Local professor appears larger than life

The passion of one man has resulted in a life of intrigue that translates to effective teaching of the film world.

Christopher Sepesy’s film roots began early with influences from his Oscar-winning aunt, who introduced him to such varied stars as Paul Newman, Vincent Price, and Sir Paul McCartney.

But it would be years working in government before he would turn his love of film into a career as a professor as at Point Park.

Now in his tenth year teaching at PPU, he says he never knew the joy he could feel from working with students bent on building careers in film.

Professor Sepesy brings his vast experiences and knowledge to the film department at Point Park University, establishing a strong connection with many of those around him.

Christopher Sepesy sits in Point Park University’s GRW Theater, where he often teaches. Photo Credit: Gino Caputo

“I remember being immediately impressed with this charismatic individual who is skilled in conversation and possesses more film knowledge than anyone I’ve ever met,” said Laura Jean Boyd, an assistant professor in the film department at Point Park University.

Sepesy grew up in California, Pa., the son of two professors at the university there. He started as a pre-med student but switched to a double major of writing and economics.

He would go on to attend the University of Pittsburgh as an undergrad, did graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University and at the London School of Economics. Sepesy moved to Washington D.C. in 1989, mainly living there until returning to Pittsburgh for the past 11 years. His roots in film are deep with his aunt, but he was also impacted by family members that were into theatre as well.

“When I was six or seven years old, I thought everybody did this,” said Sepesy, talking about the famous people that he met growing up. He soon learned that he was fortunate to do so and has taken it for granted.

One of the most memorable occurrences was the time he met famous actor Vincent Price when he came to Sepesy’s hometown to speak at the college. Sepesy ended up having dinner with Price thanks to friends of the family.

Sepesy described how the actor made him realize that there are more to movies than just watching them. He also mentioned how Jodie Foster lived about a block away while “Silence of the Lambs” was being filmed in Pittsburgh.  

His aunt Eileen was good friends with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, so he got to know them quite well. He would go on to describe them as two of the nicest people that walked the earth.

Sepesy still holds close something that Newman told him many years ago, which was to never take himself seriously, while jokingly mentioning Woodward giving him granola.

He then listed famous people that he got to meet through his aunt such as Bob Fosse and Paul McCartney, among others. Sepesy uses his experiences of meeting both famous people of the entertainment industry and government to bring a whole new perspective to his students and fellow faculty.

“Back then, movies were cheap, it was a very inexpensive form of entertainment that we went to a lot,” said Sepesy. His family, who most had taught at California University of Pennsylvania, would go to the movies and then discuss them regularly.

He recalls his first nighttime movie he ever saw, the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which he described as an experience.

Sepesy’s aunt, Oscar-winner Eileen Heckart, introduced him to what went on behind the scenes of movies by taking him to movie sets and different productions.

“I was very, very lucky and very privileged to have that and I realize that, but I always feel that I’ve tried to do the best with it,” said Sepesy.

He would earn an internship with Carolco Pictures on the film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” which peaked his interest in film until the company faltered, leaving him without the job he thought he had lined up.

For a while he had to leave his love of film, taking an internship with then-United States Senator John Heinz that lead to him receiving a job offer from him in Washington D.C..

Sepesy worked several different government jobs, working with many senators, before being hired by Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America after getting a lobbying license.

His knowlege of the film industry and the governmental experience he earned in D.C., gave Sepesy the insight and knowledge that would lead to a job offer he did not expect.

Sepesy was contacted by Point Park for a position and was urged to take the job by now fellow Point Park adjunct professor, Lisa Smith-Reed, despite never seeing himself following in his parent’s footsteps.

He also is currently involved in a production company based in Italy, for which he works with the American branch of the company.