Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. Lancaster. What do all three cities have in common? Active participation in Pennsylvania’s growing film organization, PaFIA. In case you’re wondering or already know, the acronym PaFIA represents Pennsylvania Film Industry Association.
John Rokosz is a Pittsburgh PaFIA member and co-founder of White Ball Productions—a multimedia company based in Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in original film and music production. White Ball Productions won a 2016 Official Selection for the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival for its short film production, Monday. Like any conscious artist and filmmaker, John uses filmmaking as a vehicle for purposeful storytelling that moves an audience to think beyond the present moment. The short film, Monday, presents contrasting shoes as the main subject—office worker vs. construction worker—in preparation of a workday to offer a different perspective, literally, in the midst of footsteps directing the necessity of human connection when one’s day does not go quite as planned. John shares an essential message for first-time filmmakers, college film students, and anyone struggling to get a start in the industry: “Take ownership. Take ownership of your craft, and take ownership of the message you’re trying to put out there. And take ownership of what it is in the industry that allows your craft to happen.”
Where should you begin in taking ownership? John says to “Get involved in PaFIA. Get involved in your film school. If you’ve made it, come back and make an investment in your hometown.” Any filmmaker’s journey is a story that takes time to develop to reach the desired climax. Your climax is up to you, but cannot be reached without involvement with people working in the industry and on projects. PaFIA is Pennsylvania’s platform for city-state networking industry involvement. John joined PaFIA in 2013 because he was interested in the networking opportunities as well as understanding the purpose and advantage of the organization. Now, he interviews industry professionals and writes articles for PaFIA.
The organization is moving in a direction to highlight up-and-coming Pennsylvania artists such as film students in college or first-time filmmakers who used Pennsylvania as their shooting location. PaFIA exists to help members connect with other industry professionals and to learn from each other through panel discussions and personal conversations from the many networking events. With a statewide mission to educate Pennsylvania legislators about the purpose of the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit Program while remaining as an active voice that pushes for an increased tax credit, PaFIA is the place for any industry professional whether in TV, commercial, and/or film. When asked, John listed three areas of economic growth that the industry and PA tax credit can help bring Pennsylvania: increase tourism; generate an economic boost for companies such as catering companies, restaurants, hotels, car rental companies, etc; and produce higher enrollment for film schools.
If a tagline were to encompass the start of John’s film journey, it may say something like: When exposure fuels personal discovery. Where does John Rokosz’s story begin? John’s journey began at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh studying Music Composition. Once he graduated, he didn’t have much direction until he started helping his friend who he’s known since freshman year, Jeff Balmert, on his student films. Jeff was a student of Carnegie Mellon University’s Master’s Program for entertainment technology. John and Jeff developed a feature film comedy script together and from there decided to establish a production company. The genesis of White Ball Productions was the collaboration of John’s first feature film script. Soon after, John and Jeff started making short films together. John’s initial interest lied in film music, but exposure to all phases of film production illuminated a newfound interest for John: filmmaking. Many artists would agree to identify one of your strengths so you can “take ownership” and flourish in that area. For John, writing is a strength that synonymously is his favorite phase of production: “My greatest love is to create. I love the idea of looking at a blank page and coming up with the beginning of an idea” yet his love is “an emotional rollercoaster.” The writing process can be emotionally exhausting, he adds, when you as a writer become stuck and lose your writing cadence but “the creation of a brand new idea” will always be the “most fulfilling” for John.
John and Jeff, White Ball Production founders, are working to solidify their company brand and build a lasting reputation for creating good stories. Currently, White Ball Productions have three projects in the pipeline. John chose filmmaking as a line of work because he believes that filmmakers have an obligation to create stories that carry a positive message. John chose filmmaking to be instrumental in the lives of moviegoers: he has a story to tell and wants to use his films to “show audiences good ways to live life.” Films speak to people on a personal level. And John is one of the many filmmakers who respectfully utilize the film medium to work through people using artistic expression to engender positive change. White Ball Productions will remain busy producing various projects in development, and will gain attention in the film festival circuit, in the future.
Volunteer and internship inquires at White Ball Productions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAKE OWNERSHIP: Write in if you would like John Rokosz to interview and write an article about you and your project at email@example.com.
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.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org