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. The co-op remained a pillar of the organization throughout its life, supporting projects that grew to include an accredited school, the Three Rivers Film festival, and three repertory theaters—The Harris in the downtown Cultural District, the Regent Square Theater in the neighborhood of the same name, and the Melwood Screening Room in North Oakland, located in the same building as the school.

Phase 1: The Crumbling Wall[edit]

Starting in 1969, a variety of film programs were presented at The Crumbling Wall, a non-denominational coffeehouse run by the Lutheran Church on Forbes Avenue, across from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The proximity of these two places played an important part in the development of Pittsburgh Filmmakers: an experimental film series curated by Chuck Glassmeyer drew a regular group of interested people, including Leon Arkus and Sally Dixon, founders of the Department of Film and Video at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.[3]

Phase 2: Selma Burke Arts Center[edit]

In 1970, Dixon started bringing artists to town to screen their work. She acquired a grant to purchase 16mm filmmaking equipment so that visiting artists could work on their films while in residence, as well as exhibit them.[4] The group found a space in the basement of the now-defunct Selma Burke Arts Center in East Liberty, and an organization, at first called "Pittsburgh Independent Film-Makers," began to take shape. The building included darkrooms and filmmaking facilities; workshops in the use of equipment, as well as screenings, were offered. The early presence of still photography can be attributed to the support of photographer Robert Haller, later an executive director of the organization and Director of Library Collections at Anthology Film Archives in New York City.

Phase 3: 205 Oakland Ave.[edit]

In 1971, a more formal organization was created. Articles of incorporation were filed and the name Pittsburgh Filmmakers was adopted. Bob Costa was the first executive director, and designer Robert Gaylor was the first president of the board of directors. 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 Avenue.[5] Its location in the heart of the university district was ideal, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers began to slowly grow. In the early '80s, artist Peggy Ahwesh, one of the organization's best-known alumni, was involved as a programmer.[6] By 1992, the organization was operating four buildings—the equipment facility at 205 Oakland, a classroom and editing facility at 218 Oakland, administrative offices around the corner at 3712 Forbes, and the Theater Annex in the historic Fulton Building at 101 Sixth Street downtown. The staff had grown to 18 full-time, 8 part-time, and varying numbers of work-study students. Executive directors of the organization during this phase were: Bob Costa (1971), 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).

Phase 4: 477 Melwood Ave.[edit]

In 1992, Charlie Humphrey, the organization's longest-serving executive director, began his tenure.[7] Humphrey and his director of administration Dorinda Sankey (née Hughes) mounted a successful campaign starting in 1993 to modernize and unify the facilities. By the summer of 1995, Pittsburgh Filmmakers opened the first floor of 477 Melwood Avenue, 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.

Also in 1995, Filmmakers lost its screening space in the Fulton Theater Annex; a temporary home for the Theater Annex's exhibition program was found at Point Park College's facility on Craft Avenue in Oakland. Before year's end, the program moved into the Harris Theater at 809 Liberty, a former X-rated movie house located in downtown Pittsburgh. In early 1998, Filmmakers 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. At this point of maximum development, alongside its production and exhibition facilities, the organization's School of Film, Photography, and Digital Media offered a comprehensive series of film classes and a range of workshops exploring related topics, such as animation and media literacy.

Phase 5: Marshall Mansion[edit]

In 2006, Pittsburgh Filmmakers merged with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA), following votes by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers membership, the PCA board, and the Pittsburgh Filmmakers board. The Pittsburgh Filmmakers bylaws were carried over as the bylaws of the combined organization, which 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.[8]

Humphrey resigned as executive director in 2015.[9] The 477 Melwood building was sold in 2018, and PF/PCA consolidated its remaining operations at the former PCA location.[10] The last executive directors of the organization while it retained the Pittsburgh Filmmakers name were Germaine Williams (2017-2018) and Dan Demicell (2018).[11][12] In 2018, the organization rebranded as the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media (PCAM) and continued under new leadership, although all film operations were ended in 2019 and NASAD accreditation withdrawn.[2][13]

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. ^ "History of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers". earthportals.com. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  4. ^ Kienzle, Connie (February 8, 1970). "Museum To Show Little Known Films". Pittsburgh Press. p. 22. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ "Peggy Ahwesh | Creative Capital". Creative Capital. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Charlie Humphrey < cityLAB". citylabpgh.org. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  8. ^ Tascarella, Patty (May 31, 2011). "Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pittsburgh Glass Center cancel merger talks". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  9. ^ "Charlie Humphrey resigns as executive director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  10. ^ Waltz, Amanda (9 January 2019). "Pittsburgh Filmmakers' move marks new beginning for the organization". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "Germaine Williams resigns from Pittsburgh Filmmakers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  13. ^ "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.