The movie business may just be discovering Pittsburgh as a place to make films, but Carnegie Mellon University has figured in the success of dozens of Hollywood actors, writers and producers.
From Ted Danson and Holly Hunter to Steven Bochco and Mark Frost, the list of alumni from what was once known as Carnegie Tech reads like the credits of numerous major movies and hit television shows."Everybody thinks you have to go to New York or Los Angeles to get started," said Jeff Stepakoff, a television writer who finished Carnegie's graduate program three years ago. "The truth is there's a third alternative and that's Pittsburgh."
Stepakoff is a writer for ABC-TV's "The Wonder Years." He also has written for "Major Dad," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Simon and Simon."
"The thing that's great about Carnegie Mellon is that it's not in Hollywood," Stepakoff said.
"You can go there and learn how to do your thing. If you go to New York or L.A., you learn how to do their thing."
Carnegie Mellon graduates have had a hand in movies and television for decades.
Danson, who plays bartender Sam Malone in "Cheers," producer and director Frost of "Twin Peaks" and Bud Yorkin, a producer and director whose credits include "All in the Family," "Maude" and "Sanford and Son," all attended Carnegie.
Other alumni include actor Jack Klugman of "The Odd Couple" and "Quincy," actress-model Shari Belafonte of "Hotel," Barbara Feldon, Agent 99 of "Get Smart," Laura San Giacomo of "sex, lies and videotape," Judith Light of "Who's the Boss?" and character actor Frank Gorshin.
The film "Broadcast News" cast Carnegie grads in two of the three lead roles. Hunter, who also appeared in "Raising Arizona" and "Always," played a TV news producer and Albert Brooks played a reporter with his sights set on an anchor chair.
The NBC series "L.A. Law" has benefited from the work of a number of Carnegie alumni.
The Emmy-winning show's co-creator, Bochco, is a 1966 grad. Bochco's other credits include "Hill Street Blues" and "Doogie Howser, M.D."
Actors Michael Tucker and Blair Underwood, who play two of the attorneys on "L.A. Law," attended Carnegie. Tucker, who plays tax specialist Stewart Markowitz, was a classmate of Bochco's. Underwood, whose role is the young and ambitious Jonathan Rollins, dropped out midway through his junior year in 1985.
When Underwood received his belated fine arts degree from Carnegie three years later, he already had begun his work on the highly rated show.
Other Carnegie Mellon grads, including production designer Michael Myer and actress Irene Tedrow, also have worked on the show.
Not only Carnegie graduates play starring roles or even work in front of the camera. Edward Saxon, who produced "The Silence of the Lambs," said he counted on the school's drama department to provide actors for several small speaking parts in the movie, which was filmed last year in Pittsburgh.
Saxon credited George Romero, another former Carnegie student, with helping to establish Pittsburgh as a movie location. Romero, who produced such cult horror films as "Night of the Living Dead," was one of the first producers and directors to shoot in the Pittsburgh area.
"Because George has shot a large number of movies in Pittsburgh, there are a number of people who can join a first-class production," Saxon said.