $5,000 for a pizza party at your house."

"We Are Alive!" is a documentary about the Braddock community's fight to keep nonprofit medical giant UPMC from closing the UPMC Braddock hospital.

Mr. Buba, who turns 69 Saturday, said he made the film because he wanted to draw attention to the trend of closing community hospitals around the country.

"I really believe in single-payer healthcare," he said.

Mr. Buba said his father had lung problems from working in the mills, and having a nearby hospital saved his life many times.

"If I'd have had to drive him to Shadyside, who knows if he'd have made it?" Mr. Buba said.

Mr. Buba, who now lives in Braddock Hills, said he was beginning a film titled "Thunder Over Braddock" -- a followup to 1989's "Lightning Over Braddock" -- when UPMC announced plans to shutter UPMC Braddock.

Mr. Buba put "Thunder" on hold and got involved with a group called Save Our Community Hospitals "to pay tribute to people who went out there and demonstrated every day to fight to save the hospital."

Mr. Buba said the 80-minute documentary features video from rallies and protests of the closure of the hospital and interviews with "people who were leading the charge."

The digital filming was done before Mr. Buba launched the Kickstarter campaign. Without digital filming, Mr. Buba said, it would be impossible to make this kind of documentary because the film alone would be prohibitively expensive.

"What is still there are the costs of making it really look good at the end," he said. The money from Kickstarter will fund a professional sound mix, color correction -- the "fine-tuning of each shot."

As for Kickstarter, Mr. Buba said he doesn't think he'll rely on it again, though he'd be willing to donate to other artists and supporters who backed "We Are Alive!" He said Kickstarter reminds him of going to funerals with his family as a child: Someone would keep a notebook of donations at the wake, and when a member of another family died, his parents would look in the book and give the same amount to the family of the deceased, adjusting for inflation.

Before he finishes the final edits, Mr. Buba will hold two preview screenings -- Nov. 9 at the Regent Square Theater and Nov. 13 before a group of Harvard University film students.

Mr. Buba said having "two totally different audiences looking at it" will ensure the story is thoroughly told so even people who don't know about the saga surrounding the hospital's closing will understand the documentary.

"That feedback is really critical," he said.

Mr. Buba said the documentary will be released in January.

For more information about the film and Mr. Buba's other projects, visit


Annie Siebert: or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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