June 30th is upon us...and as the final day of the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, I am pleased to report that the general appropriations bill (the budget bill) will be complete by the end of the day.
By John Rokosz
What is PaFIA? What does it do for Pennsylvania? PaFIA is all of us—anyone in Pennsylvania who aspires to make their living by the films they create, and anyone who appreciates the statewide economic value these films bring. However, perhaps the most important argument for PaFIA (and the film industry itself, for that matter) lies not in the “What” but the “Why”? Why is film a universal phenomenon that can speak to any age, culture, or race? Why is it so important to advocate and jealously guard the means to create films in our home state? Why do we, as filmmakers, do what we do? JaLia Moody, a 2-year marketing committee member and writer for PaFIA, understands her motivation well. JaLia’s ambition for film is to exercise the tremendous responsibility of all great filmmakers—to tell stories that matter. PaFIA’s goal is to secure PA’s place at the table, in that ever-competitive pursuit of telling these stories, and JaLia’s work with PaFIA is a testament to that endeavor.
JaLia’s experience in the film industry is best described as passionate and persistent. She started her writing career in 8th grade, composing a theatrical stage play. In high school, her interests turned toward film, and in 2012, she graduated from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia with a B.A. in Mass Media Arts and concentration in film. Today, JaLia is a freelance artist in Philadelphia that services a wide spectrum of the filmmaking process for non-profit and small business clients; her work has included scriptwriting, conceptualization, budgeting, videography, directing, graphic design, and editing. When not on the film set, she is a teacher and has also tutored in English and Study Skills with the help of self-produced video lessons. Her personal goal is to be an independent filmmaker, and to start her own production company.
To that end, JaLia is extremely invested in her art; “There is a quiet, subtle power in film,” she said in our discussion, “It can influence the behavior or opinion of anyone that sees it.” When asked about her favorite project, she described a feature film script she is currently writing that deals with depression, resilience, and finding one’s purpose. One of the script’s goals is to bring awareness to a branch of psychology that emerged in 1998: “Positive Psychology” is a clinical analysis of what makes people happy, and how those factors can be incorporated into one’s lifestyle to better their mental health. JaLia pointed out this project as a message that she was excited to share with audiences—increasing awareness and offering insight to victims of depression (you can read more about Positive Psychology at https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/positive-psychology).
Another one of her current projects is a TV script that will tackle many of today’s issues, including perspectives on homosexuality and race. “I think it’s important that we utilize the medium to tell stories that matter,” she continued.
When asked about her work with PaFIA, JaLia commented on the various networking opportunities it presented, and how it can help aspiring filmmakers: “You need to connect with people on projects. You have to stay busy, and be patiently persistent. Joining PaFIA helps you meet other people that are passionate about this work.” She also spoke specifically about the articles she’s written for PaFIA; “It has been wonderful to interview people in the industry who live off the PA tax credit. Writing for PaFIA has given me intimate examples of what that tax credit really means.”
For JaLia, it is clear—the purpose of film is to move an audience; whether that be with a short joke, or a heart-wrenching drama, or a suspenseful thriller. The overall hope is that the audience will be moved toward a more healthy awareness of themselves, and of humanity. The ability to tell these stories, however, is not easy to come by. It takes a tremendous amount of talent and resources, which are safeguarded only by a renewed commitment to cultivate and maintain those resources. Very specifically, that means encouraging a healthy line of projects that employs creative and talented workers, and securing a dependable destination for future filmmakers to keep coming back to PA.
400+ film/TV crew, actors, and supporters of the industry gathered at the famous Rocky steps in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 2.
The event was coordinated by the Philly film office with the goal to raise awareness of the importance of the PA film tax credits to bringing jobs to the Commonwealth.
It was an illustrious line-up of speakers: M. Night Shyamalan led off with an inspirational talk about why he chooses to shoot in his hometown. Other speakers included State Senators Vinent Hughes and Daylin Leach, Phila City council members Mark Squilla and David Oh (just out of the hospital!), actor David Morse, producers/stars of Comedy Central's "Delco Proper,"- John McKeever and Tommy Pope, indie film producer Sarah Meagan Thomas, Casting directors Diane Heery and Jason Loftus. Film Crews were well represented also with speakers from IATSE local 52, Teamsters local 817 (and their great "billboard" truck!), SAG-AFTRA, and many individual crew members (Leon Sanginiti, Susannah McCarthy, Jozef Jozefowski...) and PaFIA board members Mike McCann, James Madison, and John Rusk.
The crowd spanned all ages, with actors, crew, and industry supporters given a mission as they left: a call to action - contact your legislators, let them know how much the film tax credit means to JOBS in Pennsylvania!
Memorial Day has come and gone, propelling us into the next annual holiday (or so it seems)… the state budget.
As we all know, June is the busiest month of the year in Harrisburg – with feverish negotiations towards a balanced budget. And just like in years past, the state is stuck with a difficult decisions to make:
How much needs to be cut? What gets cut? If we can’t find enough savings in cuts, where do we get new revenue? Increase existing taxes? Establish new taxes?
So here we are, again. The shortfall estimate was $3 billion in early February when Governor Wolf announced his $32.3 billion budget proposal for 2017/2018, which begins July 1. At the start of deliberations for the commonwealth’s 2016-17 spending plan in early 2016, the deficit figure was being reported as approximately $2 billion. The situation seemed cautiously optimistic after Wolf delivered his budget address. Rather than building his budget plan predominantly on a foundation of new and higher taxes, his plan was to exact $2 billion in government-efficiency savings and only $1 billion worth of new levies.
The new-tax proposals revolved around applying the state’s sales and use tax to several currently exempted products and services; proposing again, as he has every year since becoming governor, a controversial severance tax on natural gas drilling; and assessing local municipalities without police departments for state police protection. He also projected that expanded gambling would bring in $150 million during 2017-18; $100 million of anticipated incoming revenue was included in this year’s budget, but that gambling expansion and money never materialized. The Senate passed an iGaming bill last week, but the Senate and House are by no means unanimous regarding all of what’s being proposed. As noted earlier, the state counted on $100 million in revenues from iGaming in THIS fiscal year. That $100 million lost due to legislative inaction since July 1, 2016 is gone – and as a result, only adds to the deficit.
Beyond that, even if gambling options are expanded, the amount of incoming revenue is by no means assured. Wolf has said in recent days that the Senate’s gambling-expansion plan would fall short of the revenue goal that he seeks.
Additionally, the Governor has proposed consolidating agencies – combining the Departments of Health, Human Services, Aging and Drug & Alcohol into one massive agency. There will be reported savings as a result of the consolidation. Then there’s the unease surrounding the government-efficiency proposals, primarily because of their impact on local-level services.
With all that said….. continued advocacy in Harrisburg by PaFIA has proven to leaders and members the value of the film tax credit program, citing the ongoing positive economic impacts in communities throughout Pennsylvania. The prospects of the film tax credit program remaining at current levels remains very good. PaFIA will remain actively engaged in the conversations and negotiations as the months move along.
The ultimate question at the macro level will be – as the 2017-2018 budget deliberations progress – will the final product simply get us through the next fiscal year but leave the state with a $4 billion deficit next year? Or will the difficult decisions made THIS year lead us to a better budget debate and discussion NEXT year?
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 email@example.com