Greetings from Harrisburg and a Happy November to you all.
Last week provided a lot of activity in Harrisburg, passing numerous bills tied to the budget, culminating with the Governor signing the bills on Monday, October 30.
The revenue package provided additional funds to balance the $32 billion spending plan, relying largely on borrowing ($1.5 billion) against the state's Tobacco Settlement Fund. It also includes $300 million in special fund transfers, expanding the sales tax to online vendors, a new 12% tax on consumer fireworks, and gaming expansion.
A few very good things to take note of with the budget resolved: the application and approval process is now operational (had to wait until the budget was approved), FY 2017/2018 reflects a $65mil commitment to film tax credits (increase of $5mil pursuant to the authorization bill in 2016), and also the establishment of a new "film production tax credit district" provision.
Included in the bill (HB542, link below), the Department of Community and Economic Development will establish up to two film production tax credit districts. Districts must be at least 55 acres, located on a deteriorated property, and be occupied by a qualified business that would make a capital investment of at least $400 million within five years and contain at least one qualified production facility and six sound stages. The new credits would begin in the fiscal year 2019/20, which would begin July 1, 2019 (if budget is on time).
While the budget was 4 months delayed, the outcome is very positive for the film industry. A continued commitment by the Commonwealth to the industry is proven and there is now new framework for additional state investments in the film industry via the film production tax district provision.
Link to House Bill 542: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0542&pn=2598
PAFIA had the special honor of hosting "A Night with Erika Hampson", at the Cambria Suites in Downtown Pittsburgh. We had a lovvely cocktail hour prior to the event with plenty of delicious appetizers and drinks. Erika spoke to a lively crew about her rise in the industry and how she made it as a producer. The Cambria was a great venue with plenty of beautifully updated space and views of Pittsburgh.
September has come and gone, and while the seasons have changed, not much else has in Harrisburg.
On September 13th, the House passed a revenue bill that was amended after being passed by the Senate over the summer. The Senate quickly voted to not concur with House amendments, creating the stalemate that we have before us as the month ends. However, the last few days of September provided rumors of a possible budget deal becoming a reality.
The Senate informed members it would be returning to session on Monday, October 2, signaling there could be truth to that rumor. Numerous news stories have been written confirming he possibility of a deal as well.
The good news, while we wait for details of the “deal”, is that upon passage film tax credits will finally start being awarded to projects that are deciding whether to shoot in PA or elsewhere. Numerous productions have already decided to go to other states, further delays will only lead to more lost projects and job opportunities. So, as October begins and the leaves start changing colors, keep your fingers crossed that this rumor becomes reality. Until then, PaFIA continues to advocate with legislators to resolve the budget impasse which is negatively affecting the industry.
By Dave Ferrier
Photos by Enoch Purnell
The latest Pennsylvania Film Industry Association event, hosted at Zee Bar, The Spring Garden Social Club, attracted over 150 actors filmmakers, directors, producers and other industry professionals who support film work in Pennsylvania. Attendees enjoyed the complimentary appetizers, drink specials, and inviting ambiance of the venue which served as one of the settings in the award-winning Philadelphia-based film Equity.
The featured speaker of the evening was Marc Bienstock, producer of the movie Split, who is currently working in the Philadelphia area with M. Night Shyamalan on producing Glass - the sequel to his thriller Unbreakable. The audience was invited to submit questions for Marc to answer. Several questions focused around how to get a film seen or distributed. "Put your shorts or trailers on YouTube and develop a following," Marc advised. Marc accentuated the importance of getting the work seen, whether that is through film festivals, YouTube, or other channels. He also mentioned that it was essential to have patience and to not take things in the business personally. The Chair of PAFIA, David Haddad, chimed in with some qualities that Marc embodies and those needed in a good producer. "You have to be brilliant, an amazing negotiator, and easy on the eyes."
Marc continued to give more valuable advice during the question and answer session. "You need to have a relationship with local casting directors and agents." Three casting agents were present at the event for attendees to network with: Diane Heery from Heery Loftus Casting, Melanie Forchetti from Mike Lemon Casting, and Kimberly Skyrme from Kymberly Skyrme Casting.
In addition to the Q&A, the event had giveaways, prizes, discounted headshots by Michael E Pearson - The Foto Wizard, and networking opportunities. A significant number of people signed up for PAFIA membership while current members volunteered to serve on various committees.
The event was hosted by Pennsylvania Film Industry Association and sponsored by Expressway Cinema Rentals. Sponsors for the raffle prizes included: Eka Dance Academy, Philadelphia Acting Studio, Fright Factory Haunted Attraction, and David J Witchell Salon.
Pafia’s Fall Social was held on Friday, September 8 at Pirata in Downtown Pittsburgh. The event was standing room only as members from all parts of the industry were present. We were excited to have Lisa Smith Reed from the film office join us and talk about the Pittsburgh Film Office’s Oscar Party. Donna Belajac of Donna Belajac Casting and Nancy Mosser of Mosser casting were both in attendance. Many new faces were present as David Haddad discusses the current state of the Budget and the importance of contacting our legislators. The food and drinks at pirata were delicious and the staff was amazing. Definitely a place that the local Film Industry supports.
In June, the House and Senate passed a $32 billion spending plan. In late July the Senate passed a revenue bill to fund that spending plan. The new revenue package would generate $530 million from new taxes, including $200 million from expanded gaming, as well as natural gas severance tax. Additionally, the Senate approved $1.3 billion in borrowing against future tobacco settlement payments.
As reported last month, the House was not part of negotiations that yielded this Senate product. Uncertainty remains with respect to what path forward the House chooses to take - approve the Senate plan, identify a new plan, cut funds or programs on the spending side, or a combination of all. Significant differences remain between the House, Senate, and Governor. Without a finalized budget, the film tax credit program and final approvals of applications are in a holding pattern. I am optimistic that September will yield a final resolution and projects will be able to commence shooting.
Thank you again for any advocacy you have provided to your State Senator or Representative. Please continue to encourage your elected officials to finish what has been started.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org