Five Film Factory Finalists Made Their Pitch to “The Chair” Producers on March 15

Steeltown Entertainment Project’s annual Film Factory competition kicked off in front of a capacity crowd of the region’s entertainment community at Carnegie Mellon University’s Purnell Center for the Arts on March 15.

The highly anticipated event brought together nearly 250 local independent filmmakers, writers, actors, and production professionals for “The Writers’ Pitch,” where the competition’s five finalists were put through their paces and received feedback and analysis by veteran producers Chris Moore (“Good Will Hunting,” “American Pie”) and Corey Moosa (“All is Lost”). 

This year’s five finalists are: Julie Jigour, Stephen Knezovich, Anjali Sachdeva, returning Film Factory finalist Randy Kovitz, and Michelle Wright (yes, the WTAE-TV anchor).

Steeltown also launched its new Community Showcase, a digital resource that houses the scripts and corresponding crowd-funding campaigns of this year’s 20 competition finalists. The showcase aims to enable every film’s production in Pittsburgh in 2014.

And for the first time the organization awarded a $1,000 seed-money prize to filmmakers David Thigpen and Lisa Kicielinski (see sidebar on home page).

Just another quiet day at the office for Steeltown.

“Our mission is to build a sustainable entertainment industry in Pittsburgh and this annual competition is one key way that we educate and connect local talent and Hollywood professionals like Chris and Corey,” says Steeltown CEO Carl Kurlander.

Moore and Moosa are in Pittsburgh filming a new TV series, “The Chair,” a Steeltown co-production that follows dueling first-time feature directors as they simultaneously make the same movie. 

In its fifth year, the Film Factory has a history of opening doors in this difficult-to-enter profession.  The organization’s new Community Showcase, matching grants initiative, and expanded training programs are designed to foster a human infrastructure of artists and technicians to support this growing industry. 

“What excites me the most is their [Steeltown’s] focus on making the Film Factory more collaborative and workshop-based, building relationships and connections to create the best scripts and films here in Pittsburgh,” says past Film Factory victor David Fedor (“Roll the Dice”). “It’s not only about cutting checks, it’s about working together and cultivating a community of filmmakers  — that’s the Pittsburgh way of doing it.”

Another Film Factory veteran, Kicielinski of New York-based The Collective, says that the competition provides invaluable film and industry training.

“Steeltown is super organized, professional, and has extensive contacts,” says Kicielinski. “The access it provides to peers and mentors is extraordinary – I could pick Chris Moore’s brain about locations, using local talent, and how to work on a budget.”

Since the Film Factory’s inception, dozens of local filmmakers, writers and technical staff have found employment in the entertainment industry; more than 10 movies have been produced due to the annual competition.

“It’s great to see so many Film Factory ‘alums’ now working in town on projects like ‘The Chair,’ continues Kurlander.  “I’m also pleased to report that the Film Factory‘s national reach is really showcasing all the talent in this city – it demonstrates that Pittsburgh is a great regional production center.”

The winner of the 2014 Film Factory Competition’s Ellen Weiss Kander Award (up to $30,000) will be unveiled on May 17 at Point Park University.