The season is coming to an end for most of Pittsburgh’s big theater companies. Film and television production has also been halted for weeks due to writers’ strikes. But Wednesday, in downtown Pittsburgh, two local educational institutions announced a program that will create new avenues for careers on stage and behind the scenes in the film industry.

CREATE PA: Film & Theater Productions! is a joint project of the Pittsburgh Film Board and the Pittsburgh Public Theater. They’re working with local unions to expand the Film Office program, which provides training for crew members such as electrical workers, grippers and hair stylists. Costumers, carpenters, stage decorators and accountants will also be trained for stage and screen work through this programme.

“This initial training should be enough to get you comfortable behind the stage and behind the screen on your first day of work,” said Dawn Keyser, long-time executive director of Film Office. said at a launch event in 2016. public lobby.

“This is an opportunity to be formally trained to participate in the industry in a way that people might only dream of,” said Shaunda McDill, managing director of Public.

The address was set against the backdrop of notable feature film posters shot in the area, including “Fences,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The film agency, which markets the region to the film industry, says film production is a key economic driver, bringing $2.5 billion in spending to the region since its founding in 1990.

Other speakers on Wednesday included Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and State Sen. Kamera Bartolotta. The latter is on the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Board and an outspoken advocate of state tax credits for film and television production. Her Mamie Stein, President of IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 489, also spoke.

McDill introduced CREATE PA’s first and so far only employee, Morgan Overton. Morgan Overton was Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Manager for former Mayor Ed Gainey. As the program’s employee director, Mr. Overton is responsible for developing the program’s infrastructure and recruiting students. She will start her work on Monday.

Davis said many stage and film crew jobs don’t require a college degree. In that sense, he said, the initiative reflects Gov. Josh Shapiro’s thinking. Order to Remove Four-Year College Degree as Requirement for 65,000 State Jobs.

Funding from the state’s Department of Labor and Industry launched the Pittsburgh Film Works program in 2019, Keyser said. Delayed by the pandemic, the effort finally began last year, and since then has graduated from three classes of 12 each: grippers, electricians and hairstylists. Free training sessions were held over a series of Saturdays. Before the writers’ strike, all 36 students were said to have worked at the site.

Keyser said CREATE PA is unique outside of New York City in training both stage and film workers. Many of the skills are the same there, and so are the trade unions (although locals may differ).

Keyser said those who complete the course are paired with a mentor and given a direct route to membership.

She said CREATE PA’s first year budget is $500,000, but more is expected. She said she expects the program to expand statewide and eventually train “hundreds” of students.

Is there a demand for people involved in film and theater? Keeser said he believes so. More recently, TV series such as ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ and ‘The League of Their Own’ have been filmed here, as well as movies such as ‘A Man Called Otto’ starring Tom Hanks. And plans are still underway for ‘The Film Furnace’, which will create a soundstage on the site of a former steel mill in Rankine.

CREATE PA is currently not accepting new students. For more information, please visit the Film Office website..

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