Obituary: Jean-Pierre Nutini / Film gaffer was 'larger than life'

Died July 10, 2013

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To the extent that Pittsburgh has a film bibliography, Jean-Pierre Nutini's name appears on every page.

Just look on the international movie database website: He was a crew member on all of the major films, and some minor ones, that have been made here in the past 20 years, from "Lorenzo's Oil" to "Wonder Boys" to "The Dark Knight Rises."

But Mr. Nutini, who died July 10 of cancer at age 57 in his Squirrel Hill home, also had another calling: to bring Mexican art and culture to Pittsburghers through Mexico Lindo Y Galeria de Artesanias, a shop on Murray Avenue operated by him and his wife, Lisa DiGioia-Nutini.

A passionate collector of Mexican Folk Art -- a passion acquired through his mother, who was Mexican of French and Italian descent -- he and his wife spent a great deal of time in that country searching out artisans to showcase in the store.

"He was a larger than life artist in both stature and spirit," said his wife, referring to his height -- he was 6 foot 7 inches tall -- and his personality, which was "charismatic, gregarious and generous. His own life was as fascinating and compelling enough to have been made into any one films and television series he helped create here."

Not only was he a charter member and staunch supporter of IATSE local 489, Mr. Nutini also was a member of SAG-AFTRA Local 3, working on thousands of concerts, performances, political rallies and lectures.

"Sometimes people he knew would take non-union jobs and he would tear his hair out," said Ms. Di-Gioia-Nutini. "Sometimes he would be offered those jobs too, and he wouldn't take them. We marched in every Labor Day parade."

The son of Hugo Nutini, the late University of Pittsburgh anthropologist who specialized in Mesoamerican culture, he was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Pittsburgh in 1963.

Mr. Nutini earned his B.A. in theatre from Northern Illinois University in 1985 and a master's in theatre in 1987 from the University of Pittsburgh. He studied technical theatrical lighting design at Carnegie Mellon University as a cross-disciplinary program while completing the master's at Pitt. He was fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

"He was one of the great individualists of Pittsburgh, an actor, an activist, a skilled theater and film technician and a man of broad culture," said Chris Rawson, theater critic emeritus at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

An electrician and crew member, Mr. Nutini actually was, in film parlance, a gaffer -- expert in the technical aspects of lighting for film and theatre, as well as a rigging gaffer, which involves figuring out exactly what kind of electrical cable is needed for each shot and each location to power the lights themselves.

"To understand what that involved, think of the monstrous project to light up the entire [Kittanning Citizens] bridge for 'The Mothman Prophecies,' " said his wife. "And when he wasn't doing that, he was cooking for his entire crew."

Mr. Nutini was also an actor, with appearances in 15 films, and both an actor and director in stage productions, including one "Pedro Paramo" at Quantum Theatre.

"Jean-Pierre was one of the first crew members that I met when I moved to Pittsburgh," said Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. "He was always full of life, a very hard worker and a great asset on any film set."

Besides his wife, Mr. Nutini is survived by his mother, Monique Lemaître Leon of Squirrel Hill; his stepmother, Jean Forbes Nutini of Squirrel Hill and Fortin De Las Flores, Mexico; his brothers, Christian of Squirrel Hill and Alexis of Philadelphia; his son Christian of Holland, Mich.; and four grandchildren.

A memorial celebration of Mr. Nutini's life is being planned for Sept. 7, with further details to be announced. Family, friends and work associates can email for more details. Please put "Memorial Event" as the subject line.


Mackenzie Carpenter:, 412-263-1949, or on Twitter @MackenziePG.

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