6 Songs That Showcase Music in Pittsburgh Movies

The perfect song. The perfect lyric. The perfect score. Music can make or break a movie.

Of course, Pittsburgh makes a great setting for a film. Adding the right music can make miracles happen. We’ve found 6 great examples of how music impacted from films made right here in Pittsburgh.

1. A Hero in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

There’s nothing quite like the view of Pittsburgh upon exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnels. Seems like writer and director, Stephen Chbosky, figured out the way to capture that feeling with one special song – David Bowie’s “Heroes.” The special pairing of this Bowie classic and the Steel City skyline turned a scene into an epic wave of feeling.


2. Feeling It in Flashdance

Speaking of feelings, who can forget Irene Cara’s classic “What a Feeling” in the Pittsburgh classic, Flashdance? We love this scene because it combines the spirit of the City of Champions with some incredible moves that we’d love to see in an end zone dance. 



3. Send Up the Bat Signal – This Score is Criminal

Holy cow, Batman! Pittsburgh makes a great Gotham City and gave the world everyone’s favorite caped crusader, Michael Keaton. The Dark Knight Rises transforms an already awesome chase scene through downtown Pittsburgh into a legendary moment in Pittsburgh cinema, thanks to an incredible score by Hans Zimmer. 

4. Spoiler Alert: Get Your Tissues Ready

2016 Elly Honoree, Jesse Andrews adapted his coming-of-age novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl into an incredibly unique, touching, and quintessential Pittsburgh film back in 2015. One particularly powerful moment in the film combines a tear jerking scene to the music of Brian Eno. Just listening to the song makes our eyes misty.

BONUS: Check out this interview with the director about making the film’s soundtrack.


5. Romero & Rubinstein

2017 Elly Award honoree, George Romero found the perfect composer for his 1978 horror classic, Martin, when he met his producer’s brother, Donald Rubinstein. Rubinstein created an eerie Baroque jazz score to match the film’s tone. Rubinstein went on to work with Romero again composing scores for Knightriders and Bruiser.

6. God Bless the Burgh

Lastly, we reach peak Pittsburgh with another film from 1978 – Oscar-Winning The Deer Hunter. Parts of the film were filmed right here in Western PA. The gritty scenes of steel mills and dive bars truly brought the film to live and captured a poignant slice of life. The masterful conclusion of the film hits hard with its emotional weight and use of “God Bless America.”

Feeling inspired?

Don’t miss our workshop, Music: Let It Make (Not Break) Your Film, on July 11 and learn how you can make music miracles happen in your films.

Q&A With Cardinal Matter’s Mark Christian (Producer/Director of Photography) and Madeline Puzzo (Director)


1. What first drew you to filmmaking and how did you get started?

Christian: I can remember back to when I was really young, before I could even read – I would act like I was reading but the book would be upside down. I would just make up stories and “read” them to my family. I think that I’ve just always had the desire to tell stories and entertain people.

Puzzo: There really was no “first” for me. My passion developed and morphed as I was growing up but if I had to pinpoint something it would be watching featurettes on DVDs in middle school and high school. Most notably, The Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the King bonus set and the special edition Anchorman set. I can’t remember how many times I watched those throughout high school, but I know it was a lot.


Steeltown Film Factory Event

Good Will Hunting” and “American Pie” producer Chris Moore and “All is Lost” producer Corey Moosa will help usher in a new type of Steeltown Film Factory at Carnegie Mellon on March 15.  Moore and Moosa are currently in Pittsburgh as part of “The Chair,” a new television series which follows dueling first-time feature directors, internet phenom Shane Dawson, and “Break Up at The Wedding” co-screenwriter Anna Martemucci, as they simultaneously make the same movie.   Steeltown, a co-producer of the series along with Point Park and the WQED/Steeltown Incubator, has played a leading role in helping bring “The Chair” to Pittsburgh. It was coming back for the Film Factory over the past several years that help lead Moore, who many will recognize as the co-star of HBO’s “Project Greenlight” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, to decide that Pittsburgh would be the ideal location for his new series.  

“Pittsburgh is becoming one of the top regional production centers in the country,’ says Moore, who most recently produced “Promised Land” here. “I am a big believer in this city and I have seen, through my interactions with Steeltown, just how much talent and unique resources there are here.   The Film Factory has also proven a great way for people to break into this business, as evidence by how many people we are using on the show who got their start on Film Factory movies.”  

One such person is Heidi Schlegel, a Point Park University graduate who first interned at with Steeltown and then produced 2013 Steeltown Film Factory winning short film “My Date with Adam.” Schlegel is now the production manager for the “Untitled Shane Dawson Comedy,” one of the two films featured in “The Chair.” “Steeltown Film Factory was a one of a kind experience because they made sure each event they hosted was special by bringing in an influential role model from Hollywood,” said Schlegel. “I learned more in those short 3 months as an intern than any textbook could have ever taught me.  I use the skills I learned as an intern and as a Producer for ‘My Date with Adam’ every single day I am on set. I can’t thank Steeltown enough for taking the time to help shape me into the professional I am today.”

Another such individual is Rebecca Markuson, who also worked on “My Date with Adam” and is now working in the art department for “The Chair.” “I’m excited to be working on The Chair and am glad Steeltown has been able to provide some of these opportunities for growth within the film industry in Pittsburgh,” says Markuson. “The members of film community in this city are incredibly hard working and have been inspiring to me as a fresh young filmmaker. These friends and chances to grow and learn within this community are what keep me in this city and I consider myself very lucky to have landed here at just the right time to really grow with the industry.”

On March 15, Steeltown will unveil a new aspect of the Film Factory which will create even more opportunity for Pittsburgh’s independent film community here.   The top twenty films chosen from over 190 entries in this year’s Film Factory will have the opportunity to receive a matching grant of up to $500 toward the crowdfunding of their short films.  Steeltown will also host these top 20 scripts and corresponding crowdfunding reels on the new Community Showcase section of the Steeltown website.  And all entries in the Film Factory will be eligible for a special prize to be given away on March 15. 

“We hope this new ‘Community Showcase’ will lead to 20 short films being made in Pittsburgh over the next year.  What we realized was that the real winners of the Film Factory over these years was not just those who got the prize money, but the hundreds of people who have gotten to work on the projects which got their start through this competition,” says Steeltown President Carl Kurlander.  “We want to make sure that Steeltown and its programs like the Film Factory and the Spotlight Series becomes even more of a pathway for people to break into this growing industry here in Pittsburgh, and have them work on bigger projects like “The Chair” and features and TV shows that come to town.”

As always, March 15 will also feature the top five Film Factory finalists competing for up to $30,000 in prize money as they pitch their ideas to Moore and Moosa, affording audiences a rare look at how one really gets a project to move forward in the fllm business.   Those five will then re-write their scripts and 3 will be chosen to present their scripts at Point Park University as part of the Women In Film International Summit taking place in Pittsburgh May 16-18.   

Tickets for to the March 15 Film Factory are available to reserve now. Click here.