Film Notes: Steeltown to unveil film winner, newly named award

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On May 12, the winner of the 2012 Steeltown Film Factory competition will be announced -- along with a new award named in honor of co-founder Ellen Weiss Kander of Squirrel Hill.

The contest launched by Steeltown Entertainment Project drew 180 scripts, now whittled to three finalists: "Echo Torch" by Christopher Preksta, creator of the SyFy Web series "The Mercury Men" and YouTube favorite "Pittsburgh Dad"; "Perils of Being Flat Chested" by Yulin Kuang, a 2011 finalist about to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University; and "Escape From St. Quentin's" by writing team Scott Peters and Anthony Poremski.

CMU Drama School students will read the final three revised scripts -- also available at -- for an audience and panel of judges at the "And the Winner Is ..." finale.

Scheduled to select the winner: actor David Conrad, an Edgewood native who could return to TV if NBC picks up the pilot "Beautiful People"; Emmy-winning producer Bob Kusbit; "Sesame Street" director Jim Martin; Steeltown's first intern turned producer Tom Pellegrini, an Ambridge native whose "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" recently played at the Manor Theater; and Steve Cuden, co-creator of the musical "Jekyll & Hyde" and writer of animated TV shows.

Comedian, writer and producer Maxine Lapiduss will present the Ellen Weiss Kander Award to the winner or winners who will receive a total of $30,000 to turn their script into a short film.

The seeds for the Film Factory were planted in 2003 in the living room of Ms. Weiss Kander after the Steeltown Entertainment Summit at WQED. The competition emerged as a way for Pittsburgh expatriates to give back and serve as mentors for a new generation of talent in their hometown.

The first funds were raised in 2005 at a sold-out screening of "Land of the Dead" at the Byham Theater that doubled as a salute to George Romero, the godfather of ghouls who put the city on the moviemaking map. The event drew such hip luminaries as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.

By naming the award after Ms. Weiss Kander, it celebrates her persistence, dedication and passion and makes good on those long-ago conversations about allowing Pittsburgh to lead the charge into the digital age as it did during the industrial days, Steeltown co-founder Carl Kurlander says.

The May 12 event will be held in CMU's Purnell Center for the Arts. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., competition starts at 11 a.m. and advance tickets -- $15 for general admission, $5 for students -- are recommended. Go to or call 412-622-1325.

Point Park pride

It will be hard to top this college graduation present.

"Requited," a 12-minute Western made by Point Park University students, has been nominated for a 2012 Student Academy Award. It is one of nine nominees in the narrative category, with other finalists in alternative, animation and documentary categories.

Madeline Puzzo, director and production designer from Tucson, Ariz., and Mark Christian, cinematographer and writer from McLean, Va., led a small cast and crew in making the short film in Gammons Gulch in Benson, Ariz., and Old Bedford Village in Pennsylvania.

Both seniors, they worked with faculty advisers Jeremy Braverman and John Rice on the project. "Requited" is competing against films from the University of Texas, University of California, Columbia University, Brigham Young University and American Film Institute.

Thirty-five students from 20 colleges and universities were selected as finalists for the 39th annual competition. Academy members will watch the finalists' films at special screenings and select the winners.

Gold, silver and bronze medal awards, with cash grants of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively, may be presented in the four categories, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reports.

Winners will be brought to Los Angeles, along with the international student winners in the foreign student film category, for a week of industry activities and social events culminating in the ceremony June 9 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., in Beverly Hills.

The academy established the student honors in 1972 and past winners have received 46 Oscar nominations and won or shared eight awards. The June 9 ceremony is free and open to the public but advance tickets are required through or in person at the Academy box office or by mail.

Mark your calendars

The Jimmy Stewart Museum will mark the 104th anniversary of the birth of the Oscar-winning actor May 19 in Indiana, Pa.

James Maitland Stewart, eldest child and only son of Alexander and Elizabeth Jackson Stewart, was born in his parents' home on Philadelphia Street on May 20, 1908. The museum that bears his name and celebrates his life, acting and military careers, opened in 1995.

The museum will host a noon to 2 p.m. birthday party May 19, with cake and lemonade, showing of Ernest Lubitsch's 1940 romantic comedy "The Shop Around the Corner" with Mr. Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, and documentaries about Mr. Stewart's life. Chris Collins, a Jimmy Stewart impersonator, will welcome guests and a photo exhibit, "Happy Birthday Jimmy," will be on display.

Regular museum admission will apply. The attraction, open daily, is at the intersection of 9th and Philadelphia streets in Indiana. See for more information.

'In Bed' big winner

Israeli filmmaker Asaph Polonsky's "In Bed at 10 p.m." was the big winner of the gold award and $10,000 at this week's inaugural Robinson International Short Film Competition in Pittsburgh.

Silver awards of $3,000 each went to American filmmakers David B. Levy for "Grandpa Looked Like William Powell," and Curt Fissel, a 1978 graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, for "Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean."

The event celebrated the memory of Sanford N. Robinson, a onetime Squirrel Hill resident who loved movies. Organized with the help of JFilm: The Jewish Film Forum, it drew a sold-out crowd to the SouthSide Works Cinema this week.

In brief

• Costumed fans of "Ghostbusters" are expected at today's 7 p.m. showing of the 1984 hit at the Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont.

Members of Steel City Ghostbusters, a fundraising/costuming group, are expected in flight suits and proton packs and, space permitting, with a restored Ghostbuster Cadillac ambulance.

• "Sabrina," the charming 1954 romantic comedy with Audrey Hepburn as the chauffeur's daughter who grows up and catches the eye of wealthy brothers Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, will be the Cinebrunch selection May 12 at the Oaks Theater, 310 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont.

A light brunch from Oakmont Bakery starts at 10 a.m., the movie at 11 a.m. with a brief introduction courtesy of the Oakmont Carnegie Library.

Tickets, $12, for brunch -- food is first come, first served -- must be purchased by 5 p.m. the day before through Tickets for the film only, $6, can be bought in advance or at the door starting at 10:30 a.m.

• Pittsburgh's 48 Hour Film Project will return for a sixth year July 20-22 as contestants write, shoot, edit, score and deliver a short film in 48 hours. Entries will be shown at the Hollywood Theater, Dormont.

Registration will start at 12:01 a.m. May 15. See for more information.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:


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