Pittsburgh Filmmakers

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Pittsburgh Filmmakers
Pittsburgh Filmmakers logo.jpg
Pittsburgh Filmmakers logo
Pittsburgh Filmmakers is located in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Filmmakers
Location within Pittsburgh
Coordinates40°27′21″N 79°57′13″W / 40.455971°N 79.953664°W / 40.455971; -79.953664

Pittsburgh Filmmakers was one of the oldest and largest media arts centers in the United States, operating from 1971 to 2019.[1][2]

The non-profit institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania began as a filmmaking equipment access cooperative founded by curator Sally Dixon in 1971. The co-op remained a pillar of the organization throughout its life, supporting projects that grew to include an accredited School of Film, Photography, and Digital Media, the Three Rivers Film Festival, and three repertory theaters—most prominently the Harris Theater in the downtown Cultural District.

In 2018, the organization rebranded as the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media (PCAM); all film operations were ended in 2019 and NASAD accreditation withdrawn.[2][3] The Harris Theater survived the closure of the larger organization; the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust took over operations in January 2020, and the theater resumed a normal screening schedule.[4]

Artist alumni of Pittsburgh Filmmakers include Peggy Ahwesh, Tony Buba, Greg Mottola, and Victoria Pedretti.[5][6]


Starting in 1969, Chuck Glassmire hosted an experimental film series at the Crumbling Wall coffeehouse at 4515 Forbes Ave. The screenings drew a regular audience from the Carnegie Museum of Art across the street, where Dixon was in the process of launching the museum's Film Section (later Department of Film and Video), one of the first of its kind in the country.[7][8] In 1970, Dixon raised funding for an expanded screening program, bringing visiting artists to town for in-person exhibitions and providing 16mm filmmaking equipment so that they could also work on new films while in residence.[9] Her group secured a space in the basement of the Selma Burke Arts Center in East Liberty, set up darkrooms and filmmaking facilities, and also began to offer workshops in the use of equipment. The early presence of still photography can be attributed to the support of photographer Robert Haller (later Director of Library Collections at Anthology Film Archives in New York). An organization, at first called "Pittsburgh Independent Film-Makers," began to take shape.

In 1971, the group formally incorporated under the name Pittsburgh Filmmakers, with Bob Costa as its first executive director. In 1974, when a lack of space became an issue, the University of Pittsburgh offered Filmmakers the use of an empty building at 205 Oakland Ave., in the heart of the university district.[10] By 1992, the organization had a staff of 18 full-time and 8 part-time employees, and was operating at four locations—the equipment facility at 205 Oakland, a classroom and editing facility at 218 Oakland, administrative offices around the corner at 3712 Forbes, and the Fulton Theater Annex in the historic Fulton Building at 101 Sixth Street downtown. Subsequent executive directors of the organization were Phil Curry (1971-1973), Robert Haller (1973-1979), Marilyn Levin (1979-1983), Bob Marinaccio (1983-1987), Jan Erlich-Moss (1987), Tony Buba (1988), Margaret Meyers (1988-1991), Kurt Saunders (1991-1992), Marcia Clark (1992), and Brady Lewis (1992).

The organization's longest-serving executive director, Charlie Humphrey, began his tenure in 1992 by mounting a campaign to modernize and unify the facilities.[11] By the summer of 1995, Pittsburgh Filmmakers opened the first floor of 477 Melwood Ave., its home for the next 23 years—a 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) space formerly used as Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Labs. The first floor housed the equipment room, classrooms, darkrooms, offices, and the 130-seat Melwood Screening Room. That same year, Filmmakers lost its screening space in the Fulton Theater Annex; the exhibition program temporarily continued at Point Park College's facility on Craft Ave. in Oakland, and then found a permanent home at the Harris Theater, a former X-rated movie house located at 809 Liberty in downtown Pittsburgh. In early 1998, Filmmakers also purchased the Regent Square Theater, at 1035 South Braddock. In 2001, rehabilitation of the second floor of 477 Melwood was completed, which held more offices, digital editing suites, classrooms, a sound stage, a new gallery for photo and other exhibitions, and an additional 60-seat theater.

In 2003, a number of the institutional connections that had existed since Pittsburgh Filmmakers' founding began to dissolve. The Carnegie Museum of Art closed its film department, and Point Park College became the first of the organization's partner schools to start its own competing in-house film department.[12][13] In 2006, Pittsburgh Filmmakers merged with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA), following votes by the organizations' respective membership and boards. The combined organization took the new name Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PF/PCA) and used the PCA's Marshall Mansion building in Shadyside as its headquarters. In 2010, PF/PCA entered into further merger discussions with the Pittsburgh Glass Center, but negotiations failed by May 2011.[14] Humphrey resigned as executive director in 2015.[15] The 477 Melwood building was sold back to CMU in 2018, and PF/PCA consolidated its remaining operations at the former PCA location.[16] The last executive directors of the organization while it retained the Pittsburgh Filmmakers name were Germaine Williams (2017-2018) and Dan Demicell (2018).[17][18]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media to Cease Operations at Marshall Mansion, Refocus on Educational Programming — PGH Museums". PGH Museums. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b O'Driscoll, Bill. "Pittsburgh Arts Group Announces Layoffs, Closure of Theaters And Gallery Building". wesa.fm. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Report of the Commission on Accreditation: October - National Association of Schools of Art and Design". National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  4. ^ Lynn, Hannah (22 January 2020). "After almost closing in October, the Harris Theater is coming back in a 'reel' big way". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  5. ^ "Peggy Ahwesh | Creative Capital". Creative Capital. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Alumni: The following is a list of just some of the talented alumni of Pittsburgh Filmmakers". Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Professor Ogrodnik Published Article on Curator Sally Dixon in 'Film History'". School of Art | Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  8. ^ "History of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers". earthportals.com. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  9. ^ Kienzle, Connie (February 8, 1970). "Museum To Show Little Known Films". Pittsburgh Press. p. 22. Retrieved May 28, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Super 8 Chic: The Collision of Small Gauge Film, Visual Ethnography and Filmic Portraiture in Peggy Ahwesh's Pittsburgh Trilogy" (PDF). synoptique.ca. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  11. ^ "Charlie Humphrey < cityLAB". citylabpgh.org. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  12. ^ "Department of Film Video Archive | Carnegie Museum of Art". records.cmoa.org. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Point Park College plan for video classes will hurt Pittsburgh Filmmakers financially". old.post-gazette.com. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  14. ^ Tascarella, Patty (May 31, 2011). "Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pittsburgh Glass Center cancel merger talks". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved February 15, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "Charlie Humphrey resigns as executive director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  16. ^ Waltz, Amanda (9 January 2019). "Pittsburgh Filmmakers' move marks new beginning for the organization". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts CEO Germaine Williams resigns, interim appointed - Pittsburgh Business Times". Pittsburgh Business Times. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  18. ^ "Germaine Williams resigns from Pittsburgh Filmmakers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 20 December 2019.