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By Lois Thomson

Years after the focus was on it as one of the building blocks of the nation, the Mon Valley finds itself in the spotlight again. The film industry has come to such towns as Donora, Monessen, Rankin, Braddock, and McKeesport to film a series titled "Rust," which will appear on Showtime and is based on the novel American Rust by Philipp Meyer.

 

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Actor Jeff Daniels stars in ‘Rust’ a Showtime series being filmed in the mon valley. (Photo credit Dennis Mong / SHOWTIME.)

According to the show's Executive Producer, Dan Futterman, the story explores love, family, and friendship, and centers on two young men who have grand plans of leaving their hometown in search of their own versions of the American dream. Meyer's story takes place in a fictional town in Fayette County, and in deciding where to film, Futterman said, "It was important to us that every location felt authentic. We were aware that Philipp Meyer spent a good deal of time here and wrote very specifically about the area around Monessen, Donora and Brownsville. We wanted to honor that."

Futterman first became acquainted with this area in the mid-90s when he was cast in a film in Pittsburgh.

"I've always remembered the city, and the surrounding towns and countryside – most particularly along the Monongahela River. There's no place else I've been with such drama around a wide river like that. Dramatic drops down to the water, steeply rolling hills and valleys, steel bridges and dense woods. You can't go somewhere else and hope to replicate that."

Futterman also said that Jeff Daniels, the lead actor and one of the executive producers, is from small-town Michigan, and knows the Rust Belt personally. "He wanted to be sure we shot here for authenticity's sake, as well as to bring business to the area."

He is pleased with how smoothly the production is running. "That's in large part due to the warm reception we've received from the communities we've been filming in. The cast and crew have all really appreciated how kind everyone has been."

He said people have been very generous with their time and allowing them to use their town as the backdrop for the story. "They've made us feel at home."   Futterman commented that working with the local talent has been such a positive experience, saying Pittsburgh is a city filled with great talent on both sides of the camera.

"There's a deep well of actors who have long résumés filled with plays done at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and other local theaters." He credited Donna Belajac and Missy Finnell, local casting directors, with securing terrific younger actors from Pittsburgh's universities. "It's a thrill to feel you're discovering new acting talent, some of whom will surely go on to great careers."

Filming will continue into August. Nine episodes will run in the first season, which is expected to air sometime in the second half of 2021.  Futterman added, "Hopefully enough folks will watch so we can get a second season and return here sometime next year."

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