Hi everyone!! My name is Aditi Sridhar (she/her), and I am an undergraduate student studying Film Production & Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh! I am grateful to be part of the Pitt Honors College’s 2021 Community Research Fellowship cohort for the summer, and I’m extremely enthusiastic to both learn from my peers and become more engaged within the Greater Pittsburgh community.
I was born and raised in a small town called Johnstown, Pennsylvania, about 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. Pitt is perfect for me because it’s not too close to home, but just far enough, and I’ve loved meeting people through various clubs, activities, and classes. I’m involved in the Student Government Board’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, serve as the Executive Director of Taaza, a Bollywood-Fusion and Raas Dance competition, marketing director of Pitt in Hollywood, and I am also a Dietrich Ambassador! In my free time, I love eating Flaming Hot Cheetos & Thai food, staying up until 4 in the morning (the insomnia is real ), either working on projects or procrastinating, and watching nostalgic and cringey home videos.
As a film student eager to enter the film and television industry, I’ve continually noted a lack of accurate diverse representation both onscreen and behind the camera. I believe one of the most crucial aspects of examining any diverse representation of art is by looking at prior figures in film, television, theatre, and other aspects of the performing arts who have laid the foundation and groundwork for accurate, inclusive, and just representation in media, rather than stereotypical or “token” portrayals.
Additionally, I believe that Pittsburgh has both a rich film history, from independent horror filmmaker George A. Romero impacting award-winning filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino to this day, to blockbuster films like The Perks of Being A Wallflower and The Dark Knight Rises shooting in Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods. Like Atlanta, Georgia, Pittsburgh has the potential to develop a strong film community, and empowering the hard-working, blue-collar artists and visionaries in the city is just one way to foster this talent. Through working with Pitt in Hollywood, I am eager to grow the connection between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, fostering connections between industry professionals and Pittsburgh students and residents to ensure that our local talent has a voice in such a large industry.
This summer, I will be conducting research and interviews to explore more about August Wilson, often referred to as the “theater’s poet of Black America.” August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh, specifically in the Hill District, which inspired many of his plays, known as The Pittsburgh Cycle. My research entails exploring his relationship with the Hill District and Pittsburgh roots by interviewing local community members, people who watched him grow up and interacted with him, as well as documenting the restoration of the August Wilson House, now a landmark to extend August’s heritage and nurture the Hill District’s artists and scholars influenced by his work. This research will uncover August Wilson’s impact on his community using the medium of film, as a documentary will be produced in the fall. I will be a Teaching Assistant for the class “August Wilson & Pittsburgh” which will entail putting the documentary together, from aspects of pre-production, production, editing, and ensuring that the video captures August’s essence in Pittsburgh. This project will be a small step in further empowering the community, from youth to elders, spreading August’s legacy, and broadening the horizons for this cultural hub.
I want to be able to tell diverse stories accurately and explore multiple aspects of representation on screen, hopefully becoming a writer/producer in the television industry, or (fingers crossed) an executive producer and even showrunner of my own show. This kind of scholarship and research through the CRF would help me achieve these goals by implementing skills like community building, producing experience (creating call-sheets, organizing crews, etc.), and empowering youth in the field of filmmaking through two day-long workshops that will be held on August Wilson and basic filmmaking skills.
My research experience thus far has consisted of producing mini-documentaries on Duane Jones, the first Black lead in a horror film- Night of the Living Dead, and John Paul Horstmann, a Pitt alum who has gone on to become successful in the industry, from creating his own documentaries to editing Billie Eilish’s videos, along with my own research papers in high school and college. Through this fellowship, I am excited to incorporate the experience from the mini documentaries onto a large scale while also learning about the Hill District and becoming better involved in the community through exploring August Wilson’s roots in Pittsburgh.