Short films solicited to reflect city history

Movies would focus on Pittsburgh neighborhoods and be screened during city's 250th anniversary next fall

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Two local filmmaker-educators have put out a call for film narratives that illuminate Pittsburgh neighborhoods for a screening during the city's 250th anniversary celebration next fall.

With "Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives," Kristen Shaeffer and Andrew Halasz hope to attract filmmakers who have never left their neighborhoods, filmmakers who live elsewhere but grew up in a city neighborhood and those who have adopted Pittsburgh. The common theme should be passion for the place and an understanding of its uniqueness.

Treatments for roughly 10-minute film stories are due by Jan. 1.

The best submissions will be selected as part of a compilation of film stories that the pair hope to screen in conjunction with "Pittsburgh 250" activities.

The award-winning film, "Paris, Je t'aime," sparked their interest in doing a Pittsburgh version of the 2006 project that consists of 5-minute paeans to Paris by 18 well-known directors. Mr. Halasz, who spent a year in Paris, said Paris, with many neighborhoods and bridges, "surprisingly enough" is less of a leap to Pittsburgh than a link.

"It's the neighborhoods that people who come here from other places really like," said Ms. Shaeffer, "how you can be in one neighborhood and then in another that's completely different."

Because some are so identifiable, she said, "we're hoping we get stories that reflect what it feels like to be in a particular neighborhood, not something that happens to be taking place there. Think: Why does this story happen in this neighborhood" and no other, she said

Ms. Shaeffer, 26, grew up in Pittsburgh's Oakwood neighborhood. She teaches at Chatham University and has won awards and international screenings of her short "I Love a Parade," which won the Pittsburgh Film Kitchen's 2005 best overall film.

Mr. Halasz, 40, a New Jersey native, teaches at Point Park University and has worked as a sound editor for film and television, including post-production credits on "Family Portrait," a Sundance Film Festival award winner in 2005.

They have put together an advisory group of film professionals to help judge the treatments and select films from them, and they are trying for grants to link with the 250th anniversary activities, they said. The pair said that, after screenings here, they would like to submit the compilation for consideration at national and international film festivals.

Other than having some experience, no interested filmmaker should be inhibited by rules, techniques or vision, they said.

"I'd love to see one of them be a period piece," said Mr. Halasz. Many places in Pittsburgh could pose convincingly as the 1920s, the 1970s or any number of eras, he said.

"We really hope we see a range of stories about lots of neighborhoods," said Ms. Shaeffer. "There are lots of dynamic things happening all over the city."

One theme that could recur is the one they both cited as their neighborhoods' dynamic -- the transition from bastions of elderly as young people move in.

Mr. Halasz, who lives in Greenfield, said a young demographic is changing that neighborhood, as it is Oakwood, where Ms. Shaeffer grew up. "It's tiny," she said. "It would be good to see treatments come in from some neighborhoods you never hear about."

For information about the project and more specific instructions for submissions, visit the Web site

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.


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