Pittsburgh Filmmakers turns 40 | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Filmmakers turns 40

An interview with Robert Gaylor, one of the founding members

Pittsburgh Filmmakers turns 40
Robert Gaylor

During Nov. 4's opening-night Three Rivers Film Festival party, Pittsburgh Filmmakers will mark its 40th anniversary with champagne, birthday cake and special guests including 11 of the group's 13 board presidents. One is Robert Gaylor, a Filmmakers co-founder and, from 1971-76, the group's first president. Gaylor, 74, lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where he founded the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe, a home for cinema, visual and performing arts and more. He recently spoke with CP by phone.


How did Filmmakers begin?

I was starting to make films myself and I also was an artist. I got to be friends with some of those folks that had kind of a collective [film and photography] group. We started out by getting a place in the Selma Burke Arts Center, over in East Liberty. We were able to get the basement. We got a grant and a darkroom started there, and a couple of editing rooms for film, and also showed some movies there.


Filmmakers began as an equipment co-op. How did it grow?

Around 1973, we were able to get a more central location, in Oakland [on Oakland Avenue, near Forbes]. We rented it for a dollar a year from the state, and we had the entire second floor. Around '74 or '75, we were starting to teach classes, and have exhibitions. We hired some people to run the place. It was a paradigm change from being strictly a volunteer organization to being more of a professional organization.


What was the film culture like?

We showed artist films, a lot of times with [filmmakers] coming in to speak about the work. It was a good synergistic situation -- lots of cross-fertilization and getting to know people from outside. Robert Breer, I can remember him. Stan Brakhage was another one. 


When did you last visit Filmmakers?

I don't think I've been there practically since I left. So it'll be fun to come see how it's changed -- and how it's stayed the same.


Three Rivers Film Festival: 412-681-5449 or www.3rff.com.