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Pittsburgh smiles for camera

August 08, 2007|Ramesh Santanam | Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it's this former steel town's blue-collar tradition. Or its down-to-earth reputation. Or its many connections to the entertainment industry.

Whatever the reason, Pittsburgh has become a popular setting for TV shows.

Spike TV's bank heist miniseries "The Kill Point" is set here and was shot here too. The TNT medical drama "Heartland" and Fox's planned fall TV news sitcom "Back to You," starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, also take place in Pittsburgh (though it's filmed elsewhere).

The Pittsburgh Film Office, which tries to lure movie productions to the region, would prefer all movies and TV shows with Pittsburgh as their backdrop to be filmed in the city.

But film office director Dawn Keezer thinks that anything that showcases the city helps it shed the outdated, gritty, smoke-filled steel-town image many still have of it.

"We still get people wanting to go to the steel mills, asking where they can get the best view of the smokestacks," Keezer said.

Pittsburgh is accustomed to being slighted in movies and real life -- from the memorable line "If they knew what they liked, they wouldn't live in Pittsburgh," in the 1941 film, "Sullivan's Travels," to actress Sienna Miller's use of an expletive to refer to the city last year.

"The name of the city often brings up connotations of a downtrodden place that is kind of sad," said Steven Levitan, one of the creators of "Back to You," which is shot on the Fox lot in Los Angeles.

"But when you talk to people who live there, they will defend it. Those who have chosen to live there have done so for the right reason -- because it's a really nice place to live."

Carl Kurlander, a writer and TV producer who penned the 1985 film "St. Elmo's Fire," has a similar perspective on the city where he grew up. There is, he said, "an everyman philosophy," an attractive character attribute, that many Pittsburgh-born actors, including Gene Kelly, Michael Keaton and Jeff Goldblum, have possessed.

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