Pittsburgh Filmmakers screens films, fosters education

By Emma Kilcup

Recent graduate Mouna Coulibaly wanted to take a web design class in a more constructive… Recent graduate Mouna Coulibaly wanted to take a web design class in a more constructive atmosphere than the computer science department at Pitt, so she decided to take the course through Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

“Intro to Web Design was a very cool class, and it’s a good skill to have,” said Coulibaly, a communications and French major. “Pitt only offers courses through the computer science department, so it was less intimidating to take it at Filmmakers.”

In addition to offering classes to Pitt students, the organization provides a host of other activities and film-related events that Pitt students can attend. A nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable tools to those in pursuit of expensive arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers is the place to go to see Grace Kelly or Gregory Peck back on the big screen or to stroll through galleries and exhibits featuring both prominent and emerging contemporary artists.

Located at 477 Melwood Avenue, Filmmakers offers interested locals the option to view a variety of screenings, ranging from amateur films to classic titles. Unlike other theaters that only show the latest in Hollywood hits, Pittsburgh Filmmakers hosts screenings of documentaries, foreign films and independent films, among many other genres.

The institution has three theaters in Pittsburgh: Harris Theater, Regent Square Theater and Melwood Screening Room.

Along with hosting events and screenings, Pittsburgh Filmmakers offers film, photography, and digital media courses. In 1974, it established a relationship with Pitt that permits students to take courses at Filmmakers and receive credit toward their Pitt degrees.

In order for Coulibaly to take her web design course, she went through the film studies department. Although she is not part of the program, she did an independent film study and took courses through Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Then, this past spring, she worked as the web designer for the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival.

According to Pitt’s film studies coordinator Jen Florian, all film studies students are required to take at least one production class. Because Pitt does not offer these through the film studies program, many students choose to go to Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

“For those starting out, there’s a class called Motion Picture Fundamentals that many take,” Florian said. “For a course about photography, there is Basic Digital and Black and White Photography.”

In addition to the courses at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pitt students gain an extra advantage with their student IDs. Students can view $3 screenings at Pittsburgh Filmmakers outside of the organization’s special events. Pittsburgh Filmmakers has weekly screenings of different films, and students can sign up for the film studies mailing list to receive information straight to their emails.

In 2006, Pittsburgh Filmmakers joined with Pittsburgh Center for the Arts — a nonprofit group offering educational events and exhibitions. The two organizations share a mission statement and an artistic statement professing their shared support of the arts. Their artistic statement, which states a desire to work to encourage inspiration in the area and increase their cultural dialogue, dedicates these organizations to the arts and the local community.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers has both production and exhibition space, which allows the program to feature a photo exhibit along with each of the screenings. These exhibits are free to the public.

There are already events planned for fall. From Oct. 11 through Jan. 6, Filmmakers will host the “Marcellus Shale Documentary Project,” which will showcase photographs that show the impact of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry on the lives of Pennsylvanians.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers opens its theaters for Pittsburgh’s film festivals, which include Three Rivers Film Festival, Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival, the Russian Film Symposium and Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival.

“I really enjoy international cinema, so when I see that there will be a movie from another place, I try to go see it,” Sara Valenzuela, a Pitt graduate, said.

Valenzuela completed a double major in film and urban studies at Pitt. She took classes including Black and White Photography and Intro to Film and Video Work through Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Having lived in Pittsburgh for eight years now, she has seen the city’s film scene progress.