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Steeltown Film Factory fosters Pittsburgh talent

| Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010

Until he saw his film "Roll the Dice" on a big screen, David Feodor did not fully grasp the importance of winning last year's Steeltown Film Factory competition.

"I had seen the film again and again on the computer, so much that I was sick of it," Feodor said of the film made by him and members of Hustlebot, a five-person Pittsburgh comedy troupe formed in 2006. "But seeing it surrounded by family and friends on a big screen was a dream come true. It validated all the work."

The Film Factory competition awards $30,000 in production money to the winner. Twelve-page scripts for this year's contest must be submitted by Dec. 31.

Organizers of the fledgling competition hope it becomes a way to harness and promote Pittsburgh talent and generate films related to the city. They hope it becomes a sort of away-from-Hollywood fixture in the film world, maybe even something like the established Toronto Film Festival.

"My vision is that the competition will become a destination for filmmakers from around the country, something that people would want to enter every year," said Lisa Smith, a Dormont native and Steeltown Film Factory producer.

Smith worked on HBO's "Project Greenlight" and produced "The People Speak," an alternative history of the United States that featured Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. She worked for many years in theater in Pittsburgh.

The contest is part of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, launched in 2003 by founders who include Squirrel Hill native Carl Kurlander, screenwriter of the film "St. Elmo's Fire" and a writer and producer of "Saved by the Bell."

"There is a lot of talent that has come from this region," Kurlander said. "The goal of the contest is attract, nurture and retain talent."

The project, Kurlander said, stands in some contrast to the city's success in recently attracting big-budget Hollywood productions like "Unstoppable," "The Next Three Days" and "Love and Other Drugs."

"Good tax incentives have a lot to do with those movies getting made here," he said. "The Film Factory competition is about giving a chance to aspiring filmmakers and putting Pittsburgh on the map."

For more information on this year's contest, visit www.steeltown.org .

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