The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

August 24, 2013

BILL EGGERT | Johnstown’s geography of cinema

— While we are familiar with the subject of geography, many are no doubt unfamiliar with the concept of it within the confines of movies. Yet we are on some level, if only subconsciously. The “geography of cinema” comes into play when movies are shot on pre-existing locations. The issue of “representation” is the most obvious issue in this context.

An example of this would be the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 72 outdoor steps leading to its entrance. They have become celebrated during the past 35 years, thanks to the classic film “Rocky.” Who can forget that pivotal scene where Sylvester Stallone runs up those steps to the music of “Gonna Fly Now,” the steps being a metaphor for Rocky’s ascent to the top? It is a favorite spot for tourists to visit, as they replay that classic scene mentally, substituting themselves into that movie.

Another issue within the geography of cinema involves the incidental documentation (visually) of areas that have changed since the filming of a particular movie, or buildings that no longer exist, such as the World Trade Towers. An example of this would be the 1997 film “Cop Land,” which prominently featured the World Trade Towers near the end of the film, inadvertently adding a tragic subtext to a film released four years before the horrific events of 9/11.

Johnstown is an area rich in visual imagery, featuring such landmarks as the old Stone Bridge, Central Park, the Inclined Plane and Morley’s Dog.

Johnstown’s cinematic geography will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Monday at Pitt-Johnstown’s Blackington Hall (Auditorium 138) with a screening of the hour-long comedy “Dark Nights,” which was shot locally.

The event is hosted by Pitt-Johnstown’s Geography Club, along with its adviser, Dr. Bill Kory.

The film showcases such diverse areas as Cambria City, Richland and Windber. The locations include both public venues, such as VOMA, YWCA and Alpaca Ventures, and private residences, such as the Sacerino estate and the Grand Midway Hotel. Each area has its own unique characteristics, which lend themselves to a diversity of compositions for each scene.

Alpaca Ventures, an alpaca farm, and the Sacerino estate are in the beautiful pastoral hills of the Laurel Mountains.

The alpaca farm was the site of about a half-dozen different settings for the film.

I was hoping to get some of the majestic alpacas in my shots, but the shy animals deftly evaded my camera with the evasiveness of Sean Penn.

The Sacerino estate doubled for the iconic “stately Wayne manor.”  The beautifully landscaped grounds were matched by the décor of the house itself, featuring an impressive music room filled with everything from a pipe organ to a flugelhorn.

VOMA, the Venue of Merging Arts (in Cambria City) and the YWCA (downtown Johns-town) were also gracious in accommodating our small cast and crew.

Likewise the spooky Grand Midway Hotel in Windber was hospitable as well, and even granted us access to filming perennial guests the Cadillac Creeps, the iconic Goth rock band out of Florida who were visiting at the time.

I would like to thank and acknowledge those individuals who assisted me in this cinematic production: John and Barb Sacerino, Diane and Michael Beaver (Alpaca Ventures), Blair Murphy (Grand Midway Hotel), Janet and Dennis Mical and Adam Mundok of VOMA, and the staff and board of the YWCA of Greater Johnstown.

Thanks also to Dr. Bill Kory and Jake Wolff of the UPJ Geography Club and Kathleen Clawson of UPJ. Your kindness and graciousness were all greatly appreciated. Thanks also to my cast and crew, especially Sandra Wirfel, locations finder, and Tommy Venet, ultimate Jack of all trades.

The making of a film is a collaborative effort. I was blessed with many in that regard. The film, a spoof of the 1960s TV show “Batman,” is a comic updating of that program.

The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30.

I look forward to seeing you folks there.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Bill Eggert
  • EGGERT AND CHILLY BILLY Bill Cardille brings back childhood chills

    One of the nice things about moving back to this area was being able to connect with childhood heroes from local television. Some, like Paul Shannon (“Adventure Time”) and Hank Stohl (“Popeye and Kinesh”), unfortunately have passed on. Others, like wrestling champ Bruno Sammartino and Bill Cardille (“Chiller Theatre”) are happily still with us.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT6 Riverboat reverie on ‘uncle time’

    Thoughts of the summer months bring to mind annual weeklong vacations with Granny, Pop-Pop and Uncle Don in Pittsburgh. One memorable summer, “Unck” took me to see the Delta Queen riverboat, sitting majestically in the Monongahela River, moored at the Mon wharf.

    July 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Bill Eggert | ‘Whatever it takes’: remembering Chuck Noll

    Once upon a time there was a colorful yet inept professional football team, owned by an equally colorful Irishman who participated in sports during his younger days. Unlike their crosstown professional baseball and collegiate football team counterparts, the pro football team never tasted the sweet nectar of success for about 40 years. That all changed in 1969, when Steelers owner Art Rooney and his family found a wise, humble and grounded 37-year-old man named Chuck Noll.

    June 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo Life after Dad: A Father’s Day reflection

    One of my dad’s favorite movies was the 1947 classic “Life With Father,” starring the great William Powell (coincidentally also born in Pittsburgh) as the stern but lovable family disciplinarian.

    June 7, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo BILL EGGERT | Hollywood’s take on the Great Flood

    About 37 years after the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889, Hollywood decided to make a motion picture of Johnstown’s most catastrophic event.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT4 75 years of Batmania: The Dark Knight’s evolution

    The appeal of Batman is universal. We can identify more with Batman.
    Local resident Wayne Faucher has been a professional artist/inker on the various Batman titles for over 20 years.

    May 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Captain America: Sentinel of liberty for 70-plus years

    When I was a kid reading comic books, my two favorite superheroes (Batman and Captain America) were not really super; maybe that is why they were my favorites.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • BILL EGGERT AND FRANK COONELLY BILL EGGERT | Pirates: a rite of spring

    Opening day for the Bucs is March 31. Every year, hope springs eternal for Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Especially for the past two decades, since outfielder Barry Bonds’ errant throw allowed gimpy-kneed Sid Bream to score the come-from-behind winning run for the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series.

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Going home can sometimes be only walking distance

    One of the most popular topics during my eight years of writing this column is the one of looking into the past of the Johnstown (and my areas of Moxham and Richland) of my childhood. A lot of baby boomers relate to these time trips with a sense of nostalgia, remembering a kinder, simpler, more innocent era. Or at least that is the way we remember our childhood, looking through those rose-colored glasses.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo


Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads