Two local filmmakers, Jonathan Gribbin and Jonathan Blackwell, are launching their film career with "Blast Off," a short film that will screen at the Three Rivers Film Festival.
Gribbin, who graduated from Woodland Hills High School in 2007, won his first award, the Abstract Award in the Bayer C.A.U.S.E. Challenge High School Film Festival (2007) for his film "Flow."
The young filmmaker from Churchill is a graduate of The Los Angeles Film School. In 2010, he entered a short, "A Less than Lucky Day to Kill Yourself," in the annual Pittsburgh Film Kitchen Contest. His film took second place.
"Growing up I wanted to be a doctor, an archeologist and even a pharoah. I realized with film I can be all these things," Gribbin joked.
After graduating from film school, he returned to Pittsburgh. The auteur decided to add an additional class to his resume, and took a course at Community College of Allegheny County–South Campus. In George Jaber's technical film class, he met another Jonathan (Blackwell).
Blackwell, a Shippensburg University communications graduate who grew up in the Hill District, cites Jaber as influential in many ways.
"George Jaber got me a job on an indie feature, 'Riddle,' and from that I got a gig on 'Abduction,' the Taylor Lautner movie that filmed here," Blackwell said.
Gribbin and Blackwell bonded over a mutual respect for Spike Lee movies. Their collaboration began. They started writing screenplays and sending them off to contests.
Both men share a love of film.
"We have a passion for it," Blackwell said.
The two, who have been writing screenplays for about two years, decided to be more proactive and created Grey Fox Pictures.
"We got tired of waiting on someone else," Gribbin said.
"If no one's doing it for us, we have to do it ourselves," Blackwell added.
"We were going to the monthly screenings at the Film Kitchen (Pittsburgh Filmmaker's short film exhibition which runs at the Melwood Screening Room), and we decided to start shooting movies."
"We do it all, from beginning to end, script to screen," Blackwell said.
In 2012, they completed nine shorts, including a music video and documentary along with several works of fiction.
"Blast Off," their only film with a budget of more than $200, was written long-distance by Gribbin and his film school classmate, Robert Louis Love III, a writer-producer living in Los Angeles. The film stars Chris Wildeman of Swissvale, Zachary Ehasz of Upper St. Clair and Gribbin's sister, Colleen Gribbin of Churchill.
"For our first documentary, 'A Day in the Life of Freak Unit,' we followed around a local Pittsburgh rapper," Gribbin said, expanding on their versatility.
Gribbin and Blackwell cemented their friendship on the shoot.
"It was our first paid gig," Blackwell said.
In June, their film, "The Right Way," took the Audience Award, once again in the annual Pittsburgh Film Kitchen Contest.
They went on to win the Audience Choice Award in the Once a Week Online Film Festival in October with their spec commercial, "Naked Nike." (A spec is an unsolicited project with the speculative hope of becoming an officially licensed work.)
Earlier this month, the two went to Lancaster, PA to win another award. The young filmmakers won second place in the Third Annual Field of Screams Festival, a horror genre festival, for their short, "4:53."
Even after winning several prestigious awards, the duo is excited about being an official selection of the Three Rivers Film Festival. They are also focused on the future.
"We have another short that we want to fund through Kickstarter (an online crowd-sourcing project). And then we're going to work on shooting a feature-length film, 'White Elephant,' a psychological thriller after that."
Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Dollar Savings Bank's Three Rivers Film Festival opens Nov. 2 at three venues around town: the Regent Square Theater, The Melwood Screening Room and the Harris Theater downtown.
"Blast Off" will screen on Nov. 15 at the Melwood Screening Room along with David Zellner's feature, "Kid-Thing." Tickets can be purchased here: http://3rff.com/films/#kid-thing
For more information about Gribbin and Blackwell and their production company, Grey Fox Pictures, go to http://vimeo.com/greyfoxpictures. Gribbin, who is also a photographer, sells prints through his website at jonathangribbin.com.