Your typical young filmmaker started with his parents' home-video camera no later than high school, then trundled off to a film program somewhere and whatever career possibililties might await.
Jeremy Braverman always appreciated film. But to discover his avocation, he had to spend a few years after college in Budapest -- not only making movies, but also watching many he might not have seen here, including unexported Eurocinema and even American classics.
Braverman's own short films will highlight the next Film Kitchen, on Tue., Sept. 20. Also screening is an excerpt of Two Men and a Keyboard, a show-biz mockumentary perpetrated by Mount Lebanon High School students, two of whom are now Braverman's students at Point Park University.
Pursuing the "backpack thing" after himself graduating college in 1993, in Hungary Braverman fell into television production work, ranging from educational TV to acting in a Burger King commercial. And as his command of Hungarian improved, he discovered that Hungary is "a culture that appreciates film a lot." Theatrical offerings were deeper than in most U.S. cities, with ready access to contemporary films from France and Spain. Budapest art houses held year-long retrospectives of Cassavetes, Hal Hartley. "I saw Citizen Kane for the first time in a theater over there," Braverman says. Truffaut films were on TV.
Moreover, "Being in another culture allows you to view yours in a new light," says Braverman. After five years in Budapest he returned to study film at Chicago's Columbia College. But Budapest was still with him, not least in the films he'd seen there. Drawn to depictions of communities in works by Bosnia's Emir Kusturica (In the Time of the Gypsies) and Spain's Julio Medem as well as Wes Anderson, he joined such influences to the school's "personal storytelling" aesthetic and produced his own shorts including "Life Is So Easy." The 27-minute comedy concerns a discontented aspiring writer's relationships with both the neighbors in his courtyard apartment and his wealthy, indulgent father. The milieu might be as much Budapest as Chicago. "The sense that everybody's in the same boat in that building definitely comes from the experience I had living in a European city," says Braverman.
A newer short, "Hold Let Go," involves a young man named Fine's relationship with his ex-lover -- the mother of his 2-year-old daughter -- and her new boyfriend. The film's filled with quiet but charged-up moments that reveal the characters layer by layer. Fine, says Braverman, is an exponent of "the new casual cynicism," and at once "somebody who can't quite find their place in life."
"Life" has screened at film festivals including the New Orleans International and the Columbus International, and aired on the PBS affiliate in San Jose, Calif. This will be the premiere of "Hold Let Go."
Last year, Braverman moved to Pittsburgh to teach at Point Park as an assistant professor of cinema and digital arts. In the first week of his Intro to Cinema class this semester, when Braverman announced his Film Kitchen screening, one of his students surprised him by saying he'd be there too -- with his own work.
Two Men and a Keyboard grew out of some improv in a video-production class last year at Mount Lebanon High School. Bill Paladino and Ben Harkins, now Point Park freshmen, made it with Dean Ciocca, now a Mount Lebo senior. On Sept. 20, they'll show an excerpt of their spoof of a Behind the Music-style show about a couple of unhappy performers. Braverman's films will follow; perhaps they can all trade pointers in that Thursday's class.