Former Pittsburgher Laura Davis, a film producer living now in Los Angeles, will be premiering her new movie “A New York Heartbeat” at the Regent Square Theater beginning Friday, July 12, for a two-week run.
“A New York Heartbeat” was filmed in Pittsburgh at the end of 2010, using Pittsburgh locales such as the Strip District and the North Side to stand in for 1950’s era-Brooklyn.
The film is a gangster movie/love story, inspired by the film noir of the 1940s and 1950s, and was written and directed by Davis’ husband, Tjardus Greidanus. Davis and Greidanus were also the team behind “The Shot Felt ‘Round the World,” a documentary about Dr. Jonas Salk and his creation of the polio vaccine, which premiered in 2010.
The movie is co-produced by Hugh Aodh O’Brien.
Pittsburgh proved to be the ideal place to film, Davis said, primarily because of the generous support of the locals, willing to help out on this project that was put together on a pretty tight budget.
“Pittsburgh just really opened up its arms to us in a way I really could not have imagined,” said Davis, a Pittsburgh Allderdice High School grad who attended Rodef Shalom while growing up here. “Pittsburgh is used to big movies, and big stars. They welcomed us as if we were the ‘Dark Knight,’ or ‘Jack Reacher.’ They were far more generous with us than we had a right to expect. There is a generosity in Pittsburgh that is not true in a lot of places. They gave us stuff, they loaned us stuff. I came to think of Pittsburgh as the land of ‘yes,’ when I am used to the land of ‘no.’ ”
While Davis produced movies of the week for television in the 1990s, “A New York Heartbeat” was a new venture for her and Greidanus.
“This was a grassroots effort,” she said. “It’s almost like we’re flying by the seat of our pants. We planned carefully, but we have a limited budget, and there is a huge learning curve.”
With her siblings, Davis still owns the house in which she grew up on Squirrel Hill Ave., and was able to use it to shoot some interior scenes for her film.
“My childhood home became a gangster’s gambling nest,” she said.
Davis and Greidanus used a mostly local crew, who worked for a “fraction of their usual fees,” she said.
“People just responded to the script.”
The film has already garnered support from Alan Inkles, the director of the Stony Brook Film Festival, “a very selective East Coast festival,” Davis said. “A New York Heartbeat” will be featured at that festival July 19.
Because “A New York Heartbeat” is an independent film, Davis has to find a distributor to help get the film in theaters. She was, coincidentally, introduced by a mutual friend to another Jewish former Pittsburgher, Ronna Brourman Wallace, who now lives in New York City. Wallace, a film sales representative, has taken on the film, and has already received several offers to distribute it.
“This film was (a) really good, and (b) had a nice cast,” Wallace said. “I knew I could get it distributed. There’s a lot of action in it. It’s not just a drama or a love story. There’s a lot of action, and it’s compelling.”
Davis is looking forward to coming back to town for the premiere at the Regent Square.
“Pittsburgh remains home for me,” she said.
Davis and Greidanus have launched a campaign at kickstarter.com to help raise the final funds necessary to finish the film.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)