As Neil Diamond put it, “L.A.’s fine, the sun shines most of the time, and the feeling is laid-back.”
Yeah. And there’s the Pacific Ocean. And great restaurants. And don’t even get started on the shopping.
Still, through years of working successfully as a Hollywood writer, Pittsburgh native son Steve Cuden could not stop thinking about finding his way back.
“I have never not thought of Pittsburgh as home,” Cuden told the Chronicle.
The creator of the “Jekyll and Hyde” musical, which is running now through Sunday, June 26, at the CLO, and the writer of over 90 scripts for various animated television shows, has bought a house in Squirrel Hill, not far from the one in which he was raised, and is excited to be home.
“I’m back to 15217,” he said.
Cuden came back to Pittsburgh to teach screenwriting at Point Park University, and to work on some other projects as well.
“I always thought that this would be a great place to return to,” he said. “Over the years, I have said to family and friends repeatedly that I would have no problem living here.”
When the opportunity at Point Park presented itself, Cuden, tired of the “freelance lifestyle,” grabbed it.
Along with other screenwriters such as Carl Kurlander, who wrote the screenplay for “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and Mitchell Kaplan, who worked on “Fletch Lives,” Cuden has said “goodbye” to Hollywood as home, and “hello” to the more down-to-earth sensibilities of Pittsburgh.
Yet although Pittsburgh is undeniably less glitzy than Hollywood, Cuden believes it may well be poised to become a movie-making mecca.
“There is a movement to make Pittsburgh something more than just a beautiful place for movies to be made,” Cuden said, adding that he sees it as a place where projects are developed, funding is raised, and films are produced.
Pittsburgh has been used as a backdrop for Hollywood movies for years, with films such as “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” with Emma Watson, and the new Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” being shot here this summer. But Cuden believes that the city and its suburbs may evolve into more than just great places to shoot films.
“For a very long time we will still need Hollywood and New York for parts of the process,” Cuden said. “But I see no reason why we can’t be a destination for people to come and live and generate product for the rest of the world. This is a good place for talent and facilities, and a good place to work.”
Cuden also believes that the work being done at Carnegie Mellon University in the digital arts will help move Pittsburgh to the forefront of the entertainment world.
“I feel like it’s going to happen,” he said. “There is reason to have hope that things will happen here because Google has a campus here, and CMU is pushing the digital arts. At Point Park University, the facilities are state of the art. There is no reason why things can’t be done here.”
Cuden said he has been promoting Pittsburgh as a great place to live and work to his colleagues back in L.A.
“I have been talking to any number of friends out there,” he said. “They’re in a common boat. They had success, have done good work, and now things aren’t so great for them as time moves on. I said to them, ‘Check out Pittsburgh.’ I can say, absolutely, that not only is it a beautiful city, but there’s a lot to do here. Heaven knows, it’s one of the nicest places in the country.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)