30 Years: Pittsburgh's film industry a becoming attraction

Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region

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George A. Romero put Pittsburgh on the moviemaking map with 1968's "Night of the Living Dead" but "Flashdance," released in April 1983, put the city's best face and foot forward.

The improbable story of an aspiring ballerina who is a welder by day and flashdancer -- street moves crossed with modern dance -- at night in bars was a hit. Even columnist George F. Will wrote it's "almost lyrical about a place that does not often evoke lyricism. ('O, Pittsburgh?')"

After Jennifer Beals packed up her leg warmers, the city continued to attract productions, prompting the Greater Pittsburgh Office of Promotion to form the Pittsburgh Film Office. It hired Robert Curran as director in 1990 as "The Silence of the Lambs" was wrapping up.

When he left in 1994, the office brought Dawn Keezer on board. She and her staff, along with union leaders and business people in related fields such as truck rentals, casting and soundstage operation, nurtured an explosion of interest and growth. So did creation of the state's tax credit program and Steeltown Entertainment Project.

Famous films

  • "Flashdance" (1983)
  • "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)
  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (2012)
  • "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)

The region, known for its versatile locations, skilled and dedicated crews and willingness to close bridges, tunnels or streets, welcomed 120-plus movies and TV productions since 1990.

Its crowning glory (so far) may have been "The Dark Knight Rises," with actor Christian Bale's return for "Out of the Furnace" already generating awards talk. The roster of recent stars who filmed here includes Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Emma Watson, Taylor Lautner, Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington and Viggo Mortensen.

This fall, a milestone in Pittsburgh TV production will be reached when "Those Who Kill," the largest scripted, prime-time TV series order in the region's history, begins production.


Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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