By: John Rokosz
The ongoing effort of protecting the film industry in Pennsylvania is championed by hardworking people that love their city. James Mahathey, now a proud PaFIA board member, is one of those people. A longstanding career in Pittsburgh film became both the reason and the method through which James is contributing to that cause today.
James Mahathey, born in Penn Hills, has become a hometown success story in Pittsburgh film. He currently acts as a Location Manager, and has worked in the industry for 20 years. His department is responsible for location scouting, permit and contract acquisition, and the coordination of space for cars, trucks, trailers, and catering. Some of his larger projects include Desperate Measures, Wonderboys, The Mothman Prophecies, Kill Point, She’s Out of My League, Unstoppable, and The Dark Knight Rises. Today, he lives in the North Hills, married with children, and serves as a PaFIA board member on their membership committee.
Looking at his experience, James seems destined to make a difference in Pittsburgh film. He attended the Pittsburgh Filmmakers school and graduated from Point Park University, where he earned an internship with the Pittsburgh Film Office. His primary task was maintaining location folders, which organize anything from scouting pics, to paperwork, to the plans for assembling film sets. During his senior year, he took over a night location shoot when a problem with the location photos threatened to delay set building. Working all night, James saved the project to meet the producers’ demands. More and more gigs quickly began to pop up, through which James was able to prove himself and his craft. Immediately after senior year, he was offered his first official gig on Desperate Measures, with Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia.
As the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia film industries matured, PaFIA was formed to provide a state-wide conversation about what it meant to keep film projects coming to PA. James joined the cause when PaFIA first started, and was clear about his reasoning: “It’s a good way to let the government know we have a strong workforce. Over the past five years, we’ve seen an encouraging increase of crew in the city.” As a contributor to the membership committee, James is focused on increasing the global awareness of PaFIA, which includes membership from film crew, students, and even corporate vendors that service the film industry.
His efforts on the set and on the PaFIA board have certainly been worth it. The film tax credit has once again been renewed, which is the key to keeping work here in the state. With a steady career in film, James was able to pay off his bills, and bought his own house in January, 2009. Proud to be working in the city he calls home, he remarked: “Now that I’m married with kids, I want to stay in town as long as I can. It’s the tax credit that makes that possible.” More and more film crew are following James’ lead; digging their feet into the region, getting involved in PaFIA, and ensuring the industry’s continued success. It’s exciting to see more and more of these hometown heroes paving the way for generations to come.