Image courtesy of Cathy Rescher.

For several years, Cathy Rescher attended the Austin Film Festival to meet fellow movie lovers and rub elbows with industry professionals. When a lack of funds caused her to miss the festival one year, it inspired her to create the 3 Rivers Screenwriters Conference (3RSC), a three-day event for established and aspiring filmmakers in the Pittsburgh area.

“There’s a huge indie filmmaking community here, and with the colleges and universities I feel there’s an audience that would eat something like this up,” says Rescher, who serves as the founder and artistic director of the local design collaborative Mob Communications.

The educational conference—the first of its kind to take place in Pittsburgh—will convene from Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Rescher mostly funded the event along with support from the nonprofit New Sun Rising, as well as other local organizations, schools and businesses.

Cathy Rescher (right) and friend with director Cary Fukunaga (center) at the Austin Film Festival.

Using Austin as a model, Rescher organized what she calls a “general educational bootcamp” where attendees can participate in seminars and discussions with top film and TV writers, directors, producers and educators. Over 30 speakers—among them X-Men: First Class screenwriter Ashley Edward Miller and Emmy-nominated SyFy Channel producer Laura Harkcom—will cover a wide range of topics, from adapting novels and plays to directing on a shoestring budget. The eclectic guest lineup will also feature representatives from the local film community.

Other activities planned around the conference include special screenings and Q&A sessions at the Hollywood Theater and Row House Cinema, and a Cinematic Soirée at the Peirce Studio in the Trust Arts Education Center. Also featured is a pitch competition where writers will compete for the chance to have their screenplay seen by Christopher Lockhart, a top story editor at the WME Entertainment talent agency.

“The fact that [Lockhart] is not only willing to read over the script, but also offer one-on-one counsel and advice is pretty impressive,” says Rescher, who credits his work with stars such as Rachel McAdams and Liam Neeson.

Rescher believes 3RSC could help advance Pittsburgh’s growing reputation as a filmmaking hub and strengthen the city’s existing independent film community as a networking opportunity. While the event covers all aspects of filmmaking— including specialized subjects such as shooting with an iPhone—the main focus will always remain on writing.

“To all writers, novelists and screenwriters, come learn about story structure, come learn about dialogue, learn about writing for suspense or horror—just all these different aspects that are involved,” says Rescher.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.