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'A gift to Pittsburgh': 'Unsinkable' crew ready for Titanic drama's maiden voyage

The locally shot “Unsinkable” will begin its first Western Pennsylvania run on Thursday

Nov. 8, 2023, was a historic day for Pittsburgh’s film community. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better time for SAG-AFTRA to end its months-long labor stoppage than during the world premiere of “Unsinkable,” the locally shot drama about the U.S. Senate inquires into the 1912 Titanic disaster that took six years to finish.

“I felt like I was taking this weird trip down memory lane that felt like a different lifetime ago when I actually liked wearing corsets,” quipped Daina Griffith, a Swissvale-based actor who played the Countess of Rothes in “Unsinkable.” “Then to have the strike end, it was a very exciting and super hopeful night.”

Five months later, “Unsinkable” is beginning to screen publicly everywhere from the United Kingdom to, of course, Western Pennsylvania. This cinematic adaptation of Beaver County writer Eileen Enwright Hodgetts’ play “Titanic to All Ships” will be playing at Sewickley’s Lindsay Theater and Cultural Center for a week starting Thursday and Lincoln-Lemington’s MovieScoop Waterworks Luxury Cinemas from Friday-April 17.

Tickets are available via and Brian Hartman, the film’s lead producer and screenwriter, told the Post-Gazette that it took more than 2,400 (mostly Western Pennsylvania-based) crew members and performers to see through this pandemic-delayed production that started with test shoots way back in 2017 and finally wrapped in April 2022.


So close, yet so far

“Unsinkable” follows Sen. Smith’s efforts to obtain something resembling justice for more than 1,500 Titanic victims. The film is mostly split between a series of charged congressional testimonies, intrepid journalist Alaine Ricard’s (Fiona Dourif’s) concurrent investigation and flashbacks to that fateful night when the Titanic sunk to the Atlantic Ocean’s floor.

Most “Unsinkable” scenes involving water were shot at Ligonier Beach. Downtown’s Heinz Hall and Station Square’s Grand Concourse combined to form New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, where most of Sen. Smith’s hearings were held. The Washington, D.C., leg of Sen. Smith’s crusade mostly took place in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s chambers within Downtown’s City County Building.

Other filming locations included a South Side warehouse, which in “Unsinkable” stored recovered Titanic lifeboats; The Pennsylvanian Apartments, where Titanic survivors arrived in New York on the RMS Carpathia; a mausoleum in a Pleasant Hills cemetery; the King Estate in Highland Park; and Downtown’s Benedum Center for a third-act sequence set in an era-appropriate movie theater.

Cameras officially began rolling on “Unsinkable” in 2019. Most of its principal photography had been completed when the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared in early 2020 and filming was forced to pause for more than two years.

“It was really emotionally difficult to step away, especially when something felt so close to being done,” said director (and Brian’s son) Cody Hartman.



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