Steeltown Entertainment Film Factory – Chelsea, Pittsburgh’s CW Green Team

On Saturday, May 11th, I had the privilege of attending the Steeltown Entertainment Project’s event titled, “Film Factory Finale: And the winner is… ” held at the Purnell Center for the Arts at Carnegie Mellon University.

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For some of you readers out there who are unfamiliar with Steeltown, let me give you a little bit of background information…

When you think of film industry, what city comes to mind?  …Los Angeles, right? …or possibly New York City.   “The place to be” for people with talent and a desire for a career in this industry, is in one of these cities, isn’t that true?  Filmmakers, actors, and producers leave Pittsburgh and take their talent, ventures, and ‘show business’ profits with them to these entertainment ‘hubs”.  Success throughout Hollywood has roots here in Pittsburgh (Click here to see a list!). But the founders of the Steeltown Entertainment Project argue that the “Steel City” doesn’t have a “commercially viable entertainment industry,” so the roots remain, but the community of Pittsburgh doesn’t see the economic blooms of having a multi-billion dollar industry within its city limits.

Carl Kurlander, Ellen Weiss Kander, and Maxine Ladipuss started the Steeltown Entertainment Project with the belief that Pittsburgh has the potential for a success in the entertainment industry.  Can you think of any Hollywood Blockbusters that were recently filmed in the ‘Burgh? So the project works to find ways not only to keep creative talent here in Pittsburgh, but also to promote others to bring their talent to Pittsburgh. It all started in 2003 and the founders, volunteers, and members of Steeltown have gone through a tremendous journey in the past decade.  More information can be found on their website at

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Today, through the Steeltown Film Factory, the Steeltown Entertainment Project holds a nationally recognized screenwriting and filmmaking competition where entrants have the opportunities to have their scripts read and discussed by industry leaders and to win funding to start their project in Pittsburgh.

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On Saturday,  I sat among a full audience as we watched and listened to groups of Carnegie Mellon students perform staged readings of the three finalists’ scripts. Dennis Schebetta’s “My Date with Adam”, Glenn Syska’s “The Sketch”, and Heather Gray’s “Life After Deaf” were chosen out of over 250 entrants.  Each script was read and then critiqued by a panel of judges including, Steeltown co-founder and producer, Maxine Ladipus, whose credits include Rosanne and Ellen, her sister, Sally Ladipuss, who is also a producer and a screenwriter credited for Hannah Montana and The Tracy Morgan Show, co-founder of Animal Inc. VFX studio, Michael Killen, and Los Angeles based producer Youree Henley whose credits include The Bling Ring and Witness.

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The judges gave praise, as well as thoughtful constructive criticism, to each of the screenwriters and their scripts.  The comments were not only helpful for those being judged, but gave the audience useful insight on what producers look for in a script and how to overcome certain filming challenges. Glenn Syska’s script, “The Sketch,” involved a scene in which the main character’s apartment is on fire.  Because it would be unrealistic to set a building on fire in order to produce any project, the judges wanted to know what Syska’s plan was for filming the scene.  He told the judges his plan was to use a lot of smoke footage and to composite flames overtop of scenery–he had a practical CGI plan, with which the judges seemed pretty impressed.

A grand prize of $20,000 was given to David Schebetta to produce his romantic comedy script with a robotic twist.  His film, “My Date with Adam,” will premiere at the Three Rivers Film Festival in November–so keep our eyes out for tickets!  Schebetta and Steeltown Entertainment’s co-founder, Carl Kurlander, were on Pittsburgh Today Live earlier this week and their interview can be seen Here.  A second prize of $10,000 was given to Glenn Syska’s script, “The Sketch,” about an artist who falls in love with one of his ‘lively’ creations.  Finally, a third prize of $2,500 went to Heather Gray and her script, “Life after Deaf,” which features a lovable story about Pittsburghers in the Deaf Community.

Each of the scripts deserved to be showcased and made for a very entertaining Saturday afternoon.  I walked away with a lot of information about what it takes to be a producer, the practicalities of script writing, and how important the potential for the entertainment industry in Pittsburgh means to our community. I encourage everyone to check out the Steeltown Entertainment Project and get involved, because after all, there is NO Business like Show Business, so why not bring it to the ‘Burgh?


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