What to do Tonight: Learn about Pittsburgh's film history
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Tonight in North Oakland, it's the talk of the town on the big screen.
As part of their monthly discussion series, the folks at Pittsburgh Filmmakers are welcoming local author John Tiech to discuss his book, "Pittsburgh Film History: On Set in the Steel City."
"We like to have guest speakers, alternating between a photographer or a filmmaker or an art historian or photojournalists. All sorts of different related topics," said Sarah Shank, head librarian and a teaching assistant for Pittsburgh Filmmakers. "This is about the film industry in Pittsburgh."
Ms. Shank is justifiably proud of the Filmmakers' library, which pretty much puts everyone else's DVD collection to shame.
"We have over 5,000 books, periodicals, DVDs, monographs related specifically to film, photography, video and new media such as digital," she said. "We have a few books that no other library in the world has."
And all of it is available to the public, though you have to be a member to check things out. Otherwise, you can peruse the material at their Melwood Avenue facility.
Mr. Tiech, 30, a native of Charleroi, will be at the library at 7 p.m. to talk about his recently published book, which delves into the details of our city's celluloid history. The list is fairly impressive.
"This book happened by accident," said Mr. Tiech, who is a part-time teacher at Westmoreland County Community College. "I didn't mean for this book to happen. I was in college after [the terrorist attacks of] 9/11, and I wanted to do something positive with my class project. I remembered 'Night of the Living Dead' was made around here, and so I decided to focus my research on how the movies made here benefited the local economy."
As he interviewed people, his passion for the project built. He made a hobby of doing more and more research, until it finally bubbled over into a book's-worth of stuff.
"We really do have a film industry here, and there are all kinds of different facets that contribute to it," Mr. Tiech said. "In the discussion itself, I really want to explore what made Pittsburgh this film entity. I'll probably ask everyone 'If you had to choose one thing that made the Pittsburgh film industry what it is today, what is it?'"
My answer was George Romero and "Night of the Living Dead."
"I expect quite a few people would agree," Mr. Tiech said. "And others say it's the film tax credit, which has taken so much credit over the past five, six, seven years.
"But here you recently had what is arguably the biggest movie ever made here -- 'The Dark Knight Rises'-- and they didn't come here because of the film tax credit. They came here because of the scenery and topography. They came for the look, not the financial benefit. And that's why most of the moviemakers, including Romero came here. There's quite a few movies that have come here for the very historic look."
The camera loves us.
"This is my first speaking engagement," Mr. Tiech said as he prepared for his close-up with the crowd tonight. "I've done a book-signing."
And he'll be signing books tonight, too. If you bring one.
Even if you don't have a copy of the book, Ms. Shank said your visit to the library for the free give-and-take should be enjoyable.
"We usually get 10 to 35 people. They're pretty intimate," she said. "There's always a lot of discussion, a lot of good questions asked. It's not just a speaker talking to people. It's always discussion-oriented."
First Published September 18, 2012 3:11 pm