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Showcase For Films And Composers Migrates Online

Like so much art during the coronavirus pandemic, the Pittsburgh-based showcase Sync’d has temporarily migrated online. But rather than Zoom, or Facebook Live, the film-and-music series turned to Instagram.

The long-running series recruits visual artists to create short silent films, then matches them with composers who fashion custom soundtracks.

Filmmaker Michael J. Maraden created Sync’d in 2009. “I’ve always been fascinated with combining images, and sort of the surprising things that can happen when you line things up that weren’t necessarily prepared — or if they were prepared, the musician knows about it but no one else does,” he said.

For years, Sync’d was held in local theaters, where bands played their scores live, sometimes even improvising them. But Maraden wanted to give artists another way to collaborate during the pandemic.

Starting this past winter, Maraden tried staging Sync'd on Instagram, partly because he is comfortable with the platform, but also because he likes its one-minute limit on run-time for videos.

The spring edition is similar, and features 12 composers matched with 12 videos. The videos tend toward the experimental, even the abstract, said Maraden. The eclectic mix of composers this time ranges from acoustic and jazz to industrial.

Filmmakers include Mike Bonello, Kyle Rawlinson, Vanessa Sas, Ian Bonnet, Nicole Czapinski, Steve Turseli, Amy Edwards, Alyssa Keil, Matthew R. Day, Ivette Spradlin, and Maraden himself. Most are local, though special guests include internationally known animator Kelly Gallagher, based in Syracuse, N.Y.

Musicians include acclaimed saxophonist Ben Opie; experimental electronic group The Garment District; Majeure (a space-rock solo project of Zombi’s Anthony E. Paterra); Gregg Puchalski; Luke Zacherl, of country-rock band NOMad; Robert Feltman, Michael Roberts, KMFD, Adrienne Jouver, Caleb Pogyar, Matt McDowell, and Mike Bonello.

The films will debut one each day starting Thu., May 20. Maraden declined to say whose film was up first, but viewers can see for themselves on Instagram at #syncdpgh.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: