The Steel City will play a starring role at Sunday’s Oscars show. Pittsburgh may not be viewed as the most […]POSTED ON: February 22, 2017
Why Pittsburgh could make Oscar history
The Steel City will play a starring role at Sunday’s Oscars show.
Pittsburgh may not be viewed as the most cinematic city in the world, but it is quickly becoming a popular filming location.
The most recent example is “Fences,” an adaption of the critically acclaimed play by Pittsburgh’s own August Wilson. The film, directed by Denzel Washington, is nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, is considered to be a favorite along with Casey Affleck of “Manchester by the Sea” for Best Actor honors.
If “Fences” takes the top honor, it will follow “Silence of the Lambs,” the 1991 thriller starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and “The Deer Hunter,” the 1978 war drama, as Best Picture winners filmed in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.
Pittsburgh’s rise as a player in the film industry will be the focus of a panel Wednesday at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation , Downtown. The noon discussion is partly sponsored by Point Park University and TribLIVE.com
The panel’s participants include:
• Dawn Keezer, longtime director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, responsible for bringing to the city dozens of high-profile productions such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Out of the Furnace” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” The Film Office on Sunday will host its annual Oscars event, “Lights! Glamour! Action!”
• Michael Killien and Kathy Dziebek, film industry veterans and founders of Animal Inc., the company behind the ABC comedy series “Downward Dog.”
Trib contributing writer Michael Machosky breaks down the latest TV series filming in Pittsburgh.
The Center for Media Innovation is located at the corner of Third and Wood streets, Downtown.
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The NBC Universal International Studios series “Gone,” executive produced by Western Pennsylvania native Kim […]POSTED ON: February 1, 2017
TV series ‘Gone’ to film in Pittsburgh this spring
The NBC Universal International Studios series “Gone,” executive produced by Western Pennsylvania native Kim Moses, is expected to begin production in Pittsburgh this spring.
A procedural drama based on Chelsea Cain’s novel “One Kick,” the first season of “Gone” will consist of 12 one-hour episodes that will begin airing in late 2017 or early 2018.
The series, an international co-production among NBCUniversal International Studios, Germany’s RTL and France’s TF1, does not yet have a domestic outlet to air on, which is standard for international productions at this stage in development.
Created by Matt Lopez (“Race to Witch Mountain”), “Gone” follows Kit “Kick” Lannigan (Leven Rambin, “True Detective,” “All My Children”), survivor of a child abduction case who teams up years later with FBI agent Frank Booth (Chris Noth, “The Good Wife”), her rescuer, to become part of a special task force that investigates abduction and missing persons cases.
Ms. Moses, who grew up in Donora, is joined in the “Gone” executive producer ranks by former “Dexter” executive producer Sara Colleton and Barry O’Brien (“The Following”).
An NBCUniversal International publicist would confirm only that “Gone” will shoot in the United States. However, the series already has hired a Pittsburgh production manager.
TV writer Rob Owen: [email protected] or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.
By Natalie Bencivenga / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette #RatedPGH: The Pittsburgh Film Office had a lot to celebrate on Friday night at […]POSTED ON: January 30, 2017
Pittsburgh Film Office hosts Patrons Party
#RatedPGH: The Pittsburgh Film Office had a lot to celebrate on Friday night at J. Verno Studios on the South Side, as the organization gears up for its annual Lights! Glamour! Action! Oscar party. This event is a “thank you” to the sponsors who make the party possible to help raise funds for the film office. “We have had such a fantastic year. The climate in Pittsburgh is amazing. Not only did we film three television series here, but it is the first time since 1990 that a film produced in Pittsburgh was nominated for best picture at the Oscars,” said Dawn Keezer, film office director. She was referring to the film, “Fences,” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and written by acclaimed playwright and Pittsburgh native August Wilson, who also was nominated posthumously for adapted screenplay. Other guests were also buzzing over this film, such as Jonathan Robinson, who said: “I loved this story and how it reminded me of the stories my great-grandparents would tell me. It was so honest, so real.” As partygoers moved through the space, they enjoyed drinks from Big Springs Spirits, all made in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh-based Blume Honey Water (my new favorite drink), treats from the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh, Social House Seven, and one of my favorites, Istanbul Sofra. (Once you try their desserts, you are hooked for life!) Why is it important to support the film office? “It’s just another way to support Pittsburgh,” said Ms. Keezer. “Bringing films to Pittsburgh generated a record-breaking $150 million spent in our region. We are on track to beat that again this year. It stimulates the local economy and contributes to the arts. It’s a win-win!”
#SEEN: Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (trying the vegan meatballs from Zenith Cafe, and he loved them) with wife Kathy, event co-chairs Pete and Lori Schoonmaker, Michael Ceoffe, Mike and Melia Tourangeau, Alan and Diane Perer, Toni Chiappini, Sophia Brooks, Philip Ferland, Gail Wrobleski, Matthew Sterne and Melissa McConnell, Simon Boden, Jeb Dunkelberger and Meredith Fitzpatrick, David Haddad, Emilio Cornacchione, Lucas Piatt, Adnan Pehlivan, Christian Simmons, Gina Vensel, and Navin Bhambhwani of Brilliant Nuevo Diamonds, who donated a pair of $11,000 diamond hoop earrings that were out of this world for the silent auction.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won Screen Actors Guild Awards as best actor and […]POSTED ON: January 29, 2017
Denzel Washington, Viola Davis win SAG Awards for roles in ‘Fences’
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won Screen Actors Guild Awards as best actor and best supporting actress in a motion picture for their starring roles in August Wilson’s “Fences,” about an African-American family in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1950s.
Ms. Davis’ win at the ceremony Sunday night at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium was expected — she already has a Golden Globe Award and is a favorite to take home an Oscar. But even Mr. Washington expected Casey Affleck’s name to be called for “Manchester by the Sea.”
Mr. Washington said he hadn’t prepared anything because he expected “that young fella” to take home the award voted on by his peers. Then he began his thanks with the same speech he shared with a screening for “Fences” cast and crew in Pittsburgh, placing the name of Pittsburgh native August Wilson among the America’s greatest playwrights.
The cast of “Hidden Figures” rocketed to the Screen Actors Guild top award at a fiery, protest-laden ceremony that was dominated by defiance over President Trump’s sweeping immigration ban.
An uplifting drama about African-American mathematicians who aided NASA’s 1960s space race, “Hidden Figures” was the surprise best-ensemble winner. With the Oscar front-runner “La La Land” not nominated in the category, most expected a contest between “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea.”
“This story is about unity,” said Taraji P. Henson, who stars alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae in “Hidden Figures.” “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time.”
The ceremony was peppered with speeches that argued passionately for inclusion. In a very well dressed version of the demonstrations sparked nationwide over the weekend, most award winners spoke in some way — either through personal anecdote or a call to arms — against Mr. Trump’s halting of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
The most blistering speech was by David Harbour, who led the cast of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” — another big surprise winner — on stage to accept best ensemble in a TV drama series. “We will hunt monsters,” Harbour vowed in lengthy remarks that drew a standing ovation.
The hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” won best ensemble in a comedy series for the third straight year.
A pair of veteran actors took other TV honors: John Lithgow for best actor in a drama series (“The Crown”) and Bryan Cranston for his Lyndon Johnson portrayal in the HBO movie “All the Way.” Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”) and Claire Foy (“The Crown”) also took home awards.
“La La Land” may have tied an Oscar record with 14 nominations, set a Golden Globes record with seven wins and won the top prize at Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards, but it wasn’t competing for the top Screen Actors Guild award. That means if Damien Chazelle’s musical is to go on to win best picture, it will be just the second film to do so without a SAG ensemble nod in the category’s history. Only Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” managed it in 1996.
Actors, the largest group in the motion picture academy, hold considerable sway. SAG, though, is much larger, with about 160,000 members, compared to about 1,200 actors in the academy.
Lily Tomlin was the lifetime achievement honoree Sunday.
Sharon Eberson: [email protected] or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_PG. The Associated Press contributed.
See video here! PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Film Office is brimming with pride after the Academy Awards nominations came […]POSTED ON: January 25, 2017
Officials Pushing For Additional State Film Tax Credits
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Film Office is brimming with pride after the Academy Awards nominations came out this morning.
One movie, which was shot right here in Pittsburgh, received four nominations. Based on that success, the Pittsburgh Film Office hopes more projects will be made here in the future.
“To have Denzel Washington come in, buy the cycle of plays from August Wilson, turn this into the movie ‘Fences’ — and now, to be recognized by the Academy with four nominations, it’s an incredible day,” Pittsburgh Film Office Director Dawn Keezer said.
Now, Keezer simply wishes there was more money to keep the momentum rolling.
“I get calls every day, and we have a major feature that wants to be here right now that I don’t think we are going to pull off because we are out of money,” Keezer said.
Additional film tax credits won’t be available until July. Keezer expects $65 million, but that is a far cry from the $450 million given in New York every year.
“We don’t expect to be New York. At $100 million, we can cover the television series, the episodic work that we have coming in, throw in a couple extra features and still have work throughout the state, not just in southwestern Pennsylvania,” she said.
While movies like “Fences” grab the headlines, landing multiple television series has always been Pittsburgh’s goal.
“They shoot for six to nine months at a time. They hire and promote from within their ranks of the crew and they promote from within the ranks of their crew that they have hired locally. So, they get to learn a different skill. They get to move up in their own departments. It’s a real win for everyone,” Keezer said.
For now, it’s the waiting game – for the Oscars and the future of Pennsylvania’s film tax credit.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The late Pittsburgh writer August Wilson and “Fences” have earned Oscar nominations for best […]POSTED ON: January 24, 2017
August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ earns 4 Oscar nominations, including best picture
The late Pittsburgh writer August Wilson and “Fences” have earned Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and best picture, an exclamation point on the 30-year journey to bring the Pulitzer Prize-winning play to the big screen.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis also will carry the torch for “Fences” at the 89th annual Academy Awards, with their acting nominations.
Two-time Oscar-winner Mr. Washington, who also directed the Pittsburgh-shot film, is nominated for best actor for his portrayal of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League ballplayer and trash collector in the Hill District. Viola Davis, as his steadfast wife Rose, follows her Golden Globe win for best supporting actress with a nomination in the same category. It is her third nomination and the seventh for Mr. Washington.
“Fences” is the story of the African-American experience in the 1950s, seen through the prism of a Hill District family. It was one of nine films nominated for best picture, with “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea” and the Hollywood throwback musical “La La Land,” which tied “Titanic” with a record 14 Oscar nominations, including stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
“Arrival,” about an alien invasion of Earth, and the urban drama “Moonlight,” earned eight nominations each. Meryl Streep, who has 20 nominations — more than any other actor — was nominated as best actress for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” about the socialite and historically bad singer in World War II-era New York.
Mr. Wilson wrote 10 plays -— nine set in Pittsburgh — known as the American Century Cycle, and won both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer for “Fences” in 1985. The 2010 Broadway revival also earned Tonys for the play and stars Mr. Washington and Ms. Davis. The playwright wrote several screenplays for “Fences,” but the project languished in a dispute over Mr. Wilson’s insistence on a black director.
The “Fences” nomination would seem to clinch a deal for Mr. Washington to produce the other nine plays by Mr. Wilson for HBO.
In a Q&A in the Paramount Pictures press kit, Mr. Washington was asked what motivated him to make a movie of “Fences.”
“It came from the material. And it came from August. I was just trying to serve August the best I could,” he said. “I felt a responsibility to not screw it up. When in doubt, go to the source, you know? If there are 25,000 words in the screenplay, 24,900 of them are August Wilson’s. I may have added a line or an ad-lib here or there, but it’s August’s words.”
The honors for films such as “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight,” featuring mostly black actors in stories about the African-American experience, are a contrast to last year’s controversy over #OscarsSoWhite, when there were no actors of color among the nominees.
Academy Award nominations were announced this morning in a new format, featuring previously produced videos available on digital platforms and in feeds to TV morning shows.
Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, when it airs live on ABC.
OSCAR NOMINATION HIGHLIGHTS:
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Best supporting actor
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Best supporting actress
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea.”
Best animated feature
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
‘‘My Life as a Zucchini”
‘‘The Red Turtle”
“La La Land”
“Lion,” by Luke Davis
“Arrival,” by Eric Heisserer
“Moonlight,” by Barry Jenkins
“Hidden Figures,” by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder
“Fences,” by August Wilson
“Manchester by the Sea,” by Kenneth Lonergan,
“Hell or High Water,” by Taylor Sheridan
“La La Land,” by Damien Chazelle
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
“The Lobster,” by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos
Check here for a complete list of Oscar nominations.
Sharon Eberson: [email protected] or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
MICHAEL MACHOSKY | Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, 9:00 p.m. Not too long ago, getting a single movie made in Pittsburgh was […]POSTED ON: January 23, 2017
Western Pa. film industry thrives with 3 TV series
MICHAEL MACHOSKY | Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Not too long ago, getting a single movie made in Pittsburgh was a fairly big deal.
With that milestone met, others came in steady succession: multiple movies in a year, multiple movies at the same time, a star-heavy, big-budget blockbuster like “The Dark Knight Rises,” an Oscar contender like “Fences.”
However, if you ask Dawn Keezer, longtime director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, there’s been one goal above them all.
The “holy grail” is an episodic TV series.
Now, Pittsburgh has three of them: ABC’s “Downward Dog,” Netflix’s David Fincher project “Mindhunter,” and Millvale- and Monroeville-shot “Outsiders,” which is premiering its second season Jan. 24 on WGN America.
“It’s exciting, and it’s what we said would happen if we had sustainable film tax credits,” Keezer says. “Of course, Netflix doesn’t consider itself television.
“(Series television) provides longer employment and more opportunities for internal workforce development. They train from within … which allows people to progress in their careers.”
If shows do well enough, they come back to shoot another season. And another.
“Outsiders,” which focuses on an off-the-grid clan in Kentucky, looks set to be that breakout show that sticks around for awhile. Even though WGN America isn’t really established yet as a home for original scripted shows, people have been finding “Outsiders.”
“It’s doing great,” Keezer says. “It’s the No. 1 show on WGN.”
Nickelodeon’s kid-friendly “Supah Ninjas” with George Takei, was made in Pittsburgh and lasted two seasons, 2011-13. An eight-episode mini-series “The Kill Point” also was shot in Pittsburgh, and aired in 2007.
Numerous TV pilots have been shot here, including “Justified,” which ended up going for five critically acclaimed seasons.
Only the first episode was shot here.
“Mindhunter” is a crime/detective story from David Fincher, who has made some of the best of the past few decades: “Seven,” “Zodiac” and “Gone Girl.” It’s based on the book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” and stars Jonathan Groff (“Glee”) and Anna Torv (“Fringe”).
“Downward Dog,” about a dog that speaks directly to the camera about modern relationships, is intended as a summer replacement for ABC. It stars Allison Tolman (“Fargo”).
“ ‘Downward Dog’ is pretty special,” Keezer says. “It was created by Animal Inc. in Downtown Pittsburgh. It was produced by Jimmy Miller, who is from Pittsburgh. The production is Legendary Entertainment, which is Thomas Tull (the billionaire part-time Pittsburgher and part-owner of the Steelers). It was kind of this love story to Pittsburgh.”
Movies tend to give you a fixed amount of time to scout, select and prep locations, says location manager John Adkins, who has worked on both, including “Outsiders.”
“In a TV series, because you have this rotating cast of directors — and scripts come in as the series is shooting — we’re constantly scouting, selecting and prepping throughout the season,” he says. “It’s more of a hamster-wheel scenario.”
As more movies and television shows are shot in Pittsburgh, more people are drawn to the trade. Chip Eccles, business representative for the film technicians and allied crafts union, IATSE Local No. 489, says they added 70 members in 2015, and 67 in 2016. He notes that 157 people from his union worked on “Downward Dog,” 252 worked on “Outsiders” and 362 worked on “Mindhunter.”
This does not include the unions for camera, hair and makeup, production office, the Screen Actors Guild, the Director’s Guild and Teamsters, to name a few of the unions that typically work on film sets.
“It also does not include all the production assistants, and all the other non-union people,” Eccles says.
Pennsylvania’s film tax credit incentive is the key to making it all work, which Keezer never misses a chance to point out.
“The film tax program has been in effect for 10 years,” she says. “We have interest in more (productions), but we don’t have enough tax credits to support them. ‘Manifesto,’ a Lionsgate production, went to Georgia because we didn’t have enough (tax credits). Those are jobs we’re just giving to another state. We have a $60 million (capped) tax credit — once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we lose other work.”
When all things are equal (enough), Pittsburgh tends to win out on its own merits, Keezer says.
“We’re very fortunate to have the skills and experience levels,” she says. “They’re the best workers in the country. We’re known in the industry for having an amazing crew in our region.”
For Pittsburgh residents, who find their street is blocked for a scene, it’s still enough of a novelty that there’s little backlash.
“Ninety-five percent are very excited,” Adkins says. “One or two don’t like to have their lifestyle disrupted in any way. And we are a disruption. Anybody who’s got an issue, we try to address in person. We’re very proud of our city, so showcasing it in movies and TV shows is something that many people in this city support.
“There’s still this sense around the country that we’re this smoky city of the ’70s. When people come in from New York, they’re surprised at the beauty of the city, and how nice people are.”
Michael Machosky is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fences” went one for two at the Golden Globes Sunday, with Viola Davis taking […]POSTED ON: January 9, 2017
Viola Davis wins a Golden Globe for ‘Fences’
“Fences” went one for two at the Golden Globes Sunday, with Viola Davis taking home the best supporting actress award for her part in the August Wilson film.
Denzel Washington, who directed “Fences,” lost in the lead actor category to Casey Affleck, star of the tearjerker “Manchester by the Sea.”
“La La Land,” the winner of seven Golden Globes, took home the award for best picture, musical or comedy, best director, best actor, best actress, as well as best screenplay, best original score and best song for “City of Stars.” “Moonlight” took home best picture in the drama category. The top TV picks were the FX comedy “Atlanta” and the Netflix drama “The Crown.”
In “Fences,” Ms. Davis portrays Rose, wife of Mr. Washington’s Troy Maxson, a bitter former Negro League player who never got his shot at the Major Leagues. The late playwright Wilson adapted his Hill District-set play for the screen, and Paramount Pictures filmed the movie in Pittsburgh in spring 2016.
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Davis said the original Troy — referring to Troy Maxson, her screen husband and Mr. Washington’s character in “Fences” — was her father, who was born in 1936 and was a horse groomer with a fifth-grade education.
“But he had a story that deserved to be told,” she said, “and August Wilson told it.”
Both Ms. Davis and Mr. Washington won Tony Awards for the same roles in the Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 2010.
Ms. Davis previously had been nominated by the Globes voters of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association four times (twice for “How to Get Away with Murder” on ABC and the movies “The Help” and “Doubt”) before her victory Sunday. As the virtuous Rose, Ms. Davis shares significant screen time with Mr. Washington. But producers of “Fences” submitted her performance in the supporting actress category, presuming that she had a better chance there during awards season. Still, it was a tough category, with competition from Naomie Harris of “Moonlight,” Nicole Kidman of “Lion,” Octavia Spencer of “Hidden Figures” and Michelle Williams of “Manchester By the Sea.”
Two-time Oscar winner Mr. Washington already has two Golden Globes for his acting — as best actor in “The Hurricane” and supporting actor in “Glory.” Last year, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to entertainment by the international journalists who comprise the HFPA. This year, Meryl Streep won the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.
WASHINGTON – The production of Paramount Pictures’ Fences led to a major boost to Pennsylvania’s local economy, according to new […]POSTED ON: January 5, 2017
Production of Paramount Pictures’ “Fences” generated over $9.4 million for Pennsylvania’s economy
WASHINGTON – The production of Paramount Pictures’ Fences led to a major boost to Pennsylvania’s local economy, according to new figures from the studio. The film generated more than $9.4 million in local economic activity – hiring over 900 local workers, who took home more than $5.6 million in wages.
The film spent 146 days on location, including 54 days of shooting, primarily in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, with a significant portion of the production’s spending going toward a wide array of in-state businesses and industries, including:
- Over $5.6 million spent on hiring over 900 Pennsylvanians for the production (including extras, security, local production office personnel, and more).
- Over $900,000 on local rentals and purchases for set decoration, production, and other supplies.
- Nearly $700,000 on transportation, including truck and car rentals.
- Over $380,000 on local catering and other food items for the cast and crew.
- Over $360,000 on lodging.
- Over $100,000 on hardware and lumber supplies.
“Pennsylvania’s commitment to maintaining a competitive production environment continues to benefit their local businesses, individuals, and families,” said MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd. “Paramount’s film Fences not only highlights local spots in Pittsburgh on the big screen, it has brought significant economic gain to the area – thanks, in part, to the play’s original writer and Pittsburgh native, August Wilson. I am proud to see Pennsylvania leaders and Paramount join forces to boost the economy, support jobs, and create this moving film for audiences everywhere.”
Michael Matesic, the President of IATSE Local 489, which represents over 400 members, commended the production, saying, “Pennsylvania’s successful Film Tax Credit program has had a tremendous impact on our membership. The past two years, we have added around 70 new members annually. We have grown our ranks by over 350 percent in the past 10 years. The continued growth in our industry has allowed our members to support their families and buy homes. We added an average of thirty new members to our growing ranks each year since its inception in 2007, which created a steady and stable income over the past nine years. Highly successful program for our members, 98% Pennsylvania residents.”
Directed by, and starring Denzel Washington, Fences follows the story of a former baseball star now working as a garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh. The former star creates tension in his family when he squashes his son’s dream of playing college football.
About the MPAA
The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) serves as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries from its offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Its members include: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Universal City Studios LLC; and Warner Bros. Entertainment
For more information, contact:
MPAA Washington, D.C.
MICHAEL MACHOSKY One of the producers of “Fences,” Todd Black, has worked closely with Denzel Washington for 20 years and […]POSTED ON: December 21, 2016
‘Fences’ project highlights writer, Pittsburgh sites
One of the producers of “Fences,” Todd Black, has worked closely with Denzel Washington for 20 years and has known the actor for 27.
They’ve had some hits, like “The Equalizer” and some good movies, like “Antoine Fisher,” but “Fences,” written by Pittsburgh native August Wilson, represents something else entirely.
“The main difference is that you don’t get to do Shakespeare much,” Black says. “We call August, ‘American Shakespeare.’ His words, dialogue and characters are so beautifully painted — as a producer, director, actor, crew-people, everybody was so excited to work on a script that was so rich and authentic to a time, and yet so universal.”
The actual filming in Pittsburgh earlier this year didn’t take long, but the project has been a long time coming.
“Paramount acquired the play more than 20 years ago from August Wilson,” Black says. “They were going to adapt it as a screenplay and get Eddie Murphy to star in it.”
“It kind of stayed dormant. Scott Rudin (producer of ‘No Country for Old Men’) developed the screenplay with August Wilson many, many years later. Then about seven years ago, Scott gave Denzel a call and decided to show him the screenplay. He said, ‘You know what? I want to do the play on Broadway.’ ”
Then, while Denzel and Black were working on “The Magnificent Seven,” it came up again.
“Denzel said, ‘I think I’m ready to make the movie version of it,’ ” Black says.
“Denzel wanted to shoot it exactly where August wrote it for, the Hill District,” Black says. “We hired a lot of Pittsburgh locals. We scouted the neighborhood and found a fantastic house, and took over that street. The neighbors were amazing people.
It’s not often you can shoot a film in the neighborhood where it was set.
“They wanted it to be real,” says Kent Jackson, the location manager for “Fences.” “There’s a chance this project could have ended up in another city. It ended up here, so I think the filmmakers wanted it to be as close to the source material as it could be, and what better place than the Hill?”
However, August Wilson’s Hill District of 1957 was a lot different than it is today.
“It can’t be what it would have been, with all the businesses and buildings,” Jackson says. “We have a hockey arena (there now). There are parts that don’t exist anymore. I think there are bits and pieces that you can put together. There are parts that are kind of stand-in for portions of the Hill that we can’t get back to anymore. We were able to find portions of the neighborhood that worked for us.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh,” Jackson says. “August Wilson is buried in the cemetery in O’Hara, behind where my parents live. Anytime you can do something in Pittsburgh that highlights or champions Pittsburgh, we always enjoy doing it. There are so many films that want us to be other places — Boston, New York, Chicago. Any time we can be ourselves is great.”
Working with Washington is, unsurprisingly, always something Black looks forward to.
“I still learn from him every day,” Black says. “He can zero in on moments, the big picture, how to do things. His brain is so passionate and compassionate. He’s an amazing teacher without even trying to be.”
They had a pretty great time in Pittsburgh, constant rain aside.
“If your weather was better, I’d consider moving there,” Black says.
“Really good restaurants. … I was struck by how wonderful the people of Pittsburgh are. The neighbors would bring us coffee and bake sweet potato pies for us. They just wanted to take care of us. The only noise problem we had was a bird. When we yelled ‘Action!’ everyone was quiet in the houses.”
Washington’s last movie shot in the Pittsburgh area, “Unstoppable” (2010), was literally about a runaway train. This was a very different type of movie to make — intimate and dialogue-driven, rather than packed with action and special effects.
Washington is working on producing nine August Wilson plays for HBO. The plan is only for him to produce, not act or direct, so far. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is the first one planned.