Saturday, March 27, 2010

Steeltown Entertainment's Ready, Set, Produce

Steeltown Film Factory presented the culmination of its first-ever short film script competition by holding a workshop on production issues, evaluating the production information each of the script finalists had compiled. Previous workshops had included a seated reading of the 10 inital finalist scripts and a director's pitch workshop for the 5 semifinalists.

The judges could give the $25,00 film production pot to one finalist, or split it among multiple winners. The judges quizzed the finalists pretty closely, and clearly wanted as many specifics as they could glean.

I had a bias for "Lightweight" even since the initial reading. Sadly, the judges chose two winners and "Lightweight" was not one of them. They gave $12,500 each to the writers of "Roll the Die" and "Anywhere But Here." My preferences aside, much as I found "Roll the Die" a very amusing script, I just don't see how it could be produced for the budget it has (even given the fact that most short film makers cut their budgets every way they can).

But, I do look forward do seeing these movies. The short films are due to be shot early this summer, and are due to premiere at the Pittsburgh Film Festival in November.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No Pittsburgh Accents in She's Out of My League?

I was in a forum lately where people were complaining about the lack of Pittsburgh accents in She's Out of My League.

The Pittsburgh accent is tricky. The only people on the "national stage" who have a strong Pittsburgh accent are Dan Marino and Bill Cowher (and anyone who doesn't follow sports probably has no idea who I'm talking about). It was, frankly, better that the professional actors didn't try, unless they were good with accents.

The script was originally set in Phoenix, and the screenwriters did a good job resetting locations in the script to show off Pittsburgh.

However, they never paid any attention to local slang, so none was included. Pittsburgh slang is kind of funny and it's usually easy to guess from context. Some could have been worked in, but it wasn't.

Example - at one point near the end of the Penguins hockey sequence, Molly (Alice Eve - the blonde) yelled at a hockey player "Fox, keep your stick up!" OK, that was in the script (more or less - Fox was also the last name of the assistant director). During filming, the director asked for people to ad-lib yelling at the hockey players at about that point.

Alice, being British, chose to ad-lib "You wanker!" at one of the hockey players.

After the director yelled "CUT," about half the extras yelled, "Have her say 'You jagoff!'" which is Pittsburghese for "You wanker!" Sadly, that didn't happen. Now that would have been funny.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Tale of Two Cities - SouthSide Works Cinema - March 19-25

My Tale of Two Cities is Carl Kurlander's charming Valentine to Pittsburgh. It's a project he worked on for years in the mid-00s, and while it played a few festivals and came out on DVD, it never had the release it deserved.

This week, you'll have the chance to see My Tale of Two Cities at the SouthSide Works Cinema from Friday, March 19-Thursday, March 26. It's a fun look at Pittsburgh, with excellent photography.

Friday, March 12, 2010

She's Out of My League Has Opened

During the "crazy time" in movie-making in Pittsburgh, winter-spring 2008, no fewer than three different movies were being made simultaneously:

She's Out of My League
The Road

I was looking for some work, had always wanted to be involved in a movie. After signing up with the various extra agencies, I was called into be an extra for She's Out of My League. It was a lot of standing around and hurry-up-and-wait, but I really enjoyed it. And, there's always the danger that despite your ability to follow directions and be in the right place at the right time, that you never show up in the movie.

Laurie Mann near the set of She's Out of My League I'm happy to say I did get my two seconds of fame when I showed up in the hockey crowd scene. It was filmed during my two days of shooting in the arena. I then shot another six days in the airport, in various crowd scenes. Or, to look at it another way, I made about $800 for 2 seconds of screen time. ;->

League is a fun, raunchy comedy. Jay Baruchel, who is better looking in person, plays the awkward Kirk. Alice Eve, an English actress with a perfect American accent, plays the woman who becomes interested in him. Alice Eve's parents in the movie are played by her real-life parents, both well-known English actors with equally flawless American accents.

One common feature of the movies shot in Pittsburgh - the better the photography is of Pittsburgh, the worse the movie is. Inspector Gadget - a horrible, horrible movie with some of the best Pittsburgh photography ever. Smart People - a surprisingly bad movie with very good Pittsburgh photography.

By contrast, The Wonder Boys - a terrific movie that celebrates Pittsburgh architecture, but you'd have no clue you were in Pittsburgh except that the characters talk about being in Pittsburgh. The Road - shot mostly outside of Pittsburgh, has one or two neighborhood shots that makes the city, very appropriately, look like a post-apocalyptic mess.

Oh, the one exception to this, up until now, has been Carl Kurlander's My Tale of Two Cities, a charming documentary about Pittsburgh with great photography of the city. This is finally getting a formal theatrical release in Pittsburgh at the end of March - go see it!

She's Out of My League has great Pittsburgh photography and some excellent shots of the city from Mt. Washington. And they managed to keep the homeless people and drug addicts out of Market Square for a couple of days. Market Square actually looks like a place where adults would want to hang out after dark, proof that you can Hollywoodize almost anything.

This is not a brilliant script, but it is funny enough, especially the first half. As is usual with such movies, the male characters are a little better drawn than the female characters, who are generally cyphers. Nate Torrance is a particular stand-out as the only married guy of the bunch. For most of the movie, the writers seemed to be writing about sexuality and attraction as very horny virgins, but the characters were supposed to be in their 20s and at least somewhat sexually experienced. I supposed that's because the target audience is clearly teenagers. So the angst level is ratcheted up beyond all reason in places.

Still, even if you're not generally fan of the 20-something sex comedy or of movies that make Pittsburgh look like a great place to live (which, of course it is but people outside of town often don't know that), there might be enough silly jokes in this movie to make it a worthwhile diversion.