When they started work on “Blood Brother,” Steve Hoover (director, writer, editor) and Danny Yourd (producer) did not set out for wealth or fame. All they wanted to do was tell the story of Steve’s friend Rocky Braat and his selfless acts of giving care and joy to a group of HIV-positive orphans in Channai, India.
“It was the first feature film for the entire crew,” said Yourd, who, along with Hoover and Braat, graduated from Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “We set out to tell a story about Steve’s best friend Rocky and the crew came on board to help us do that. We submitted it to a bunch of film festivals, and we figured we’d see what happened.”
And tell a story they did. The Pittsburgh-produced “Blood Brother” did not just get into the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, and the festival’s Audience Award. “When we were at Sundance, seeing people react emotionally was very moving,” said executive producer Kathy Dziubek. “Steve has a gift, both behind the camera and editorially, for bringing out the emotion in people.”
Despite the extraordinary reception of “Blood Brothers” at Sundance and at other film festivals, very few local people have had the opportunity to see the film. This, however, is about to change. Now is your special chance in seeing “Blood Brothers” in a private screening of the film on August 16 at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont by supporting the Kickstarter campaign for the team’s next documentary, “Gennadiy.”
The documentary is about an orphanage caretaker, the film’s namesake, who uses unorthodox methods to cure lost children of their drug addictions. As with “Blood Brother,” Yourd says the purpose of Gennadiy is to tell a story. “We’re hoping to bring to light things that people might not be exposed to otherwise,” he said. “We want to make a difference and change things for good. For indy filmmakers, that goal always comes back to simply telling a story.” The money given to the production of “Gennadiy” will go toward everything, including travel, production, and scoring. Donors receive one ticket for a donation of $50 or two tickets for $75.
What these two productions have in common, goes beyond the team’s need to tell a harrowing tale–these productions are not for profit. Both relied heavily on support from Kickstarter campaigns and from their employer and production company, Animal VFX. Animal is a Pittsburgh-based production company known for work on commercials for Red Bull, K-Swiss, California Cheese, and Taco Bell, among others. Animal has strong ties to Pittsburgh and the Steeltown Entertainment Project. Animal co-founder and owner Michael Killen is a longtime advisor and frequent script reader for the Steeltown Film Factory. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, he left Pittsburgh for Los Angeles, before returning to town to start animal, along with fellow co-founders and Pittsburgh industry veterans Dziubek and Jim Kreitzburg.
While documentaries are not the main focus of Animal, this did not stop them from supporting the passion project of its employees. “Animal always encourages its people to get out there and go above and beyond, getting creative on their own,” Yourd said. “Without Animal’s involvement in ‘Blood Brother,’ the movie would never have been made.”
“When we hired Danny and Steve, we saw how incredibly talented they were,” Dziubek, who is also and executive producer of “Gennadiy.” “We see that in his work here, and we were excited to support him as he did the same work with a passion project. Seeing the reception that ‘Blood Brother’ received blew me away, and it made me really proud to have supported it as a company.”
Yourd sees Pittsburgh as a great place to continue doing his work. “I’ve never felt the need to get out of Pittsburgh,” he said. “We love Pittsburgh, and our job, and the people we work with. We don’t need to go to L.A. or New York to make a name for ourselves. And Steeltown has always been huge supporters of our goals, and they’re always rooting for us and for Pittsburgh.” Dziubek echoed the same sentiment about the Steel City. “We love the city–we can do everything we need to do here in Pittsburgh. When we had offices in L.A., we found that we were doing the majority of the work for those projects in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a ton of talent in the field, and Pittsburghers have a great work ethic and none of the ego that you encounter elsewhere.”