On March 12, PaFIA hosted an immensely informative and insightful event for local screenwriters, where they could learn the secrets of breaking into the industry. Jamal Hill, Jennifer McDevitt and Joe Gangemi, three successful and established local screenwriters, described in detail the process, craft and nature of the field.
Joe Gangemi is the screenwriter of the movies WIND CHILL, starring Emily Blunt, STONEHEARST ASYLUM, starring Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Kingsley, BLACKWAY, starring Anthony Hopkins, and RED OAKS, starring Paul Reiser, Jennifer Gray and Richard Kind. Jamal Hill started out in the industry by working on such films as I AM LEGEND, HANCOCK and IRON MAN, which later lead him on to directing Lady Gaga’s THE FAME. He also directed STREETS starring hip hop star Meek Mill and landed a deal with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment to direct a slate of films, including BROTHERLY LOVE. Jennifer Yee McDevitt has films in development at 20th Century Fox. She worked at Warner Bros Studios, spent two seasons with NFL Films and directed 10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS narrated by Anne Hathaway with music by Bruce Springsteen. She is represented by CAA and Rise Management.
David Raynor, member of Producer’s Guild of America and one of PaFIA’s board members, moderated the event, asking the panelists the most burning questions of the local screenwriters’ community. Aspiring writers were moved and inspired by the panelists’ stories and words of guidance. The speakers did not speak about an overnight success, but rather gave realistic advice on the right steps to make, books to read and ways to promote yourself in order to become a full-time screenwriter.
PaFIA is truly grateful to Greater Philadelphia Film Office for help with event promotion; to Sofitel Philadelphia for hosting this event and providing a wonderful wine and food set up; and to the amazing sponsors: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Tague Lumber, Colomy Paint & Decorating, Herc Rentals and Staybridge Suites Wilmington-Brandywine Valley. Also, a special shout out to Chris Kellett and Sync Speed for the awesome audio set up and a big welcome to our ten new and two renewing members!
Saturday, March 4, saw the inaugural event hosted by Expressway Grip and presented by esteemed Producer, Production Manager and film industry veteran, Wendy Cox. Over 100 engaged and enthusiastic attendees filled the room for the crash course in industry standards, personnel, protocols and processes. The event covered a range of departments in different mediums including feature films, television, commercial and reality productions.
Wendy Cox organized and moderated the event with Expressway's James Madison as a way to give back and strengthen the local filmmaking community. Key contributors and presenters at the event included film industry heavy weights David Raynor (Production Coordinator) and John Rusk (1stt AD). Reality Producer Veronica Stickelman switched it up with an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of unscripted reality and documentary production.
The event, which was sponsored by PAFIA and PWIFT and supported by the Philadelphia Film Office, was an enlightening and educational program that provided a unique open-forum environment for long-standing industry professionals and future filmmakers to network and reinforce the revitalization of Philadelphia’s filmmaking industry.
Thank you to everyone who attended and to our sponsors.
We eagerly await the next Production Bootcamp!
PaFIA East recently had a fantastic event at Revel & Roost Pittsburgh. The turnout was encouraging and we saw just as many new faces as we did established members. A huge thank you to Revel & Roost, all the organizers and volunteers for this successful event!
Why should I join PaFIA, a frequently asked question, What do I get?
"PaFIA's mission is to promote the film, television and commercial industry in Pennsylvania and to serve as a strong collective voice to address common issues in business circles and government offices. The association also strives to provide business, educational and networking opportunities for its members."
The biggest priority of PaFIA is to support production and business in Pennsylvania by ensuring that Pennsylvania government is aware of the crew members and vendors eager to work. PaFIA does this by supporting a lobbyist to be our voice in Harrisburg. In essence, by joining PaFIA, members are speaking up to support and keep the film tax credit in our state budget.
Productions come to Pennsylvania for the current film tax credits, diverse locations, accommodating vendors and professional crews.
In addition to the business aspect of what PaFIA does at the state level, this organization offers networking at the local level. Crew members, vendors, interns, film students, actors, teachers, casting professionals all gather at these events to share experiences and possibly collaborate.
A recent example is Jennifer Heastings, a CEO of a local non-profit organization called Arts Out Loud. They support and mentor young people looking to pursue careers in the film, television and music industry. She was new to PaFIA, showed up to the Pittsburgh event through a social media invite and came in knowing nothing about the organization. Arts Out Loud is looking to film a documentary on their events to showcase what they do and raise support. When I spoke with her after the event, she reiterated to me how she gained new contacts for her organization including a possible new mentor.
Having recently relocated to Pittsburgh she found this event to be a warm introduction to crew members and like minded professionals. In her words she was pleasantly surprised at how open the people were and how willing they were to offer support and introductions. This was something she had not found previously in other states.
The information and contacts Ms. Heastings gained through attending this event will further assist her efforts in promoting Arts Out Loud and PaFIA gains another valuable member.
Think about what each of us bring to the table; unique skill sets, experiences and talent. Putting all these things together into one resource and group can only benefit
production in Pennsylvania. PaFIA membership is important at the state level as well as the local level. It affects every individual involved in creating film, television and media productions. The jobs in each department are invaluable, from the vendors supplying goods to the artists creating a vision on screen.
Support PaFIA by becoming a member and getting involved!
For more information on Arts Out Loud you can visit www.artsoutloud.org.
On February 23, John Mitchel, Kenneth McGregor and Renee Carrillo hosted another successful Film & Theatre Artist Exchange Networking Event at Dave & Busters for hundreds of local actors and filmmakers. The event celebrated Black History Month and African American filmmakers shared their films and inspiring success stories.
Right at the event entrance, there was a full-height backdrop banner with the PaFIA logo among a few others for red carpet pictures, as well as PaFIA table set-up, where potential members could join, renew, or learn more about PaFIA and get a PaFIA pin for joining. Maria Breyman spoke from the stage on behalf of PaFIA about the importance of joining and supporting its mission of increasing tax credits and bringing more film work to Pennsylvania. She also described a number of great benefits that come with PaFIA membership such as free networking events with other industry professionals, free workshops with established filmmakers, and updates on upcoming Pennsylvania productions. Dom Frank, one of the presenters and Producer at Hard Floor Entertainment with 25 million dollar budget projects lined up, accentuated the need for tax credits in Pennsylvania and encouraged everyone to join PaFIA.
On Tuesday, February 7, Governor Wolf gave his third budget address since being elected Governor. And the Governor held true to his word that he would not seek an increase in the tax rates for income or sales.
Instead, the Governor proposed some consolidations (combining 4 departments – Health, Human Services, Aging and Drug & Alcohol – into one) and closings (closing a prison in western Pennsylvania) which would incur some savings. Additionally, the Governor proposed some new revenue options like internet gaming (approximately $150 million in estimated revenue) and also charging a $25 per resident fee if you live in a municipality which uses the state police for PRIMARY protection.
And while I must STRESS to you that this is merely just his PROPOSAL, the Governor also wants to change state tax credits offered to businesses and other groups by 20 percent. This “cost-savings proposal” would convert an array of state tax credits into a block grant. That would enable Wolf Cabinet officials to give priority to those tax credits providing the greatest opportunities for business investment, education access and community development. The state revenue available to support these tax credits would be reduced by $100 million next year from a current level of nearly $500 million if lawmakers adopt the proposal.
Department secretaries also would give priority to funding tax credits based in part on their performance in meeting goals and the demand for them, said state Budget Secretary Randy Albright.
Listed individually, the Governor still “allocated” $65 million to the film tax credit; as well as new job tax credit, $10 million; research and development, $55 million; Keystone Opportunity Zones, $78 million; educational improvement, $125 million; educational opportunity scholarship tax, $50 million; historic preservation incentive, $3 million; and coal refuse energy and reclamation, $10 million.
The important thing to note, again, is that this is just his proposal and details are still limited. More importantly, the governor’s tax credit proposal is already receiving pushback from lawmakers. And YOUR association, PaFIA, is meeting with legislators, the Governor’s office, and the Department of Community and Economic Development to voice our concerns with the block grant approach. PaFIA is also expressing appreciation for the program and sharing positive stories of film industry growth and progress over the years.
Not too long ago, getting a single movie made in Pittsburgh was a fairly big deal.
With that milestone met, others came in steady succession: multiple movies in a year, multiple movies at the same time, a star-heavy, big-budget blockbuster like “The Dark Knight Rises,” an Oscar contender like “Fences.”
However, if you ask Dawn Keezer, longtime director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, there's been one goal above them all.
The “holy grail” is an episodic TV series.
Now, Pittsburgh has three of them: ABC's “Downward Dog,” Netflix's David Fincher project “Mindhunter,” and Millvale- and Monroeville-shot “Outsiders,” which is premiering its second season Jan. 24 on WGN America.
“It's exciting, and it's what we said would happen if we had sustainable film tax credits,” Keezer says. “Of course, Netflix doesn't consider itself television.
“(Series television) provides longer employment and more opportunities for internal workforce development. They train from within … which allows people to progress in their careers.”
If shows do well enough, they come back to shoot another season. And another.
“Outsiders,” which focuses on an off-the-grid clan in Kentucky, looks set to be that breakout show that sticks around for awhile. Even though WGN America isn't really established yet as a home for original scripted shows, people have been finding “Outsiders.”
“It's doing great,” Keezer says. “It's the No. 1 show on WGN.”
Nickelodeon's kid-friendly “Supah Ninjas” with George Takei, was made in Pittsburgh and lasted two seasons, 2011-13. An eight-episode mini-series “The Kill Point” also was shot in Pittsburgh, and aired in 2007.
Numerous TV pilots have been shot here, including “Justified,” which ended up going for five critically acclaimed seasons.
Only the first episode was shot here.
“Mindhunter” is a crime/detective story from David Fincher, who has made some of the best of the past few decades: “Seven,” “Zodiac” and “Gone Girl.” It's based on the book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit” and stars Jonathan Groff (“Glee”) and Anna Torv (“Fringe”).
“Downward Dog,” about a dog that speaks directly to the camera about modern relationships, is intended as a summer replacement for ABC. It stars Allison Tolman (“Fargo”).
“ ‘Downward Dog' is pretty special,” Keezer says. “It was created by Animal Inc. in Downtown Pittsburgh. It was produced by Jimmy Miller, who is from Pittsburgh. The production is Legendary Entertainment, which is Thomas Tull (the billionaire part-time Pittsburgher and part-owner of the Steelers). It was kind of this love story to Pittsburgh.”
Movies tend to give you a fixed amount of time to scout, select and prep locations, says location manager John Adkins, who has worked on both, including “Outsiders.”
“In a TV series, because you have this rotating cast of directors — and scripts come in as the series is shooting — we're constantly scouting, selecting and prepping throughout the season,” he says. “It's more of a hamster-wheel scenario.”
As more movies and television shows are shot in Pittsburgh, more people are drawn to the trade. Chip Eccles, business representative for the film technicians and allied crafts union, IATSE Local No. 489, says they added 70 members in 2015, and 67 in 2016. He notes that 157 people from his union worked on “Downward Dog,” 252 worked on “Outsiders” and 362 worked on “Mindhunter.”
This does not include the unions for camera, hair and makeup, production office, the Screen Actors Guild, the Director's Guild and Teamsters, to name a few of the unions that typically work on film sets.
“It also does not include all the production assistants, and all the other non-union people,” Eccles says.
Pennsylvania's film tax credit incentive is the key to making it all work, which Keezer never misses a chance to point out.
“The film tax program has been in effect for 10 years,” she says. “We have interest in more (productions), but we don't have enough tax credits to support them. ‘Manifesto,' a Lionsgate production, went to Georgia because we didn't have enough (tax credits). Those are jobs we're just giving to another state. We have a $60 million (capped) tax credit — once it's gone, it's gone, and we lose other work.”
When all things are equal (enough), Pittsburgh tends to win out on its own merits, Keezer says.
“We're very fortunate to have the skills and experience levels,” she says. “They're the best workers in the country. We're known in the industry for having an amazing crew in our region.”
For Pittsburgh residents, who find their street is blocked for a scene, it's still enough of a novelty that there's little backlash.
“Ninety-five percent are very excited,” Adkins says. “One or two don't like to have their lifestyle disrupted in any way. And we are a disruption. Anybody who's got an issue, we try to address in person. We're very proud of our city, so showcasing it in movies and TV shows is something that many people in this city support.
“There's still this sense around the country that we're this smoky city of the '70s. When people come in from New York, they're surprised at the beauty of the city, and how nice people are.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tonight unveiled a state budget that includes a three-year extension of the state’s film production tax credit. Launched in 2004 and extended by Cuomo in 2013, the $420 million-a-year program isn’t set to expire until 2019 but was expected to run out of money later this year without the additional funding provided for in the new state budget.
An economic impact report conducted for Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm, found that in one two-year period – 2013 and 2014 – the program had created more than $5 billion in spending in the state, generated nearly $10 billion in total spending throughout the state’s economy, created more than 60,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in earnings.
Many in the state’s booming film and TV community had urged the governor to extend the program, including the New York Production Alliance and the DGA.
“The Directors Guild of America applauds Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership, and thanks him for including a three-year extension of the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit in his budget,” the guild said in a statement. “The positive impact of the incentive on the economy, jobs and local business is enormous. Between 2005 and 2015, as production increased by more than 300%, the earnings of our members who live and work in New York’s communities grew 350%. This simply would not have happened without the incentive.”
The program’s extension also will be good for businesses like Kaufman Astoria Studios, which boasts the only studio backlot in New York City. “The governor’s support of the tax credit is a great economic policy,” said Hal G. Rosenbluth, the studio’s president and CEO. “The tax credit, combined with New York’s great talent, drives the $9 billion production industry in New York. The industry creates in excess of 100,000 high-paying jobs and spends millions of dollars in the local community for goods and services. Having the tax credit in place encourages Kaufman Astoria Studios and its counterparts to invest in building new infrastructure to service and grow the industry. With this extension of the tax credit the governor has established a win-win for the economy.”
SAG-AFTRA said that it too is pleased with the extension and the jobs for performers it will bring to the state. “SAG-AFTRA is grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in recognizing the substantial economic benefits this tax incentive program brings to New Yorkers,” said Mike Hodge, president of the union’s New York local. “Film, television and other productions now create over 140,000 SAG-AFTRA-covered entertainment jobs every year in New York. The proposed extension of the tax incentive program, combined with the extraordinary talent of our local members, will ensure that producers continue to invest and thrive here.”
Judith M. Strazzera has been working in the film industry for the last 19 years after starting at 23 in Glendale, CA at a production facility working with major studios as their account representative. She then moved through the production facilities and managed edit bays and worked with creating theatrical trailers and teasers and helped process the QC, Editing Telecine, Digital Restoration and Film Lab processes for major features and independent projects. Eventually, Judith transitioned into Dispatching/DOT Administration where she worked for a number of projects before landing in Production Accounting, where she continues to work consecutively.
Judith became involved with PaFIA after moving back to Pittsburgh, PA while working on several films. There she saw the direct rewards of the film tax credit to both her own livelihood and to the state.
“The film tax credit means that more projects can get made that might not, due to budgetary concerns,” explains Judith. “The film tax credit allows for projects to receive rebates and credits and apply that money to the overall budget, while the state that is being filmed reaps the monetary benefits for the retail, real estate, hotel, rental car, travel and restaurant industries. The film tax credit levels the playing field for more projects to be made and has the added benefit of more locations and community benefits.”
Judith encourages other PaFIA members to network with other members and continually speak about the positive impact of the benefits of the filmmaking on the local PA communities. She emphasizes:
Happy New Year. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.
The House and Senate started a new two-year session on Tuesday, January 3, swearing in all 203 House members and 25 Senators. The 2017/2018 session that lies ahead will have many challenges, most notably the same one that has plagued this Commonwealth in recent memory – the budget.
By the time the current fiscal year ends on June 30, many are predicting close to a $2 billion budget shortfall that will need to be addressed. What makes up the $2 billion? Annual carryforward pension costs, Medicaid spending and revenue expectations that were below projections, including the $100 million in revenue that was budgeted for internet gaming that was not approved.
So, what does that mean for Pennsylvanians, and more specifically the film industry? A few significant things. While the Governor has stated publicly that he will not seek a broad-based tax increase (i.e. income or sales), I am sure those options will be debated among legislators. An increase in either of those taxes is the only realistic opportunity to generate year over year revenue into the annual budget. One-time opportunities are limited, and many have already been exhausted, like liquor privatization. The direct and REAL challenge and concern will be budget cuts. And this year, ALL tax credit programs will be under the microscope – including the film tax credit. The possibility of the program being impacted is real and PaFIA membership will need to become more engaged and contact their local State Representatives and Senators. PaFIA's leadership is monitoring the situation and will develop a strategy to responsibly and effectively communicate to elected officials the importance of the film tax credit to the industry as well as the individual members and businesses.
First and foremost, Happy Holidays to everyone. Pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer and drink up before reading the following state budget update.
Good. Are you feeling warm and fuzzy? Things a little blurry? Well things are blurry in Harrisburg these days as well.
In approximately 45 days (on February 7), Governor Wolf will give his third budget address. And in a little more than 6 months (the June 30 budget deadline), the House and Senate will hopefully be debating and passing a balanced budget. Pennsylvania residents concerned about the state’s fiscal health probably would have preferred a lump of coal for their Christmas stockings rather than the troubling financial report handed down last Wednesday, December 14. According to the mid-fiscal year assessment by Budget Secretary Randy Albright, Commonwealth revenues will be at least $600 million short of paying for current budget year spending. The Legislature’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office projects a $1.7 billion deficit for the 2017-18 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Part of the reason for the $600 million and $1.7 billion estimates is that the Legislature didn’t complete all of its funding work for the 2016-17 spending package, including controversial gambling expansion – which was earmarked to generate $100 million in revenue. Beyond not funding the budget completely, the Legislature plugged into the current budget overly optimistic incoming-revenue projections. According to Albright, the administration will be working to close the $600 million hole, with General Fund tax revenues being $129 million short of estimates for the month of November alone. Wolf has previously proposed tax hikes to right the commonwealth’s fiscal ship, while Republican lawmakers have remained strongly opposed. Without a turnaround in the state’s fiscal fortunes, a tax hike is looming, if not sooner than later – and the later it is, the bigger the increase could be.
And until a broad-based tax increase is given serious consideration, all tax credits in Pennsylvania – including the film tax credit – could potentially be cut or eliminated as a way to plug the budget hole.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org