Recap: PaFIA’s Central PA Initiative Launch Event

By: Lisa Budwig

An enthusiastic crowd of filmmakers, actors, and others interested in growing the film industry in Central Pennsylvania gathered at the Lancaster Marriott in the city’s historic square on Friday, May 6 to learn about PaFIA and hear from four stellar industry guests.

The evening began with a lively networking session where guests and attendees were able to introduce themselves and get acquainted, talk about their own projects and backgrounds, the local filmmaking landscape (both literally and figuratively!), and what’s happening in the industry at the state level, all while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks on the balcony above the hotel’s grand lobby.

PaFIA Chair David Haddad then ushered the group into the ballroom and got the program started.  Since PaFIA wasn’t well known in the region, David began with a explanation of the organization’s history, mission, and plans for the future in continuing to support and grow filmmaking not just in Philly and Pittsburgh, but across Pennsylvania.

After that, David introduced the guest speakers.  Diane Heery, Artios Award-winning casting director (“Silver Linings Playbook” “Creed”) of Heery/Loftus Casting, gave a brief overview of the casting director’s job, offered advice for actors (“work hard, be serious, train in your craft”), and gave valuable tips for identifying scams that prey on eager new actors.

Veteran assistant director/producer John Rusk (“The Sixth Sense” “Twelve Monkeys”) talked about what he did to get started in the business and counseled others not to wait for jobs to come to them, but to seek out opportunities, get in front of producers in person and, if you don’t the job the first time, to keep at it….persistence, “hustle,” and a willingness to do the work will win out in the end.

Emmy Award-winning producer Paula Gregg (“Playing for the Mob” “The BOY”) was asked to speak about the producer’s perspective on what actors need to do get cast on projects.  Her answer was to continue training because what producers value is having people around them who can be trusted to get the job done, and that applies to actors and crew alike.  The more training an actor has, the more likely it is he or she will come to set prepared and ready to work, which will save the production money and time.

Mike McCann, president and founder of MVM Associates, a national specialist in transferable tax credits and expert in the PA film tax credit program, gave a brief explanation of the film tax credit program, how applications work and how filmmakers use the program to help finance their projects.  The Pennsylvania program is currently capped at $60 million, and PaFIA would like to see it increased to $75 million and then eventually uncapped, because as it stands now there are many more productions that would like to film in the state than there are credits available.

PaFIA board members who were also in attendance as special guests and offered invaluable expertise and information to attendees were Jeannee Josefczeyk, Steve Leshinski, John Horell, and Jane Barr Pino, and all were extremely upbeat about the future of the film industry in Pennsylvania and the prospects for more production in Central PA.  PaFIA is well-regarded on in the State House and the efforts to educate legislators about the economic benefits of filmmaking have been very successful.  But budget challenges mean those efforts must be maintained, and increasing PaFIA’s membership and film production in regions beyond Philly and Pittsburgh will be valuable in securing support among legislators in all parts of the state.

The evening ended with more networking and making plans for next steps in building PaFIA’s presence in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hershey, Lebanon, York, Gettysburg and Chambersburg region.  PaFIA gained one new sponsor and six new members as a result of this very successful event.

To see more photos from this event, click here!