by Ryan O’Shea, former president of Pitt in Hollywood
Pitt in Hollywood is a student organization at the University of Pittsburgh that works to bring film industry talent to the school, enabling Pitt students to network with them. While we primarily cater to students who are pursuing a career in the film industry, we often get members who join simply to learn about the making of their favorite TV shows and movies, or to meet the celebrity-caliber talent we often bring in. PiH is a great opportunity to make connections, especially considering our close relationship with the Steeltown Entertainment Project and their co-founder, screenwriter and producer Carl Kurlander, who also serves as the Pitt in Hollywood Faculty Advisor. Our members are often able to work alongside the Steeltown professionals on various events, including the annual Steeltown Film Factory.
Some noteworthy events that we’ve recently planned, and my personal favorites organized as president, are:
“The Making of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” — David Newell (Mr. McFeely), Hedda Sharapan (Associate Producer), Bill Isler (Fred Rogers Company CEO), Joanne Rogers (wife of Fred Rogers), and Margy Whitmer (Producer) came to Pitt to discuss the making of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and how something that started locally in Oakland eventually became a cultural icon.
Terriers event with Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James —The stars of the FX Series Terriers, Logue (Grounded For Life) and Raymond-James (True Blood) came to the Cathedral of Learning for an advance screening of their show to answer questions about how they broke into the industry, and to take pictures with fans. (A friend of mine who personally knows Michael Raymond-James recently asked him about this event, and he still says that the Pitt in Hollywood event was his favorite stop on their Terriers tour.)
People are often confused about membership in Pitt in Hollywood and, as we have no active roster or membership forms/dues, anyone is considered a member if they show up to events or volunteer to help. We have this loose definition for a reason—the University has certain restrictions on organization membership and events and because we often open our events up to surrounding schools and the public, we’d rather not strictly define the requirements of membership. After all, with the diversity of talent we bring in and the types of events we offer, it would be impossible to expect the same group to gather at each event.
As for me, Pitt in Hollywood was and still is a great tool in helping me jumpstart my career. PiH is an excuse to make connections. These industry professionals are nearly impossible to reach in Los Angeles or wherever they are based. Your chances of getting a face-to-face meeting, or even an email exchange, are slim to none. However, when they come to a Pitt in Hollywood event, they are coming because they are already invested in the success of Pitt students and are looking to offer their advice, expertise, and maybe even opportunities to the students that show up and are willing to put in the effort.
So many of my friends and connections have been made directly from the efforts of this organization, and it is certainly something worth taking advantage of. I just graduated from Pitt in the fall and have credits on films, including The Dark Knight Rises, Jack Reacher, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and a recent transition to TV including, Associate Producer work with MTV’s The Buried Life and local work with Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas. While I can’t say for sure if any of these opportunities were the direct result of Pitt in Hollywood events, I can say that the things that I’ve learned from Pitt in Hollywood continue to help me every day on set and beyond. It definitely helped me get to where I am.
The best way to find out about Pitt in Hollywood events would be to join our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/pittinhollywood/
Check out this Q&A with Ryan to learn more about how Pitt in Hollywood helped launch his career.