Teen Producers on location for the Amachi video.

Where can kids learn about movie producing outside of Hollywood?

Right here in Pittsburgh, of course. Before Tinseltown grew up, the Burgh had its own movie-making facilities; now it has Teen Producers, a program of the Steeltown Entertainment Project.

Teens from Pittsburgh Westinghouse, Allderdice and CAPA high schools are learning basic film production and getting connected to film projects on location in Pittsburgh. They’re getting a boost toward potential television and film careers by learning to produce and edit promotional and documentary videos, thanks to training from local professionals.

This summer, the kids completed a video highlighting the good works of the local nonprofit Amachi, which mentors children who have an incarcerated parent. Teen Producer groups, which continue this fall, will be working with six nonprofits in all, including Arts for Autism.

They have also interviewed Peter Salk about the career and impact of his father, Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine at Pitt. They’re completing a video about the farm where the elder Salk raised the animals on which he tried out his vaccine, which is about to be declared an historical site by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and Pine Township, where it is located.

“We’re looking to work with more nonprofit organizations to provide them with PSAs or other promotional videos,” says Amber Farr, who oversees the program at Steeltown.

The kids learn the basics of video creation, from pre- to post-production, including how to formulate ideas and storyboard them, plus working the cameras, lights, audio and editing equipment. Along the way, they acquire such life skills as collaboration, perseverance, creative thinking and accountability.

“We’re looking to create a pathway,” Farr says, for kids to join the crews of films working here. “We want to grow them and follow them and hopefully lead them to jobs.”

Marty Levine

Marty Levine's journalism has appeared in Time, Salon.com and throughout Pennsylvania and has won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, The Press...