The Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA) calls the Happy Rooster “home” in Philadelphia. Prior to the pandemic, the Happy Rooster owner, Debbie Jordan, welcomed PAFIA every month for an open networking night for local filmmakers. Since the state started to re-open in recent weeks, it was a top priority for The Happy Rooster and PAFIA to host a much needed in-person networking event. The PAFIA Networking Night was held on Thursday, July 8th, 2021.
The event was well attended, with over 75 people gathering in the outdoor space at The Happy Rooster. PAFIA was honored that New Liberty Distillery and Evil Genius set up tastings for PAFIA members at the event. The association was also honored that 10 companies generously donated items to the raffle. PAFIA would like to recognize the following individuals and companies for their generosity: Rescue Spa, Crew Me Up, United by Blue, Maagnifique Photography, Baby Blues BBQ, Stephanie Algayer, Tuna Bar, Executive Producer Patrick Markey, She’s Crafty Traveling Cocktail Bar, and Bose Headphones.
PAFIA Board Members David Haddad, Ken Myers, Darius Tuller, and Joshua Friedman were in attendance and recruited 17 new PAFIA members. PAFIA is thrilled to welcome new members to show our legislators that the support for the Pennsylvania Film Industry Incentive is only growing stronger.
If you missed the event, be sure that you keep an eye on the PAFIA website and social media for an announcement for our next event at the end of August (exact date TBA).
Thank you to everyone who attended and continue to support the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association.
Late Friday, June 25, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a $40.8 billion budget. Governor Wolf has stated that he will sign the budget bill, and accompanying budget code bills, before the end of the current fiscal year (which ends on June 30).
Unfortunately, the budget did not provide for an increase to the $70 million Film Production Tax Credit program. Senator Camera Bartolotta publicly expressed her disappointment with the budget outcome in a Post-Gazette article found here.
However, there was language added to the film tax credit program that gives special consideration to “multifilm” production, which is a series of separate and distinct films produced by the same taxpayer over a period of no less than one year and no more than four years from the time application. If an individual film include in a multifilm application is cancelled, the tax credit may be reissued to another applicant only after the Department of Community and Economic Development allows the taxpayer 90 days to apply for an alternative individual film. Senator Wayne Fontana said in a recent press release that the new changes are helpful, but a larger tax credit would mean more jobs and economic spin off.
Some of you may be discouraged that the limit for the film tax credit program was not increased but please remember that there has been tremendous growth in support for the film tax credit within the legislature this year – even during a pandemic. Film caucus leaders advocated both publicly and privately in support of our cause and their efforts, along with yours, have not gone unnoticed. We encourage PAFIA members to continue to engage with legislators regarding the importance of increasing funding for the film tax credit. Whether is it meeting with legislators one on one in their district offices, inviting them onto sets, or posting on social media how the film industry is thriving in PA, please do not stop having conversations with elected officials. We can use this opportunity to grow our collective voices even more.
With the passage of the state budget, the PA Legislature has started their summer recess. This is an opportunity for members to spend some time in their districts and to work on issues in preparation for returning to session in the fall. Unless sooner recalled by their respective chambers, the PA Senate will return to session on Monday, September 20 and the PA House will return to session on Monday, September 27.
More information on the budget
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania was allocated $7 billion in funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) which had gone unspent until this budget. Of those dollars, $4 billion will go towards balancing this year’s budget and more than $2 billion has been set aside for the Commonwealth’s rainy day fund. All in, factoring in offline spending through federal CARES Act funds and American Rescue Plan funds, the FY 2021-22 budget grew just 2.6% over the current 2020-21 budget.
Highlights of the General Fund Budget
SB 255 – Appropriations Bill
An additional $416 million in education funding - the largest single-year education funding increase in state history:
Highlights from each code bill
HB 1348 – Fiscal Code
HB 952 – Tax reform Code
HB 336 – Administrative Code
SB 381 – School Code
Head to our Facebook Page to view more photos from the event!
On Tuesday, May 25th, The Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA) hosted a legislative reception in Harrisburg to educate elected officials about the wide-reaching economic benefits of film production. Co-hosted by the four Film Caucus chairs: Senator Camera Bartolotta, Senator Jay Costa, Representative Joe Ciresi, and Representative Kathleen "KC" Tomlinson. The event was well attended with over 65 legislators and legislative staff who participated.
Both the House and the Senate have introduced identical legislation HB 1432 and SB 321, respectively, renaming the film production tax credit program as the “Film Industry Incentive”. Both bills included a recommendation to increase the level of state assistance for the program from its current $70 million amount to $125 million.
PAFIA Chair, David Haddad, along with PAFIA Board Members Ken Myers, Amy Sotereanos, Max Zug, and association members Mike McCann and Angelo Sotereanos attended to share their personal stories of how the Film Industry Incentive positively effects their livelihoods. David Haddad started PAFIA in 2009 as the first trade association in the United States that educates legislators on the economic benefits of the Film Industry. “This event,” Haddad states, “is 12 years in the making. To see over 65 legislators and legislative staff on both sides of the aisle come together to learn about the benefits of the film industry is a win for our industry.”
The PAFIA Board was thrilled to have the backing of the four Film Caucus Chairs who gave a speech to the legislators and staff in attendance. (watch the full speech here.)
Senator Bartolotta passionately began her speech by stating, “We are here to spread the word about all of the incredible economic benefits of the film industry in Pennsylvania. We have been turning away hundreds of millions of dollars of capital investment that is low hanging fruit, ready for the picking, just pounding on our doors to come into Pennsylvania.”
Senator Costa points out the bi-partisan nature of HB 1432 and SB 321 by indicating the room was full of “a lot of Democrats, Republicans, House Members, and Senate Members.”
House Representative Tomlinson thanked the audience and noted that the increase to the film industry incentive will competitively position Pennsylvania for film work with our neighboring states. Tomlinson declared, “this is money that should be in Pennsylvania’s pockets.”
House Representative Ciresi finishes the group speech by pumping up the crowd and saying “We have the opportunity to make Pennsylvania the East Coast of what California is, we have the opportunity to make sure that we become the place where people want to come to make a movie.” He continued, “If we are serious about creating great jobs and improving our economy after COVID, this is the moment.”
The $50 million dollar increase to the Film Industry Incentive the House and Senate are proposing would translate to bringing 15-20 more productions to Pennsylvania. This increase would also provide more jobs for thousands of Pennsylvania workers, and inject millions of dollars directly into our local economy. The increase would be a major win for the state. The Pennsylvania Film Industry Association is grateful to the Film Caucus Chairs for their efforts, as well as the PAFIA Board Members and members of the association who have dedicated time to educate the legislators at this event and beyond.
Written By: Beth Brennan & Jim Davis, Lobbyists, Cozen O'Connor
In May, Governor Tom Wolf continued to ease Covid-19 related restrictions. Event and gathering maximum capacity limits increased on Monday, May 17 and were eliminated entirely on Monday, May 31. Masking requirements remain, however, when 70% of the Commonwealth’s adult population is fully vaccinated the mask order will be lifted. PA Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam announced that the mask order will be lifted by June 28, 2021 at the latest.
Tuesday, May 18 was primary election day in the Commonwealth.Pennsylvania voters approved two ballot questions that place restrictions upon the emergency powers of the Governor. Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to pass such measures. The constitutional amendments end a governor’s emergency disaster declaration after 21 days and give lawmakers the sole authority to extend it or end it at any time with a simple majority vote. Currently, the state constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote by lawmakers to end a governor’s disaster declaration. Under the law, a governor can issue an emergency declaration for up to 90 days and extend it without limit.
There were also four special election to fill legislative vacancies.
In film industry news, Reps Joe Ciresi (D-Montgomery) and K.C. Tomlinson (R-Bucks) introduced HB 1432. This legislation is identical to SB 321 which was introduced in March by Senator Camera Bartolotta. Both bills rename the film production tax credit program as the “Film Industry Incentive” and increase the level of state assistance for the program from its current $70 million amount to $125 million.
Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout moved full steam ahead this month as Governor Tom Wolf made several announcements in which he increased or expanded vaccine eligibility. All Pennsylvanians age 16 and older are now eligible to schedule a Covid-19 vaccine. As the month of April comes to a close, over 8 million vaccines have been given in PA with 47.3% of all Pennsylvania having received a first dose. The Commonwealth of PA ranks 10th among all 50 states for first does administered by percentage of population.
The House and Senate tackled several Covid-19 related items this month. The Senate extended the chamber’s temporary rules to allow for remote participation in session and the House passed legislation provide temporary relief Covid-19 related liability claims. Similar legislation was vetoed by Governor Wolf in 2020.
Pennsylvania House Republicans released a report that includes answers and policy suggestions in response to a survey sent to Pennsylvania employers in February. 921 business responded to the survey. The report noted that the hospitality and tourism industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the key findings of the report: 31 percent of respondents said the biggest challenge facing their business has been state virus mitigation orders; 21 percent said financial issues and hardships are their greatest challenges; 28 percent said tax reductions would have the greatest impact on their future success, while another 22 percent said their future success depends upon the Commonwealth removing restrictions and allowing them to fully open for business.
Pennsylvania Democrats put forward a Pennsylvania Rescue Plan to help employers in all sectors including the hospitality industry. The House Democratic Caucus began developing its “Pennsylvania Rescue Plan” early in the year. The plan would provide funding for businesses unable to stay open or work remotely, job creation, child care, high-speed internet, telehealth, and resources for community college students, among other items.
PAFIA worked with the House Film Caucus Chairs to help host a tour of Sun Center Film Studios followed by a small informal gathering in Philadelphia. A group of 7 bi-partisan Representatives participated in the tour which included a mix of both newly elected and more senior tenured legislators.
Discussions continue with legislators regarding the requested increase to the entertainment production (film) tax credit program. Budget negotiations among the four caucuses and Governor have not yet officially begun, but our advocacy remains focused on educating members on the economic development benefit of the film and television industry. With an enhanced film tax credit, the industry can play a significant role in the Commonwealth’s Covid-19 financial recovery.
How did you come up with the idea and how did you get it going? In 1999 I came up with the premise while visiting New York Chinatown. I tried to enter a “private” Chinese kung-fu club and was told, “Chinese only.” Disappointed, I walked across Canal St into Little Italy for lunch and thought what would happen if a Chinese guy tried to join a “private” Italian club. The story developed from there, scenes coming to mind, until a story came into focus. I sent the script to several “coverage” readers and incorporated their notes into the story, then sent the script to every director and producer in “Hollywood” I could think of. I knew they’d all love it and jump on board. Such naiveté.
What were some challenges that you have encountered?
For over a decade I couldn’t get anyone to read the script or consider the project for production. Then I approached Shing Ka, a veteran actor and student of a kung-fu master I am friends with. Shing was working on another film that featured some actors I wanted for my film and with his help I was able to get a few cast members in place. With that I went out and raised the financing myself. Then the financing fell through due to political issues between our country and the country where the funding was coming from. But I had actors’ time blocked and needed to refinance the film again. I did and we began production.
The burning question: how did you arrange the budget?
One night before Christmas in 2017 I was having tea with a Chinese businessman. He asked me what I was working on and I shared the story. It resonated with him, having immigrated to NY Chinatown as a boy he understood the dilemma of the protagonist. He helped arrange the first round of full funding with investors in China. When that fell through at the 11th hour, I happened to reconnect with an old co-worker who had seen news of the film on social media. He recalled reading the first drafts in 1999-2001 and was excited for me. I told him how the Chinese investor was excited and then how the funds fell away. He then reached to his business contacts and pulled nine people together to cover the production budget. I would then raise the rest of the budget needed for post-production. Well, after committing to final funding and even after being on set over a dozen times and meeting everyone, the final investors never came through and we ran out of funds. This created a huge problem for payroll, with SAG, and of course with some of the cast and crew. But I never gave up, everyone was paid shortly thereafter, but there was a long delay in post-production due to funding. But here we are today, three years to the month of pre-production, and the film is releasing!
What are the plans for distribution?
I am blessed that we signed a world rights distribution agreement with Vision Films. They have 30 years’ experience as one of the leading indie distributors in the US and Internationally. May 11, 2021 Made in Chinatown will become available on cable and streaming platforms and on DVD.
Care to share all the amazing accomplishments, awards and selections?
The biggest accomplishments for me, personally, were getting all these amazing actors that I have admired for decades agree to be in the film. People like Tony Darrow, Vincent Pastore, Raymond J. Barry, Lo Meng and others. I would never have thought my little idea would blossom into a potential cult hit because of the cast that came on and brought their magic to the roles. And of course, getting the film into production and finally out of post-production and picked up for distribution are long fought accomplishments for me. For the cast and crew, the accomplishments are the great work and the huge response from fans and festivals, where the film has won seven awards, including an Audience Choice Award, two Best Actor awards, Best Stunts, Best Action, and others. The positive and generous advance reviews are rewarding, too!
Which film festivals do you suggest submitting to?
The big ones are great if you can get into them, like AFM, Toronto, Tribeca, etc. But for smaller indie films, like mine, we went to where the fans were: Newark International Film Festival (which invited us for a panel discussion and to ne the closing film), Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (we shot most of the film in Philly), Freedom Festival International (we have a broad international cast of Italians, Chinese, Black, Caucasian), and others.
I was dumbfounded when we weren’t accepted at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, since the film was shot in Philadelphia Chinatown, features so many known Asian actors from American film and television, in addition to two legends of Hong Kong cinema. But there you have it: even if you do your best, you have no control over how your work is received. Regardless, with small budgets it’s best to enter festivals that represent your film’s values and are in locations where your potential fans are for best impact.
Why did you choose to film in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?
I live in suburban Philadelphia and love the city and wanted to film here. Even though the story is set in Manhattan’s facing neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy, we could shoot 20 of 22 days in Philly, and one day in Collingswood, NJ. We only did two days of exteriors in NY, and most people can’t tell the difference. Philly is great for exterior and interior locations and is much less expensive than shooting in NY. Also, the shop owners are so gracious and accommodating of our needs and with their space.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?
We shot in Chinatown, Head House Square, Old City, on Front Street in South Philly, at the Italian Market, and in Port Richmond. I also think Rittenhouse Square and Valley Green along the Wissahickon are terrific places to shoot. As are small towns like Chestnut Hill, Narberth, Doylestown, Peddler’s Village and New Hope.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I have been in publishing since 1990 and through working with a magazine in Los Angeles, I began making inroads into the film industry. In the mid-nineties I was invited onto television and movie sets and was asked to write a dozen or more spec scripts for both. After ten years of working, networking, pitching, and writing on spec for fairly large groups, I realized on day that nothing had come to fruition. I was spinning wheels while making a living as an editor and publisher. So I stopped that hamster wheel to nowhere, and kept writing and rewriting Made in Chinatown until it was the best I could make it and until I was able to bring it to the right people. Well, the Urban Action Showcase on Times Square was that place, and there I met so many great people, including its creator Demetrius Angelo and our co-director and local Philadelphian, Bobby Samuels. I produced several of Bobby’s film shorts that won many awards, and from there we created our production team for Made in Chinatown, bringing in talent from Philly, New York and Los Angeles (where our co-director and action coordinator, James Lew, resides.). James was one of my heroes coming up, from his first film Big Trouble in Little China though his Emmy award for “Marvel’s Luke Cage,” and we became friends in the 90s.
What do you love the most about your job?
Being a writer who also knows how to produce is an amazing experience. All you need is to make your first project, be it a short or feature or tv pilot. If you are good to people and genuine, the industry can open for you, as it has for me. I developed several very close relationships with some of the actors and producers on my films. I would never have thought I’d be calling and having them over or getting together with them on a regular basis. Getting to know the real people behind their acting personas and being able to collaborate on story ideas and new projects is a blessing. The creative part is what I enjoy most.
What was your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story while shooting this film?
First was getting a call from an unknown number in NY. I answered and the voice said, “Mark, the script is funny. The Chinese kid tries to get made!” I said, who is this? The voice said, “It’s me, Vinny, Big Pussy from Sopranos. I’m, doing your movie.” Another amazing moment was after most of the key roles were cast, and we did a local casting in Philly, Tony Darrow walks in and sits on the sofa. After each audition, I’d look back at him and he’d shake or nod his head. One of my heroes growing up was Lo Meng, a legend in Hong Kong cinema. As a teen I’d watch his kung-fu movies on Saturday afternoon with the bad dubbing and emulate his cool moves and my dream was to meet him one day. Well, we connected with him though our production team and he agreed to play “Hung Phat.” His first American film, and because I wrote the role of the Chinatown Triad boss with a crazy laugh, I wasn’t sure if he’d do it. But he asked me to read his lines in English and do the laugh, too, and send him the audio file. He practiced his lines while filming Ip Man 4. When we met at the airport, and we got in my car, he said with a straight face, “Mark, I have been practicing the laugh.” He then did six variations of the crazy laugh and asked which one I preferred. I was stunned, humbled, beside myself with joy and amazement!
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
I am in the pre-production stage of shooting a TV pilot here, and we have been looking to potentially shoot a teen camp movie in the Poconos. The problem is the lack of tax credits available for small budget projects. I was shattered and in trouble financially when we were all but guaranteed our credits on “Chinatown,” and they never came through. I fought hard for them for two years with the support and help of Dave Bowers (Film Incentives Group), Sharon Pinkenson (Greater Philadelphia Film Office), and State Representative Maria Donatucci. No luck. Maria then asked me to come testify about it before a panel, along with other PA filmmakers Night Shyamalan and Nancy Glass. We all did our best and made terrific arguments for the need for these Tax Incentives in PA.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?
PAFIA is doing a terrific job bringing awareness to this issue to the leaders of the state. The more projects that come into the state, the more locals are hired as cast and crew, and catering, and the more hotel rooms are filled, and parking spaces rented, and local shops frequented. These films can become iconic representations of the State, or its cities, and are a terrific way to promote tourism and the birth of a booming business. Let’s keep fighting!
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?
Work hard at your craft and take all the classes you can to improve it. With online courses and master classes from the experts, there is no shortage of training out there. Don’t listen to naysayers or ask opinions of people who don’t believe in your dream. If you are an actor, go to the local principal and background casting offices and let them know who you are and what your capabilities are; get into their databases. Do as many auditions as you can and take whatever first job comes (if it is not objectionable) to get a foot in the door. Once you do one project, you can network on set and expand your circle and get leads for other projects. Be sure to also help those that help you. It you want to write or produce or learn to direct, also take courses, network online and find an opportunity to get hired on a set. You can get in as a grip or driver and start connecting and networking your way to other roles and create side conversations with the director or producers during breaks. There is always a way. Sometimes, like for me, it took two decades for something to finally happen. But all the sudden my career pivoted, and I now have over a dozen projects on slate with a big production company in LA, several with my own company, and two international co-productions. There is always a way if you have stamina, persistence and show gratitude toward others.
Be sure to always avoid situations that cause you anxiety or where you see red flags. Don’t ignore your gut or put yourself in compromising positions for a role or the “chance” of working on a film. And never sell yourself short. You are valuable and so are your talents, and when the right people see them, something will happen.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?
I have read over a dozen books on writing screenplays and bios of actors and directors. I thought the negative things they mentioned were “one offs”, even though many said the same things: too many people lie, mislead, take advantage, make promises they know they can’t keep. This is all true, and I wish I had not been so afraid to replace those principals who I knew were not a right fit for a project, and instead ignored the issue. You need the best people around you, not just friends or associates you happen to know and who say, “trust me.” Always find the best casting director, best production team, best director and director of photography you can. If it is a comedy, hire a comedy director. If an action project, hire a good director and support them with a skilled DP who has shot action in the past. Don’t rely on friends for the essential post-production efforts but hire a professional company even if it means doing a little at a time. All of these are important lessons that cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of wasted time.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?
My only aspiration is to keep creating the best projects I can, and either producing them myself or partnering with a company that may have more resources than I, but also sees the same vision (or an improved one) for the project. Most of all I want to keep growing and developing as a filmmaker and creating relationships with those I work with. Sharing in creativity with others makes life amazing.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?
As we have casting and crew calls, we will post them on the local boards. We like to use Heery Loftus Casting for our local background casting, and Caroline Sinclair Casting for principal. People can follow Tambuli Media (.com) and our Facebook page, which promotes our publishing and film work. And people can reach me thought FB Messenger or at TambuliMedia@gmail.com.
And don’t forget, Made in Chinatown will be available to stream on May 11. We have a Facebook and Instagram with updates and clips and fun stuff… and the website is www.MadeInChinatownMovie.com
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it?I wrote several film screenplays which I flipped into fiction novels and they are now available on Amazon Kindle. Tell everybody! (Check out a quick video here.)
And here’s my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Bertoni/e/B092C6MBCQ?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000
Here’s my Instagram for my books: https://www.instagram.com/steph_bertoni/
(I just started my Instagram for my books and I’ll be adding more content shortly. I already have a fun promo video on there for my Christmas comedy book.)
I do have a Facebook as well: https://www.facebook.com/xoStephB
I observe and talk with other professionals. I keep at it, but I also take breaks which gives me a fresh perspective.
My first jobs in the entertainment field were as a newspaper reporter, radio disc jockey, radio news producer, and then I went into television news. I did a side project as a script supervisor for an indie film and just kept going. In addition to script supervising, I’ve also worked in several other film production positions including actress, stand-in, casting, production coordinator, production accounting, production secretary, wardrobe supervisor, wardrobe stylist, set dresser, craft services, and also production assistant.
Why do you choose to work in PA?
I’ve enjoyed working on sets out of town but it’s good working with my local film family. It can take a few days to gel when a crew is full of strangers in a strange place. You can have a “shorthand” way of speaking with folks you know, which gets you there faster. People who know and care for each other are much more likely to go the distance for one another.
What do you love the most about your job?
I love that I am still creating as an adult. As a kid, I was always painting, writing, acting, and being asked by friends to tell funny stories. Not much has changed. ;)
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on-set story?
I’ve been fortunate to work with people who provided some comedy relief for me on set: Dean Cundy, Michael Nyquist, Seymour Cassel, Breck Eisner, and a few others. It makes the often tough working conditions bearable.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
I’m currently in talks about a project.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?
It’s a big deal for film production workers to be able to sleep in their own beds every night. Those outside the film industry may take that for granted if they have a local, nine-to-five job. Crews working in their hometown can spend more time with their loved ones and have stronger relationships. They may have more time to meet the right person and have a family. It’s important to have the choice to work in your hometown, or travel because you want to; not because you have to. The Film tax credit enables film production professionals more options to live happier, productive lives. All of that productivity funnels into more revenue for the state and the city. The film tax credit is so much more than money. It’s a better way of working, making art, and living.
Written By: Beth Brennan, Lobbyist, Cozen O'Connor
Happy Spring to our friends in film. Better weather is on the horizon, great for shooting outdoor scenes.
Also, additional Covid-relief efforts are underway in Harrisburg. Twice this month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the loosening of various pandemic related restrictions. On March 15, the Governor announced the easing of some of his COVID-19 mitigation policies on businesses, effective April 4. For restaurants, the indoor dining capacity will be raised to 75 percent. Capacity for other businesses, including gyms and entertainment facilities, such as theaters and casinos, will be increased to 75 percent occupancy. Back on March 1, the Governor and the state Health Department rescinded a November order that required anyone over the age of 11 who visits from another state to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or place themselves in a travel quarantine for 14 days upon entering Pennsylvania.
The state Senate Appropriations Committee began its hearings for the 2021-22 budget, meanwhile, the House concluded their hearings in mid-March. Republican House and Senate members continued to express concern about the Governor’s proposals to raise the personal income tax, increase the minimum wage, and impose a severance tax on natural gas, among other contentious issues.
With the announcement of two additional legislative vacancies this month, May 18th – PA’s primary election day – will now be the date of four state legislative special elections. One March 5th, state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, resigned from his 22nd Senatorial District seat to accept a new job with Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright. On March 16th, state Rep. Jeff Pyle R-Armstrong, resigned immediately due to health issues. Special elections already set for May 18th were the 48th Senatorial District seat which was vacant due to the January death of Sen. Dave Arnold, R-Lebanon and the 59th House District which was vacant due to the January death of Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland.
On March 10, Senator Camera Bartolotta, R-Greene, introduced SB 321. Co-sponsored by Senators Collett, Scavello, Robinson, Costa, Yudichak and Stefano, the bill increases the film tax credit limit from $70 million to $125 million. It also renames the Film Production Tax Credit as the Film Industry Incentive. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
On March 12, Representatives Kathleen Tomlinson, R-Bucks, and Joe Ceresi, D-Montgomery, circulated a co-sponsorship memo announcing their intent to introduce that would re-brand the Film Production Tax Credit as the Film Industry Incentive and increase funding for the program from its current level of $70 million to $125 million. We anticipate their bill language to be identical to Senator Bartolotta’s SB 321 referenced above.
As we move closer to the June 30th budget deadline, we expect busier days ahead in Harrisburg. PAFIA will be watching and advocating for the industry. Now get outside and enjoy the sun and warmer weather.
And quiet on the set……….Action!
PAFIA Lobbyist Update for March 2021
On February 3, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf delivered his 2021-2022 state budget address virtually. The $37.8 billion proposal contains a sizeable increase in the state’s personal income tax (PIT) and a substantial increase in education spending. This year’s general fund budget is $33.1 billion. The Governor’s proposal is an increase of $3.78 billion, or 11.1% over the prior year. The Governor is proposing to raise the PIT from 3.07% to 4.49% starting July 1, the first increase since 2003. The increase would raise more than $3 billion annually, a 20 percent increase when compared to 2019 tax data. $1.3 billion raised from a higher income tax would go to basic education funding, boosting that total to about $8.1 billion. Special education would be increased by $200 million to a total of $1.4 billion. The new revenue will also be used to address the multi-billion dollar deficit in the state budget. The Governor’s proposal would result in a tax hike for 60 percent of Pennsylvania taxpayers. Residents with incomes at or below $15,000 for single filers; $30,000 for married filers; and $10,000 allowance for each dependent – will receive total 100% personal income tax forgiveness.
In addition, the Governor is proposing to reduce the 9.99% corporate net income tax to 9.49 percent on January 1, 2022, then continue to reduce the tax incrementally to 6.49 percent by 2026. The governor is also proposing to shift to combined reporting to tax corporations as a single entity. Like several previous budgets, the governor is again calling for a severance tax on natural gas drillers. Currently, Pennsylvania imposes an impact fee that is assessed on each drill site. According to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, the 2020 impact fees equaled an effective tax rate of 3.3%.
The Commonwealth continues to deal with the COVID-19 challenges with vaccine rollout and case count statewide holding steady. On February 9th, Governor Wolf announced the creation of a joint task force aimed at improving the state’s vaccine rollout, including Republican and Democratic members of the General Assembly. Senators Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) and Representatives Tim O’Neal (R-Washington) and Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna). The task force will share vaccine information and communicate solutions on behalf of and to the broader General Assembly. Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout has been the focus of multiple hearings last week in the state legislature. Through February 22, vaccine providers have administered 2,034,123 doses of vaccine. 1,474,479 million Pennsylvians have received their first does and 559,644 people have received both doses and are now fully vaccinated.
Budget hearings in Harrisburg have started. The state House Appropriations Committee held the first of several hearings to discuss Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal. Of note: (1) The Department of Revenue was questioned about the Governor’s proposal to increase the state personal income tax. (2) The Department of Environmental Protection was questioned about the Governor’s proposal to join the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. (3) The Department of Community and Economic Development answered questions regarding the business shuts downs last year due to the Covid pandemic and the mitigation measures still in place today. The full schedule of House hearings can be found here. The state Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its budget hearings on Monday, March 8th. The full schedule of Senate hearings can be found here.
Film Caucus Update
There are currently 24 members of the Film Caucus. Additional outreach to encourage more members of the House and Senate to sign up is currently taking place. Senators Camera Bartolotta and Jay Costa and Representatives Kathleen Tomlinson and Joe Ceresi are leading the caucus this session.
A listing of the current membership is below:
Representatives: Daley, Tina Davis, Howard, Longietti, Malagari, Matzie, Merski, Mizgorski, Mullins, Pisciottano, Sanchez, Silvis, Sturla and Webster.
Senators: Collett, Fontana, Kane, Santarsiero, Stefano, and Lindsey Williams.
Article Written By: Maria Shamkalian, PAFIA Vice-Chair
We are excited to feature "Last Call" filmed last year in Pennsylvania. Written by Greg Lingo and Paolo Pilladi, and directed by Paolo Pilladi, the comedy is starring Jeremy Piven, Bruce Dern, Cathy Moriarty, Jack McGee, Zach McGowan, Taryn Manning, Cheri Oteri and Jamie Kennedy. Producers were fortunate to obtain a phenomenal cast and crew who really understood this gritty town of “Darby Heights” located in the outskirts of Philadelphia and fortuitous that their last day of shooting was completed in Mid-March 2020, right before COVID-19 closures were enacted. Writer Greg Lingo kindly agreed to share with us about his experience filming in PA.
How did you come up with the idea and how did you get it going? My childhood friends (Mike Baughan and Billy Reilly) and I sat down and thought it would be fun to assemble a collection of all the colorful stories and people we came across as kids and try and work those into a screenplay. We spent a good deal of time bringing the stories to life, but it was not until I met Paolo Pilladi (our Director) that we were able to complete the script and get into preproduction.
What were some challenges that you have encountered? It would be a copout to say COVID-19, because COVID-19 has impacted so many lives in so many different and difficult ways. We were most challenged with staying on budget, and then keeping the overages to a manageable amount.
The burning question: how did you arrange the budget? The production team created a line by line budget prior to getting into preproduction. As the level of talent we assembled increased, the budget began to swell and we ended up bringing on additional investors.
What are the plans for distribution? For North America, IFC Films will be distributing the film. It will have a day and date release of 3/19/2021 where it will be in select theaters in the Philadelphia, LA, NY and Chicago markets and at the same time will be released on the following platforms:
Digital Platforms: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, YouTube, Google Play, PlayStation and Xbox
Cable Transactional Platforms: Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner, Brighthouse), Verizon Fios, Altice (Optimum), Cox, DirecTV, AT&T, Bend Broadband, Buckeye, Guadalupe Valley, Hotwire Communications, Metrocast, Suddenlink, WOW Internet Cable, RCN, Midcontinent Communications
We have Filmmode Entertainment selling the Foreign Rights
Which film festivals do you suggest submitting to? We submitted to SXSW and TriBeCa, however the film will be released before the dates of those festivals.
Why did you choose to film in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania? We shot in both NJ and PA because this is a regionally based film is set in the PA suburbs of Philadelphia and at the Jersey Shore. I have called Pennsylvania home nearly my entire life and would not have set it in any other place.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania? We had a spectacular few days shooting at the Filter Club in Center City, Philadelphia. What a remarkable setting and backdrop for so many great scenes.
How did you all get started in the film industry? This is my first foray into film, but will not be my last. For me, I was always curious about the industry but did not want to jump in until the script was in the right place. Once we started getting great feedback from talent pertaining to our script I knew we could make a fun loving, slice of life comedy that would translate well to folks in all corners of our nation
What do you love the most about your job? No two days are ever the same
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story? It would have to be when the van we had hoped to rent caught on fire (no injuries!). We were looking for a van for our main actors to drive around in the film. When we started negotiating for the rental of it for the week the owner told us what great condition it was in. So, when he brought it over to show it to us, it started overheating, burst into flames and the fire co. was called.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects? I am currently writing my next comedy script, hopefully by the time it is ready to go the PA Tax Credits will be there so that we can make it in Commonwealth.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life? In order for films to be made in PA, there must be PA predictable tax credits. Filmmakers can jump right across the bridge into NJ and get 25-30% tax credits with a fair amount of certainty that they will be funded. Portraying our state on film is the best way to get recognition for our great towns, cities and PA countryside which will in turn increase tourism and generate revenues for the state.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid? The most important thing is to know and understand is the budget; you have to understand each of the variables and how they can best be navigated to stay on budget.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier? Had I known the amount of work it took to get through post production, I would have hired a post production supervisor.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry? I look forward to bringing comedy back to the big screen. It seems like the genre has been displaced by action, thrillers and dramas. With all the craziness in the world, I just want people to laugh.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org