Steeltown Film Factory: And the Winner Is……

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Pittsburgh’s top talent competes for inaugural Ellen Weiss Kander Award to be decided by another panel of All-Star Hollywood professionals in Film Factory Finale.

Pittsburgh, PA (April) — On Saturday, May 12, 2012, the Steeltown Film Factory competition will come to an exciting conclusion as the winner(s) of the 2012 Film Factory Competition will be selected and awarded up to $30,000 to produce their own short film in Pittsburgh. This special event will take place at 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:30 a.m.) at Carnegie Mellon University’s Rauh Theater and will also feature the announcement of the inaugural Ellen Weiss Kander Award. The Award honors Steeltown co-founder and founding executive director Ellen Weiss Kander, who worked tirelessly towards the unlikely dream of making Pittsburgh a player in the entertainment industry.  This dream has in many ways come to fruition and the Steeltown Film Factory is continuing to be an important connecter between Pittsburgh and Hollywood.

The Ellen Weiss Kander Award will be presented by CMU grad and award-winning comedienne, writer/producer and Steeltown co-founder Maxine Lapiduss (Roseanne, Ellen). Panelists for this Film Factory “And The Winner Is…” event will include Ghost Whisperer co-star David Conrad who just filmed the Beautiful People pilot for NBC (in which he plays a Steve Jobs type character), Emmy winning producer Bob Kusbit (MTV’s Made),  Sesame Street director Jim Martin, and Steeltown’s first intern turned film producer, Tom Pellegrini, whose film Jiro Dreams of Sushi is now playing at The Manor.

On May 12th, Pittsburgh’s emerging talent will be showcased by the world class CMU Drama School students as they read the final three short scripts in this year’s competition.  Audience members will watch and be inspired as our Hollywood hopefuls meet face to face with another all-star panel of industry professionals. Tickets are available at They are $15 general admission, $5 students.  As the Film Factory panels have become highly anticipated events and previous workshops have sold out, it is advised that anyone interested in attending purchase their tickets ASAP.

This year’s Film Factory final scripts include: Echo Torch, by Chris Preksta, creator of the SyFy web series The Mercury Men and YouTube sensation Pittsburgh Dad; Perils of Growing Up Flat Chested by CMU senior Yulin Kuang, who was a finalist in the 2011 Film Factory competition and whose entry First Kiss is premiering Sunday at CMU; and Escape from St. Quentin’s by the writing duo Scott Peters and Anthony Poremski.

Though this is the third year of the Steeltown Film Factory, it was originally conceived in the living room of Ellen Weiss Kander in 2003 after the “Steeltown Entertainment Summit” which Ellen, a former Wall Street Attorney, organized to help highlight Pittsburgh’s potential as a player in the entertainment industry.  This unique filmmaking competition was devised as a way for Pittsburgh expatriates to give back and mentor a new generation of talent in their hometown.   For the Steeltown Summit, Kander also produced a short film, Pittsburgh: Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret featuring Chicago director Rob Marshall, Oscar-winner Shirley Jones, Jim Carrey and Ellen DeGeneres manager Eric Gold, Two and a Half Men director Jamies Widdoes, and many others Pittsburgh expatriates talking about Pittsburgh’s potential to become a player in the entertainment industry.  Thanks to the efforts of Ellen and many others, it is obvious that that “secret” is out, as films and television increasingly are produced in the region and Pittsburgh is being increasingly called “Hollywood of the East.”

The first funds for the Steeltown Film Factory were raised by Ellen Kander Weiss in 2005 at the sold out Pittsburgh Premiere of George Romero’s Land of the Dead, produced by longtime Steeltown adviser Bernie Goldmann who had met George Romero at the Steeltown Summit.   At that event, Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero met Ellen who, with then Steeltown Board Chair Anne Lewis, helped raise $900,000 to bring the R.L. Stine Don’t Think About It movie here to Pittsburgh before the current Film Tax Credits, and which has established an innovative model for a regional entertainment investment fund Steeltown is currently developing.

“The Ellen Weiss Kander Award is being given to honor Ellen who has believed from the beginning that Pittsburgh could become a leader in the digital age as it once was in the industrial age, and that it was important that Pittsburgh embrace the talent that it has long nurtured and make it possible for people, particularly young people, to achieve their dreams right here in Pittsburgh”, states St. Elmo’s Fire screenwriter turned Pitt professor Carl Kurlander who co-founded Steeltown with Maxine and Ellen and now serves as Steeltown’s Executive Producer. “I believe Pittsburgh would not be as big a player as it is becoming in the industry were it not for the many selfless hours and tireless dedication Ellen put into Steeltown for years which has truly made a difference in this community.  We hope this award and The Film Factory will be something for emerging talent here to aspire to and know it will open doors for many, that normally would only happen if one moved to New York or L.A.”

About Steeltown Entertainment Project
“Entertainment Could Be Pittsburgh’s New Steel”
-Ellen Weiss Kander, Co-Founder, Steeltown Entertainment Project

The Steeltown Entertainment Project is a non-profit that was co-founded in 2003 by Wall Street attorney Ellen Weiss Kander, Roseanne and Ellen writer/producer Maxine Lapiduss, and St. Elmo’s Fire screenwriter and Saved By the Bell writer/producer Carl Kurlander with the mission to build a vibrant and sustainable entertainment industry in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Steeltown’s program and activities continue to strategically help build a creative ecosystem in Southwestern PA to help the region become a leader of the digital age as it once was of the industrial age. It does this through INFORMING people about the industry through programs like “Take A Shot At Changing The World” a digital media initiative which gives over $10,000 in prizes to middle school and high school students “who make a movie and make a difference”; IDENTIFYING talent and projects by connecting emerging talent in the region to industry professionals through the Film Factory; INCUBATING promising commercial projects through the Pittsburgh Innovative Media Incubator with WQED; and INVESTING in co—productions with Hollywood building on its successful model it did with the Steeltown/Hatchery R.L. Stine: Don’t Think About It film which not only shot here, but now has residuals being used to set up a regional investment fund. The ultimate aim is to IGNITE the entertainment Industry in Pittsburgh and beyond. Visit

Carl Kurlander, Executive Producer
Steeltown Film Factory

By: Lucy Leitner

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