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Batman has just left the building

The Dark Knight Rises finishes filming in Pittsburgh

By Zach Brendza
On August 25, 2011

  • B.J. Monteiro slams down a second-half dunk against UMass. Monteiro scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half. Em Gorham / The Duquesne Duke
  • B.J. Monteiro slams down a second-half dunk against UMass. Monteiro scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half. Em Gorham / The Duquesne Duke

The Bat Signal has finally been turned off in the city of Pittsburgh. The Dark Knight Rises, which has been filming in multiple Pittsburgh neighborhoods since July 29, completed filming Sunday and is moving on to its next location. The cast and crew of the Caped Crusader franchise, however, have left a mark on the city that will not be forgotten soon.

Shooting for the film began in Lawrenceville, then moved to Oakland — filming near and on Carnegie Mellon's and Pitt's campuses — and ended in the city's epicenter, shooting Downtown, in the Strip District and on the South Side. It is not a stretch to say that, over the past month, the Dark Knight had a strong presence in the city — in more ways than one.


More than half of Port Authority's bus routes were detoured or otherwise affected by the filming in the past month, said Heather Pharo, spokeswoman for Port Authority. But detours were limited to buses, Pharo said, and the T was "not really affected." When the filming ended Sunday, so did the detours.

Pharo said there was "certainly planning ahead of time," but some changes had to be made based on changes in the filming schedule.

Port Authority had been in contact with the Dark Knight production  crew "many, many months" before shooting in Pittsburgh, Pharo said. The film shot scenes in some unused tunnels, in the Wabash tunnel and on a busway.

"I don't want to speak for them, but I would say it was a positive experience," Pharo said, adding that the film crew was very accommodating.

Pharo compared the Batman filming to the G-20, a three-day summit of international leaders that Pittsburgh hosted in 2009.

"G-20 [was] great practice for something like this," Pharo said. "We've been through the G-20. We've been through this before."

Pharo felt that the opportunities the film created for Pittsburgh warranted all the detours.

"To get to see Pittsburgh in such a high profile movie is a great thing," she said.

In the books

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, referred to The Dark Knight Rises as "the most high profile" film set Pittsburgh has ever seen. It is the 103rd film to shoot in Pittsburgh since 1990.

Keezer cited the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit Incentive as a main reason why major motion pictures like to film in Pittsburgh.

The Tax Credit Incentive offers 25 percent tax credits to eligible films and TV shows that spend at least 60 percent of their total production budget in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Film Office's website.

According to Keezer, filming crews have spent $100 million in the last three years in Pittsburgh alone, and more than $555 million since 1990.

"As long as it [the tax credit] continues, we will continue to see work," Keezer said.

The Dark Knight Rises, however, did not apply for the Tax Credit program, and would not qualify. But Keezer said the film still provided employment opportunities for Pittsburghers.

A professor's perspective

Chris Sepesy, a film professor at Point Park University, saw his own sort of bat signal when the dark knight came to Pittsburgh. The crew asked him to help them find production assistants, as he had retained a network from working as a junior aid to the then Director of the Motion Picture Association of America Jack Valeti in the early ‘90s.

Sepesy said the experience they gained on the set of The Dark Knight Rises was "invaluable."

"An experience like that is going to be worth its weight in gold," he said. "They can now put on their resumé that they worked on a Christopher Nolan Batman film."

Sepesy said the filming also allowed people in the Pittsburgh region to see a lot of the "real business of movie making, how everything has to be planned and run like clockwork."

"This was a tremendous set to watch, because it did run very well," Sepesy said.

Architecture and the workforce

Although the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit Incentive is a strong persuader for bringing movies to Pittsburgh, Sepesy also gave two other reasons for the surge in films shot in Pittsburgh.

The first reason he gave was the architecture Pittsburgh has to offer.

"The film companies love the architecture because Pittsburgh has such unique architecture it can double for anywhere where they want," Sepesy said. " [There is] So much diversity in the architecture, we really have the authentic old stuff, and the real new stuff."

Other than the Downtown setting, Sepesy also the  noted the variety of areas in Pittsburgh to shoot such as Mellon Institute in Oakland, Frick Arts Center,  Homewood Cemetary, the Mexican war streets, as well as Shadyside.

The second reason he gave was the business atmosphere of the city. Sepesy said that film companies love the workforce, our local labor unions, and local professional film companies, that are "extraordinarily professional, courteous, and can get the job done."

 "The word of mouth about Pittsburgh in the industry is remarkable."

Sepesy again commended the hard workers in Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Film Office.

"Give all the credit to the local workforce, and the Pittsburgh Film Office. They are keeping the companies coming back," Sepesy said.


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