A Special Lobbyist Report: Recap of the Senate Finance Committee Hearing on PA Film Tax Credits

Friday, April 22, 2022 10:37 AM | Jennifer Iams (Administrator)


On Wednesday, April 20th, the Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on Pennsylvania’s film tax credit program at the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to either attend the hearing in-person or watch online. If you missed the hearing, please check out the Senate Finance Committee’s website here. It will give you access to all the written testimony that was submitted and a link to a recording of the one hour and 20 minute hearing.

We were thrilled with the number of legislators in attendance at the hearing – Senate Finance Committee Republican Chairman Scott Hutchinson and Senate Finance Committee Democratic Chairman Wayne Fontana, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R), Senator Judy Ward (R), Senator Devlin Robinson (R), and Senator Jay Costa (D). As you may recall, Senators Bartolotta and Costa are the Senate co-chairs of the bi-partisan Legislative Film Caucus.

Presenting testimony to the Senate Finance Committee was a group of film and hospitality panelists. All of them shared personal stories about why they love their jobs, why they want to live and work in PA, and why it is important for the Commonwealth of PA to support, and grow,  the film tax credit program. The legislators greatly appreciated the panelists’ real life stories about how each of them found their place in the film industry, how they want to grow their businesses and support others entering the film and TV workforce, and the immense proud they all share in having one of the over 30,000 full time jobs generated or impacted by the film industry.

While the film industry has generated over $5.2 billion in total economic activity since 2007, the impact of the industry is so much greater than what can be captured in an economic impact study. Our sincere thanks go out to those that participated in the hearing – Gregory Edwards (Executive Committee Member, IASTE Local 489 and Dolly Grip), Lela Checco (Crafty Craft Services, LLC), Keith Frank (Vice President, Teamsters Local 249), Brick Brickman (Set Painter), Trey Matheu (Managing Director, Nemocolin Woodlands Resort), and Dawn Keezer (Director, Pittsburgh Film Office). The wonderful testimony presented yesterday ensured that the legislators recognized and truly saw the faces of all the men and women working in the film industry (and dare I say they saw the hearts of each of the workers as well).

After such a successful hearing, we must ride the wave of enthusiasm and support for the film tax credit program. We are encouraging all of you to reach out to your state House and state Senate member and ask them to increase the film tax credit from $70 million to $125 million when they pass a budget in Harrisburg this June. You can find the name and contact information for your local legislators using the website found here.

We are also in the process of finalizing a date (tentatively Monday, May 23) and time for a reception in Harrisburg where film and TV industry stakeholders, like yourself, can mingle in-person with legislators and share your personal stories as to why increasing the funding for the film tax credit program is so important. We will share details about this receptions as they become available.

Lastly, we wanted to share the Post Gazette’s coverage of the hearing. We thought the article captured the essence of the hearing nicely. The text of the article can be found below or via the link here.

Pittsburgh-area film workers praise Pa.’s film tax credit, ask for increase before state Senate panel

  

APR 20, 2022

 

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

After ABC’s “The Bachelor” filmed at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, the hotel saw an 18% increase in net revenue over its highest-ever earnings.

While Tom Hanks filmed on a street in Bellevue for his upcoming movie “A Man Called Otto,” 20 nearby homes got repainted free of charge.

As crews worked 12-hour days on movies like “The Pale Blue Eye” set to come out this year, staff spent $1.7 million on snacks and drinks locally to keep them going.

These are all recent examples of the outward impact Pennsylvania’s film industry has on its broader economy, large and small, according to local film industry leaders who spoke before a panel of state senators on Wednesday.

Several southwestern Pennsylvania lawmakers gathered in Pittsburgh with the film industry professionals to discuss the success of the state’s Film Tax Credit Program — and its unpredictability.

Since its inception, the tax credit has brought more than $2 billion into the state, with 195 TV shows and movies filmed locally, according to the Pittsburgh Film Office.

Pennsylvania is one of 42 states that offers some form of a film tax incentive to draw filmmakers to their regions. State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Monongahela, introduced legislation to increase the tax credit from $70 million to $125 million, but it was cut out of budget negotiations last year. The bipartisan lawmakers from the Pittsburgh region said they hope they can negotiate an increase as part of this year’s budget.

There is no lack of interest in filming in Western Pennsylvania, said Dawn Keezer, the Pittsburgh Film Office director. Instead, the tax credit gets used up so quickly that local film companies need to turn big-time films or TV series away.

“We have half a billion dollars worth of work that want to be here,” Ms. Keezer told the Senate panel.

Plus, Pennsylvania has two movie-making hubs with Philadelphia across the state, making it stand out among others — though that means the two regions need to share the tax credits, Ms. Keezer added.

“It’s Atlanta in Georgia, and Chicago in Illinois,” Ms. Keezer said about other popular places to shoot films in the U.S. “In Pennsylvania, it’s Pittsburgh and Philly, so the credit is underfunded and oversubscribed.”

Pittsburgh-area film crews have gotten “really good” at painting the city to look like New York, offering a smaller environment where crews can actually close down the streets, Ms. Keezer said. Its proximity to mountains and rural communities also offers filmmakers a desired location to shoot — though it can be hard for them to shoot movies based in beaches or deserts.

Last year, crime-thriller TV series “Mayor of Kingstown” wanted to film in southwestern Pennsylvania, Ms. Keezer said. But they didn’t have enough tax credits left to get them to film there, so they chose to film in Canada instead.

This year, “Mayor of Kingstown” will film in Pittsburgh for its second season.

“We’re thrilled about that, but we have to turn away more work than we ever see,” Ms. Keezer added.

Ms. Bartolotta said she hopes to increase the tax credit this year, and add some insurance that the tax credit will stay steady for the next three-plus years.

“You’re not going to build studios.. All of those people moving into Pennsylvania, that’s not going to happen if they think this is going to be a one-year experience,” Ms. Bartolotta added.

Several panelists from local unions said the film jobs produce consistent, comfortable wages for their employees.

Keith Frank, the vice president of Teamsters Local 249, tried to dispel the myth that these jobs are not sustainable. Most of his union members will work seven to nine months out of the year, but will work 3,000 hours during that time — much more than the 2,080 traditional 9-5 jobs offer, Mr. Frank said.

It’s when this tax credit isn’t made available — like in 2017 — that its workers lose jobs, he added.

Gillian McGoldrick; gmcgoldrick@post-gazette.com 

First Published April 20, 2022, 4:04pm


Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)
461 Cochran Road, Box 246
Pittsburgh, PA 15228
(717) 833-4561  info@pafia.org

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