Since starting Capture Production Studios 18 months ago, Michael Capozzoli has been suggesting to commercial clients that film be shot in his childhood haunts.
He grew up in Oakwood, now the Pittsburgh City Council district of Theresa Kail-Smith, who had been thinking about film as a way to promote her neighborhoods when she met Mr. Capozzoli several months ago. He and his crew were shooting a commercial of Deloitte employees during a company cleanup in the district.
Fast forward: Mr. Capozzoli and two assistants are now finishing up a 16-neighborhood sweep of filming that will become, at the least, a television commercial to promote the city's little-known western neighborhoods.
The funding -- $45,000 -- has come from the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Main Street fund. Josette Fitzgibbons, who manages the Main Street program for the URA, said the District 2 project isn't the first time the URA has funded documentaries; single neighborhoods have done promotional videos. "But it is the largest and the first that encompasses several neighborhoods."
Mr. Capozzoli's company has been so busy with commercial work that "we haven't had to do a single wedding," he said. "But this project is the most important work I will do, personally."
Sitting at a picnic table in Oakwood Park, he looked up to see three girls running on top of the old reservoir wall.
With a laugh, he hailed them and almost leapt off the bench, saying, "That's what I used to do. We ran the reservoir wall."
Mr. Capozzoli had lived abroad and in various states before returning to Pittsburgh with his wife and children six years ago. He worked in politics before starting his film company.
"When someone comes to us to do a commercial, we can film anywhere, but why not here?" he said. "No one films here; no one even knows about it."
Since May, he and assistants Sarah Majkowski and Matt Kappel have filmed festivals, cleanups, plantings, meetings, yard sales, picnics and fireworks in the district. They have interviewed dozens of residents and business owners.
They also shot a flyover of the district "so that every neighborhood will know what they look like from above," Mr. Capozzoli said. "We want to go back up when the leaves are down because right now it looks like one big park. I located Sheraden by Langley High School's towers. I found Oakwood by the ring of the reservoir."
In Oakwood Park, two women agreed to be interviewed for the film. They occasionally meet at the park because it is "small and quaint," said Andrea Franc, who lives in Westwood.
"As a mother, how would you rate Westwood?" Ms. Majkowski asked her.
"A 10," Ms. Franc said. "I don't have to worry about wild, rambunctious kids. It's tucked away. You wouldn't have a reason to go there if you don't live there."
Her friend Lindsey Evangelista has lived in Elliott all her life and is optimistic that it might be "up and coming" owing to some attention from the city in demolishing abandoned and blighted buildings and new gardens springing up.
"The West End is getting some investment, and the overlook is unique," she said, leaving open the possibility that Elliott might benefit from the proximity.
While Mr. Kappel was shooting park scenes, Ms. Majkowski called, "Hey Matt," and pointed toward a house nearby. "Get some B roll of that guy cutting his grass."
In quiet, leafy Oakwood, "people keep up their property or they are shamed. It's a respect thing," Mr. Capozzoli said.
The goal of the film, in part, is to show the upside of living in District 2, he said.
The crew began with recommendations of people to interview, but 85 percent have been "random walk up and ask," he said.
"Every single person is extremely proud of where they live, sometimes angry proud," he said, pounding the picnic table, mimicking someone who has been complaining about crime and blight before declaring, " 'They'll have to drag me out of here.'
"Eighty percent of the neighborhoods are wonderful, and the others have tremendous potential."
Ms. Kail-Smith said she also hopes that the commercial and possible film help bring people to the neighborhoods to visit and shop. She established the West End Alliance to serve as an umbrella for collaboration among the neighborhoods.
"One of things we needed was a branding campaign so people can know what our area has to offer," she said. "Part of that will be a website of the West End Alliance."
On that site, which has not yet been created, each neighborhood will be featured in a one and a half- to 5-minute video.
Mr. Capozzoli said he hopes to interest a local TV station in airing a 30-minute documentary on District 2 and then to find funding for similar projects in each council district.
As Oakwood Park began to fill with parents and children, Mr. Capozzoli walked toward the reservoir wall. It is open like a "C" that encloses tennis courts. The stones have been climbed so much that there are gaps for hands to grasp and feet to wedge. Ms. Majkowski scampered to the top first.
Mr. Capozzoli said, "OK," to himself and began a slow climb, stopping halfway to contemplate. When he reached the top, he rolled to his side and sat with his legs swinging.
"I won't be able to get down from here," he said with a wide smile. "I'll be up here the rest of my life."