CUTF Introduction: Scene August Wilson, Take 2, and… Action!

If I’ve learned one thing in the world of filmmaking, it’s that you’ll rarely get the perfect shot in the first take. But take 2? Take 2 is full of possibility and promise. You troubleshoot the faults in the camera choreography, mark your focus points, spray flyaways down, adjust the lights, and you have the perfect shot! Well, until take 3… then 4… then 5… you get the gist.

Let’s stick with take 2 for now!

Take 2: Hi everyone! My name is Aditi Sridhar, and I’m a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Film Studies (under the production track). Apart from filmmaking, I enjoy exploring new places to eat in Pittsburgh (that food is my favorite), and I co-run a nonprofit dance competition here in Pittsburgh!

on a recent short film based in New York

I am ecstatic to be a recipient of the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship for the fall of 2021. I will be an undergraduate TA for the class “Making the Documentary” taught by Carl Kurlander. I have fallen in love with filmmaking and several aspects of production during my years at Pitt, and I hope to continue this creative, versatile, & extremely fulfilling work beyond my graduation date in the spring of 2023! I’m truly grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to follow the wonderful projects other fellows are working on and learn from this experience.

I say “take 2”, because my CUTF work consists of a project I’ve been continuing from my Community Research Fellowship over the summer of 2021, where I received experience as a production coordinator for a documentary film centered around August Wilson. August Wilson was a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright and poet from our very own city of Pittsburgh. His 10 plays, also known as “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” embody the African American experience, as his authentic dialogue and artistic nuances came from observing members of his community, The Hill District.

It is this vibrant community, the Hill District that our documentary hones in on. How will reopening his childhood home as a public artists’ space in the Hill District affects the community? How are youth in the Hill District inspired by August Wilson’s work– and what resources and opportunities do they have to act on this inspiration? What can acknowledging this history do in order to preserve the culture and roots of the Hill District, even when revitalization efforts come in?

August Wilson in front of his childhood home

My community research fellowship drew incredible parallels between the research process and the filmmaking process, widening my sphere of academic and creative curiosity. However, entering a summer of in-person film work after an entire sophomore year of Zoom documentaries, virtual producing, and one woman crew videos wasn’t easy, and recalibrating took some time! Coordinating film shoots in person at active construction sites, with certain equipment I wasn’t familiar with, might have been easy… if it wasn’t my first time on a professional film set.

interviewing theatre critic, Chris Rawson, co-author of August Wilson Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays

My fellowship mentor, Carl Kurlander, loved to crack this very joke- that it was my first time, and it was often hard to remember that since we had been collaborating remotely for so long. Throughout the documentary filming in the summer, he provided so much support, acting as the producer of the project. After coordinating 3 summer shoots, planning 2 workshops at the Comunity Engagement Center in the Hill District with Carl, and producing 1 sizzle reel, I ultimately became an associate producer for the project. While the project was on a lull, I got involved in the narrative world of filmmaking, as I worked on a feature film in Pittsburgh and a short film in New York! I’ve come into the school year excited to translate these experiences to the classroom, where we would involve Pitt students to get involved in this ongoing project.

on the set of Thanks To Her, a feature film movie shot in Pittsburgh (summer 2021)

This is where I believe the magic will come in– when students from both the class and the Hill community (such as some of our summer workshop attendees) will be able to learn these hands-on skills while researching such an influential figure from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has the potential to be a city that is up and coming in the film and television industry, which is why it’s all the more important for us students to learn and mentor each other. I’m hoping this project can also bridge the University and Hill District community in a unique way– through the medium of film. And now that I’ve got some experience (even though it’s been a few months, clearly I’ve learned a lot), I am all the more excited to apply them to this project. Eager to see how the semester goes, and I’m ready to embrace Take 3!

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