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.
The 2021-22 legislative session is officially underway in Harrisburg. Legislative committees have been assigned, bills are being introduced, and floor votes are being taken.
The state Senate voted on COVID-relief legislation (SB 109) to provide $912 million in housing, rental, education and business assistance to Pennsylvanians impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the federal funding – $570 million will go to rental and utility assistance. Money will be allocated proportionally to all 67 counties. In addition, some $200 million will go toward education, with $150.023 million in funding for non-public schools and $47.075 million for Pennsylvania’s discretionary allocation which includes $17.5 million for career and technical centers and $17.5 million dedicated to intermediate units. The measure also creates a Hospitality Industry Recovery Program for grants to hotels, restaurants, and bars. Certified local economic development agencies will be responsible for administering the program.
The state Senate also passed a constitutional amendment to limit gubernatorial disaster emergency powers. Senate Bill 2 states that emergency disaster declarations by the governor would last no more than 21 days. In addition, the declaration can be extended by the governor for additional 21-day periods, but only with the approval by the General Assembly of a concurrent resolution to do so.
If approved by the House, the proposal would go to Pennsylvania voters in the form of a ballot referendum question during the state’s May primary.
Legislation (HB 38) that would establish appellate court voting districts within the Pennsylvania Constitution, may be considered by the state House in early February. The measure would divide the state into nine Commonwealth Court districts, fifteen Superior Court districts, and seven Supreme Court districts, with candidates for those judgeships required to reside in the district they seek to represent on the court. Districts would be drawn with compact and contiguous geographic boundaries, and comporting with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The same language was already approved by the General Assembly last session. A constitutional amendment must be approved by lawmakers during two consecutive two-year legislative sessions before it can be put to the voters as a ballot question.
In anticipation of his February 2nd budget address to the Legislature, Governor Wolf outlined his legislative priorities for the session. While highlighting past bipartisan successes on criminal justice reform, medical marijuana, and mail-in ballots, Wolf said he wanted to begin negotiating anew with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to lower barriers for Pennsylvanians in need of assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed his desire to increase the state’s minimum wage, pass a severance tax, and the authorize adult-use recreational marijuana. In response to the Governor’s press conference, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward released statements expressing frustration that the Governor was not focusing getting Pennsylvanians vaccinated.
State Senator Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) has delayed budget hearings this winter. The Senate is now scheduled to be in session Feb. 22, 23 and 24, dates that in previous years were used for budget hearings. A revised budget hearing scheduled will be released within the next two weeks.
House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) said he will conduct hearings as originally planned the weeks of Feb. 16th, 22nd, and March 1st. A detailed schedule will be released shortly.
On January 21, the four chairs of the film caucus circulated a memo inviting members of the 2021-22 legislative session to join. Senators Camera Bartolotta and Jay Costa and Representatives Kathleen Tomlinson and Joe Ciresi will lead the caucus this session.
The intent of the Legislative Film Caucus is to:
We will share the names of the caucus members in a later legislative update once members have more time to join the caucus.
On January 27, Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) introduced SB 133. The bill uncaps the film tax credit to further incentivize the TV and film industry to relocate in Pennsylvania. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Co-sponsors of SB 133 include Senators Sharif Street, Maria Collett, Vincent Hughes, Steve Santersiero, Mario Scavello, Camera Bartolotta, Tim Kearney, Amanda Cappelletti and Jay Costa.
Happy September, I hope that this update finds you with memories of a healthy and enjoyable summer. A summer that was certainly unlike no other, attempting to make lemonade from the daily bag of lemons that COVID was delivering to us all. As of the beginning of September, more than 133,000 Pennsylvanians have been infected with COVID-19, with unfortunately more than 7,000 passing away. Businesses, school districts, state & local governments, and everyone in between are trying to deal with this new reality, along with anticipating what might come when flu season arrives in November and December. The country has people that have directly experienced COVID and are petrified of getting sick, and others feel this is just another illness that mostly affects those who are in poor health.
On August 31, Governor Tom Wolf renewed the state’s disaster declaration for the Covid-19 pandemic for another 90 days on Monday. “As we approach the six-month mark of this crisis, I continue to be amazed at the resiliency and strength shown by Pennsylvanians during this pandemic,” Wolf said in a statement. “We are going to continue to combat the health and economic effects of COVID-19, and the renewal of my disaster declaration will provide us with resources and support needed for this effort.” The declaration also comes at a time when the Pennsylvania House returns to voting session with a renewed effort to try to stop the Governor’s emergency powers by overriding Wolf’s veto of a previous bill that would allow the Legislature to force the governor end the disaster declaration. PennLive has more.
In a press release recently issued by Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell, Pennsylvania collected $2.5 billion in General Fund revenue in August, which was 8.9% more than expected. The Department of Revenue estimated the majority of revenue collected in August can be attributed to extending the due date to August 14 for corporations that had annual corporate net income tax payments due in April, May, June or July. Penn Live has more.
Expectations are the state budget deficit will be approximately $5 billion and many state lawmakers are hoping that federal funds will be made available to plug some or all of that gap. Depending on what financial relief comes from Washington, that will determine how much in additional revenue will need to be generated or identified. Some options for new revenue being proposed includes adult use marijuana, and the Governor has recently called on legislators to legalize as a way to boost the economic recovery.
PAFIA Vice-Chair Maria Shamkalian
How did you get involved with this project?I became involved with “Pope” through a former agent who remembered me and connected me with the show’s director. We immediately shared creative values and had an wonderfully common vision for what the show could be and how to realize it.
What did you love most about filming this project?
Easily my favorite part of filming “Pope” was our Pennsylvania crew. It may sound like a canned answer given where this article is running, but it’s the absolute truth. From the extremely talented department heads, to the supportive producers, to the rank and file crew, every single person brought not only their “A” game but, more importantly and most satisfyingly, their “A” attitude. I really didn’t want the show to wrap and I’d love to come back and work with each of them again!
What were some challenges that you have encountered?
The biggest challenge for this production was finding locations that allowed us to have Pennsylvania, where we shot our recreations, to stand in for such diverse historical locations as ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Tudor England, WW2 Germany and the Vatican! At the end of the day, I feel our Pennsylvania locations more than fit the final bill.
Were there any difficult artistic decisions that you had to make?
I never felt we had to make any serious artistic compromises on this production due to the incredible support of our Executive Producers, Jon Hirsch and Nancy Glass at Glass Entertainment Group. They saw to it that we were well covered and that our department heads had what they needed to create a really convincing historical show.
What were some of the most memorable Behind the Scenes stories?
We often weren’t allowed to have actual fire in our locations and some of the work arounds Jon Chaifetz, Beau Kegler and their fantastic art team gave us to shoot made me very uncertain at first, but ultimately they worked a charm in the final shots. Sometimes though, we did have real fire. Having Camera Operator Tom Greco being lead backwards leading an escaping “Pope” brandishing a flaming torch in the tunnels beneath Girard College was exciting and convincing.
Creating a convincing Nazi Germany, complete with period-accurate Hitler posters on the campus of Bryn Mawr was totally surreal. I kept wondering what the students would think it whey wandered onto our set!
Why did you choose to film in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?Our production company, Glass Entertainment Group, is based in Pennsylvania and has strong roots there. So it was pretty much a given that we would film there. And in retrospect it’s very hard for me to imagine us having shot this show anywhere else given the plethora of perfect locations and incredible local crew we had access to.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?
I really loved shooting at Girard college, Bryn Mawr, Glencairn and on the Elkins Estate. Honestly, there were so many other great locations as well. I didn’t feel any of them were a compromise. But I was presently amazed that we found virtually everything we needed within easy driving distance from Philadelphia.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I knew from way back, like from 7 years old, that I wanted to be a cinematographer. From those early Super 8 films in my parent’s garage. However, it took a decade long detour through advertising to finally find me happily behind the camera. That was more than 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back!
What do you love the most about your job?
You have to love filmmaking to be a film maker. But if you do love it, there’s really nothing else you want to do. I do love the process and the tools, but most of all I love the people I get to meet and work so closely with.
What is your personal most awkward or funniest on set story?
The Art department gave me a prop Native American headdress that I took to wearing behind the camera. For me it was very funny but might have looked super odd to anyone not in on the joke. I’m just glad there are pictures!
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
I don’t currently have any Pennsylvania-based productions on the books, but I’m hoping that will change! I can’t wait to come back to shot there.
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?The tax credit had a large effect on our ultimate decision to stay and shoot in Pennsylvania. That in turn brought not only a lot of work to our immediate crew members but substantial work and monies to many more outlaying people and businesses that we either came into contact with or contracted through to provide services to our show.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?I think anyone starting out in this business should try on as may pairs of boots as possible. Spend some time working in as many departments as possible. Then you’ll know from experience what you love doing the most and will have a much better understanding of what each person and department needs to accomplish their job. It will make you a much better and well-rounded film maker.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?I wish I had understood much earlier the necessity to network. People hire who they know and are comfortable with. If they know you as a person rather than as a reel, resume or website, they are far more likely to hire you.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?I’m ready to take the next leap in my career path and DP much larger shows. At the same time I want to continue to teach and help mentor the next generation of those who also love our method of storytelling.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?
This one doesn’t really pertain to me as I don’t initiate projects.
Dear Valued PAFIA Members,
I hope you are practicing social distancing and staying safe. Together, we face a truly unprecedented situation. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our families, businesses, and our way of life. In these challenging times, I want to take a moment to update you on where PAFIA currently stands.
The film industry, much like the rest of the rest of the world, has been greatly affected by COVID-19. All movie and television productions in North America are at a standstill, with an unknown return date. Many studios are working on return to work guidelines to accommodate our new normal. The positive note is that some countries are currently and successfully shooting again, and my hope is that we will join them soon.
According to our lobbyist, Jim Davis, the film tax credit for the state of Pennsylvania is still expecting to stay funded at the same capacity, $70 million. For 10+ years, PAFIA has been fighting for the tax credit in Pennsylvania, and with your help we hope to be around for many more years! PAFIA has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help sustain us for the future. Any donation, no matter how small, will help us reach our goal of raising $20,000.
I want to thank all of the sponsors and individual members that have renewed during this time of uncertainty. It is important for us to stay funded to use our lobbyist and Kassalen Meetings & Events (PAFIA’s Management Company) to move our agenda forward.
Please check out the information below for new and exciting FREE opportunities we are offering to our PAFIA community.
Thank you and stay safe,
Virtual Events: We are working hard to provide virtual content to our members and PAFIA is pleased to announce our first Virtual Q&A with Producer, Assistant Director, and PAFIA Board Member, John Rusk! Join us for this FREE Q&A Webinar Tuesday, July 28, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Learn from the Pro: Virtual Q&A with John RuskDo you want to know how to make it in the film industry? John Rusk, whose credits include "Dead Poets Society," "Avalon," "A League of Their Own," "The Pelican Brief," "Outbreak," "Twelve Monkeys," and "The Sixth Sense", just to name a few, will answer your questions at this PAFIA FREE webinar! Join our Q&A on July 28 at 6:30 pm. The session will be moderated by PAFIA Vice-Chair, Maria Shamkalian.
Article By: Amelia Addor
Ross Gabrielli, VP of Sales and Marketing of Gala Catering who had worked in the food industry ever since he could remember when his father, Fred Gabrielli, started the business back in the 1980s. Gala Catering started as a family company that went from serving meals from a single trailer in Houston, Texas. That slowly but surely grew from Fred’s and his crew’s dedication and hard work.
A prominent and valued PAFIA supporter, Gabrielli’s family business can be traced back to his father and mother starting small and working their way into prominence. Now, Gala Catering works on up to ten projects at a time utilizing a kitchen truck, a refrigeration truck, and a dry storage truck.
Some highlights of Ross’ career so far include being a private chef for Adam Sandler, serving nearly 2,000 people at once at the Los Angeles Forum, and being a fantastic father to his 6-year-old son, Renner. Check out Gala Catering @galacrew and @galacatering on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and IMDb.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?Building and maintaining relationships is key in this industry. That alone will help get more work in the future. Keeping the entire crew happy and full is one to the best ways for us to get next gig. People take recognition of good food, and if they admire your professional performance/work ethic enough, you will most likely get another job with the clientele on an upcoming project.
Also, take a look through your local production report: this is a good resource for finding listed email addresses to the production offices. Contact them and let them know you are available, attach a link of your resume, and see what happens.
Who have you met while working that has influenced you the most?My father, Fred Gabrielli, has influenced me most with his hard work, dedication, and passion to starting a small business and turning it into what it has become today. My mother as well. She was one of the strongest influences in my life and an amazing woman.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest work moment?When I was 5 years old, on Pee Wee’s Big Top. I loved Pee Wee as a kid, so my dad let me carry his food tray to him in his trailer. Well, I was so anxious to see the character I watched on TV every day that I spilt his food all over his shirt when I was trying to serve him!
Where do you see your company going in the next five years?There are a few things behind the scenes, and in the works, that will propel Gala Catering to another level as time goes on. For now, I will say we’re steadily improving at every phase of the daily catering grind as the company has been doing for the last 35 years. The history just shows hard work and dedication pays off. Our team will make sure that persists into the future.
What is Gala Catering’s connection to Pennsylvania?Gala Catering has several connections to Pennsylvania. We have done many projects in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas (including Denzel Washington’s “Fences” Tom Hank’s “Mr. Rodgers”, “Manhunt, “Desperate Measures” and more.)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were working on an untitled HBO project in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania is an important part to the film industry and Gala Catering is proud to be a part of that. We look forward to growing with the Pennsylvania projects. It’s a beautiful place with great incentives. Who wouldn’t want to work there?
Do you have any valuable lessons that you learned about your business’s industry?There are too many to list, but I will mention that one of our most valuable assets to Gala Catering is Chef Donna Cushing. She has instilled many valuable lessons on me. She continues to do so today to all our employees and crew members. She is a key component that keeps our business’s wheels turning and the entire system constantly improving and moving forward.
What is your favorite project that your business worked on?The Longest Yard and Grandma’s Boy: Really, any Happy Madison film. Happy Madison is like family to Gala Catering.
What is it like to serve food at the Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show?Working the Super Bowl is extremely unique for several reasons. It’s amazing to watch the “party” grow day by day. Since we arrive almost 2 weeks before the Super Bowl commences, we get to see the big game (and all the craziness that surrounds it) begin from infancy and slowly transform into the largest show in the country. It’s very different from film! Each person working the halftime show must execute their role with no flaws while only having one (proverbial) “take” to entertain the entire nation.
Why do you consider your most recent success an accomplishment milestone? We have been serving TD ENT (the company who develops and displays the Halftime show) for 10 years now. They are the people behind the scenes that work diligently to make the magic of the halftime happen every year. Also, getting to see the rehearsal show before the rest of the country, standing on the field is one of the most electrifying feelings in the world. We are truly blessed to get to experience that again and again. We will be in Miami for the next Super Bowl!
If you could improve the food service industry in one way, what would it be and why would you change it?
I would incorporate more nutritional awareness and help people become more self-knowledgeable about what they put in their bodies. I am a big advocate for making healthy eating decisions even when other more tempting options are available.
Jen Kerum of Tony’s Food Service. Daughter of Tony, the namesake of the restaurant. Growing up, Jen spent her summers with her dad on set wherever he was in the world. Meeting people who remember her as a baby is just an everyday occurrence in the life of a world-famous catering family. Feeling most at home on a movie set, Jen became as well-acquainted with the business as her parents before her. Currently, she is based in New York City where she manages the East Coast division of Tony’s Food Service. In the past month, Jen traveled to Panama, Atlanta, and Philadelphia working on developing film and television projects on behalf of Tony’s Food Service. Beyond the catering world, she is debuting a company in Croatia called Anchor Croatia that does Luxury Yacht Rentals and Bespoke Tours around the 1,100 islands of Croatia. To learn more about Jen’s adventures and Tony’s Food Service, visit their Facebook page and IMDB page.
Why do you consider your most recent success an “accomplishment milestone”?
My dad started Tony’s Food Service with my mom in 1982. From the beginning they were a partnership. Their love for each other, love for people, and great food is what made them so successful. In the beginning my parents both worked in the catering truck together, but later decided that my mom would run the office and dad would fly around the world managing all the shows.
My parents came into the movie industry during a time where food on film sets was very simple. Everyone was serving hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch. He was the first caterer to serve lobsters and filet mignon on a movie set. He changed the face of Motion Picture Catering, disrupted the industry, and set the standard for all other caterers in film.
Who have you met while working with Tony’s Food Service that has influenced you the most?Honestly, my mom and dad. They are such an incredible team. They work so hard and each of them have so much passion and love for there kids. Everything they did in building this business was for their kids and I look up to them every day for it.
Do you have any valuable lessons that you’ve learned about your business?
Running a business is a twenty-four-hour job, especially in the film and television industry. You must love what you do; otherwise this isn’t the right business for you.
What is your favorite project that Tony’s Food Service worked on?
For me personally “Waterworld” in Hawaii when I was a kid. The whole crew lived on the Big Island for a year and it was like a big family. I remember running around set everyday with all the other crew’s kids. There’s an epic Thanksgiving dinner my dad did for the crew that goes down in history as one of the best Thanksgiving dinners ever served in Tony’s Food Service.
Where do you see Tony’s Food Service going in the next five years?
It would be so neat to have a Tony’s Food Service Organic Farm one day, where we grew our own vegetables that we served on set.
Why do you love what you do?
I love making people smile every day and serving delicious food to amazing people. It’s all about them and it’s all for them.
How did your family begin its business? Why did they go into the food service industry?
My dad grew up in a small farm in Croatia outside of Split. His family didn’t have very much and decided to go to Culinary school because by working in the school’s restaurant it would pay for his education. My dad was twenty-one when he came to America and his sights were on creating “The American Dream”. My dad worked for another caterer and after a short amount of time of working there, he realized there was a lot missing in the food industry in America. He wanted to bring home cooking and love to film catering. After he met my mom, everything fell into place. One couldn’t do it without the other. My mom is the brains behind the office portion of the business and my dad is the most amazing chef I’ve ever met.
What do you (and those that you work with) love about food service in the film and television industry?
The energy. There’s nothing like it. We’ve served in the most surreal locations around the world. We worked in Vietnam once and had to take a military barge with all our equipment down a river in the middle of the jungle and serve on a tiny island that was used to secretly make weapons during the war in Vietnam. I love the challenge. My office view is different every day. How many people can say that?
How do your Croatian roots play into making Tony’s Food Service special and so valuable?
First off Croatian food is amazing! Because Croatia is situated along the Adriatic Sea, you have freshly caught seafood, delicious homemade olive oil, and home-grown vegetables. Everyone cultivates their own garden at home and people only eat according the seasons. That quality of food that my dad implements is what shines through in his company. My dad has always said, “if I wouldn’t eat it, I wouldn’t serve it”. And let me tell you, my dad is a picky man!
Do you have any memories from or comments on the documentary made about Tony, “Cooking for Hollywood” (2013)?
My dad’s story is so unique and special, I would love to make a movie out of his life. He came from nothing and created this amazing empire with my mom. My parents helped so much of my Croatian-born family during the war in Yugoslavia by giving them jobs in America. Lots of my cousins were spared from war because my dad brought them to America and gave them a job. This business was a blessing from God and helped save people’s lives.
Highball Society Quarantine Film Festival: Creativity in the Age of Quarantine
Article By: Liz Wiest
Now more than ever, the phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” is vital for creatives who are stuck in quarantine, and PA industry professionals Tim and Jamie Stevens have taken this mantra to a whole new level. During this time, it’s very easy for artists to fall off from creating, but the duo, who are seasoned in all things art, were inspired to come up with a way to come together as a family and bring together artists who are sheltering-in-place.
Their project? The Highball Society Quarantine Film Festival- an opportunity for film workers to keep their creative juices flowing right from their own homes! The concept? To produce a zero-budget short film in accordance with a theme of made-up words (and CDC guidelines, of course) that the filmmakers can choose to interpret however they see fit. Some examples for this current round include: “Husbordes”, “Ploosner”, “Rebarbects”, “Unknifto” and “Requelime” (one must be used as a verb, the other as a noun!). Submissions can be filmed on cameras large or small, and edited only with what is available.
Tim and Jamie began the project as something to do within the family, but were quickly thrilled at how fulfilling it was to create something completely new during this time. When asked what a filming day was like, Tim says: “It was great, right when school was over for our daughter, my wife turned into an AD and had everyone was in wardrobe and immediately reporting to set figuring out which scene to shoot”! Their hard work culminated in a short that they entitled the Prince of Galatop, now available for viewing on YouTube, and the Highball Society website.
The first round of submissions turned in a vibrant and unique set of responses to the prompt words. Tim describes the two submissions, Crust and Orousloth as being “some of of the greatest and most creative things he’s seen in a long time”! Tim’s short was even shown in a virtual Zoom meeting for Rough Cuts, a PA-based group where filmmakers can screen their work in whatever stage of the process they may be in.
The festival is currently finishing it’s second round this week, and while the current grand prize consists of bragging rights and the coveted title of The Big Winner of Round 2, those who take part in the current round will get to judge the previous rounds. Tim and Jamie hope that more creatives will become inspired to get involved, and that the contest brings about some sense of unity and normalcy in these uncertain times. Currently, they have 30 individuals from all around PA, and even some from New York committed to submitting to the project.
To submit, please email your submission via a Vimeo or YouTube link to firstname.lastname@example.org. The rules for Round 3 will be announced 5/25/20.
The website to view submissions is: www.highballsociety.com
Article By: Maria Shamkalian
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it? Writing, producing and premiering In Your Afterglow with a very limited budget from start to finish - 11 months. Gathering a fantastic cast and crew to complete production of the film in 12 shooting days.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I was driving to my 35th college reunion (Bucknell U) when I received a text from a friend: “Want to play a hot, potty-mouthed sibling in an Indie film?” Random. Without any hesitation I responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Shortly thereafter I met with Director Mike Gutridge to discuss the role of Trish in his film Shadows (release date scheduled for late 2020). We filmed Shadows during the summer of 2018. I fell in love with the entire process. With filming completed in October 2018, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I had been writing for years, but never with the intention to work in the film industry. By November I was converting one of my story ideas to the screenplay format. By June 2019, we were filming In Your Afterglow.
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?
As a Pennsylvania native, it made sense to film locally in York, PA, but I had no idea how receptive and helpful folks in the area would be. What I discovered was a huge support system, eager to contribute to the success of the film. Pennsylvania is chock-full of historical sites, country and urban settings, institutional settings (college and universities), as well as private individuals willing to share their homes for filming. In Your Afterglow was filmed in 11 locations throughout York and Adams County. Literally everyone I asked said yes.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania? The flashbacks from In Your Afterglow were filmed at the historic Dill’s Tavern in Dillsburg, PA. That was one of my favorite filming days. Our host was super helpful, the lighting in the building was beautiful and I couldn’t have asked for a more authentic setting. I also enjoyed filming on the scenic Heritage Rail Trail. The trail extends approximately 21 miles from York city south to the Maryland border.
What do you love the most about your job?
As both writer and producer of In Your Afterglow, I wore many hats. This allowed me to combine my creative, managerial, and leadership skills. Everyday, I encountered new challenges. I thrive on problem solving. Producing a film is like working on a jigsaw puzzle. When all of the pieces are finally in place, the result is exhilarating. But of course, that only lasts for a little while then you say, “Ok where’s the next one?”
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?
Everyday on set was memorable for one reason or another, but the story I want to share is about a flying squirrel. A significant portion of the film was shot in the beautiful kitchen graciously provided by Michael and Julie Wheeler. As part of my regular routine, a few days before filming each week, I confirmed with her the date and arrival time. A few weeks into filming, I received a response “Yes, this is fine. Could you please remind everyone to close the garage door when they go in and out? When we returned home on Sunday, there was a flying squirrel in the laundry room. We were able to capture and release it.” I was mortified. I apologized profusely. Of all of the things I worried about, a flying squirrel was not on my list. This could easily have jeopardized my relationship with Julie and Mike. Filming at their home could have come to an abrupt halt. Instead, they took the incident in stride. Several months later, the Wheelers attended IYA’s premiere at the Appell Center. We had a good laugh. Thank goodness.
What are some of the challenges of being a female filmmaker?
To date I haven’t experienced specific challenges as a female filmmaker. However, getting into the industry at my age has raised some eyebrows. Many ask, why now? My answer is pretty simple.
Before now, I haven’t had the courage or encouragement to pursue my passion. What was expected of me and what I wanted to do were often not congruent. So, I waited. Currently, I have both, but I think encouragement from those who believe in me gave me the courage to go for it.
What is your advice for other women in film?
Surround yourself with people who believe in you but are not afraid to challenge you. Study. Celebrate your ability to multi-task. Be prepared to overcome stumbling blocks that are not female specific.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
I’m currently working on my next screenplay “The Feeding Hand” which I plan to film in Pennsylvania. About a third of that film will be filmed in Milton, Pa. I’m open to filming the rest in York or another PA location. I’m currently considering Philadelphia.
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?
I have been fortunate to meet many aspiring actors and filmmakers in Pennsylvania. Our state is loaded with talent. We need support from producers. We need funding for our films. Making films provides employment for Pennsylvanians. Making films in PA provides income to restaurants and hotels. Featuring PA locations in films showcases the many beautiful and historic areas. I would not have been able to produce my first film anywhere else. And I will not be able to produce my second film without support of new investors. These investors need every incentive possible to encourage them to look within Pennsylvania and see what we have to offer.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?
Discuss your budget with other experienced filmmakers.
Interview several candidates for each role in your film. Don’t settle. Don’t get discouraged by nah-sayers. You can do it!
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?
This is no secret. Network. Join groups. Research.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?
I learned so many valuable lessons with each stage of the process. The most difficult part of my work on In Your Afterglow was acting and producing at the same time. Best to do one or the other.
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?
In Your Afterglow of course!
What is your favorite project that you worked on?
In Your Afterglow was of course my favorite project, but acting in Shadows was fun because I had only one job - my role as “Trish”.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?
I’d like to direct films written by others.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?
Feel free to reach out to me via email: email@example.com
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org