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Civic Impact

Second 'Shot' heard round the Burgh: Steeltown youth film contest comes back

The Take a Shot film contest for middle- and high-schoolers is back, offering even more prizes and a greater variety of themes for winning films.

This year's contest, with an April 30 deadline, asks kids to make short videos about something in Pittsburgh that has changed the world, or how they can change the world themselves. There are four $2,500 prizes: The Heinz History Center Innovation Prize, for a film about a Pittsburgh innovation or innovator; the Jefferson Awards' Globechangers Social Action Prize for a movie showing the filmmaker's own ideas for changing the world; the Environmental Prize for a film about Pittsburgh's environmental past or present -- or how we can help its future; and the Polio Prize, for a video on last year's theme: the local origins of the Salk polio vaccine and the connection to other world efforts to get rid of polio once and for all.

Last year, says Rachel Shepherd, program manager for contest creator Steeltown Entertainment Project, Take a Shot drew 80 films by 265 kids, as well as 12,500 votes on their Website for the winning entries. When Shepherd and Carl Kurlander, who founded Steeltown, toured local schools to publicize the contest, they found that few of today's students knew about polio or Pittsburgh's role in its eradication in this country. The contest's motto is Make a movie. Make a difference, and “realizing that film can be a tool to raise awareness and spur change, everyone did make a difference,” says Shepherd.

Last year’s winner, Tyler Anderson of Mt. Lebanon High School, used his $5,000 grand prize to buy film equipment and a future trip to Haiti to film Rotary International’s water purification efforts, Shepherd reports. “We couldn’t have hoped for a better thing for the kid to do with the money he won,” she says.

To kick off the 2012 contest, Steeltown is holding a special showing of YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip at the Heinz History Center on Jan. 29, a film that chronicles an eco-focused cross-country trip, beginning here at the Rachel Carson Homestead. Speakers at the free event include filmmaker Mark Dixon: Dr. Patricia DeMarco, director of Chatham University's Rachel Carson Institute; Carl Kurlander; and History Center head Andy Masich. For reservations, call 412-622-1325 or email here

Shepherd says Steeltown is considering taking the contest national. “It doesn’t seem that radical to me," she says, "but it seems we’re doing something unique."

To register for "Take A Shot," click here.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rachel Shepherd, Steeltown Entertainment Project
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