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After working as an actor in Los Angeles for 16 years, Tom Kurlander has returned to Pittsburgh to launch Family Shorts. The Downtown-based company produces slice-of-life documentaries and music videos for the family market. The most recent production, "Say Goodbye to Squirrel Hill," chronicles the departure of the Harold Weitz family from their home of 42 years.

"It's like having a moving family portrait," said Kurlander, who employs a staff of three and expects to grow that to eight by the end of 2006. "I chose to target families because I felt that every family has a story that deserves to be preserved forever. And I felt that families would feel the same."

He said early response has been very positive. The cost of a Family Short varies, depending on the size of the production. Kurlander also wants to tap the corporate market, creating films about companies "from a personal and entertaining perspective" using the same approach he uses with families. Costs, conceivably, could run higher.

Kurlander is the brother of Carl Kurlander, the screenwriter-turned-visiting-professor at the University of Pittsburgh and co-founder of the Steeltown Entertainment Project. This nonprofit aims to utilize Western Pennsylvania's resources and create links with entertainment industry talent with Pittsburgh roots. The goal is to create regionally produced film, television and new media.

But the man behind Family Shorts offered several reasons for his return.

"I was ready for a change," he said. "My girlfriend runs an eyewear company called HeidiOptics in Downtown Pittsburgh. I also missed the sense of community, and my dog had never seen or tasted snow."

Incidentally, Kurlander, whose onscreen credits include roles in the films "Dave" and "Kindergarten Cop" as well as appearances on television shows such as "ER," is still acting. But in addition to his Los Angeles agent, he is now represented by Pittsburgh's Docherty Agency.

PATTY Tascarella may be contacted at

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