A 125,000-square-foot film studio will open in the former Bruce Plastics building in Robinson, creating a new production space to attract producers and films to the region.
Located on 14 private acres off Steubenville Pike, Studio C is the work of Cyndi Casteel and her son, David Casteel. Over the past two years, they attracted $10 million in private investments to demolish the factory’s heavy machinery, clean every inch of it and build out the studio. The Casteels intend to bolster the region’s filmmaking infrastructure and provide a space that feels familiar for Los Angeles- or New York City-based producers.
“We want them to feel that they’re in a different place—a more beautiful place,” Cyndi Casteel says. “But that the availability of resources and quality of the facilities available to them are the same.”
The space will boast five sound stages, including one that measures 18,000 square feet. Two large kitchens may be home to cooking shows, and 400 parking spaces plus a loading dock mean big productions won’t need to worry about lots of gear or large crews. The studio will also offer camera and prop rentals.
Casteel is no stranger to what producers want. She consulted and designed studios after working 14 years for North Coast Communications, a production company that at one time was responsible for Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua. For a time, she and David ran 5th Avenue Entertainment, a company that helped finance and distribute independent films.
To build a business plan for Studio C, the Casteels investigated what studios offered in other cities. In order to attract long-term contracts, such as television shows, the studio has to be a perfect place, Casteel says.
“It’s the boutique idea. You offer anything they need: you have huge utility sinks for washing paint, laundry rooms and green rooms for relaxation and wireless.”
To qualify for Pennsylvania’s 25 percent film tax credit, 60 percent of a film’s or television series’ production budget must be spent in state. Studio C will make it easier for production companies to do so by acting as a base for companies such as Independent Studio Services (ISS), a respected prop house, says Casteel.
For 2015, five television shows and 12 feature films expressed serious interest in southwestern PA says Dawn Keezer, Director of the Pittsburgh Film Office.
“Do I believe they’re all coming? No. But what’s amazing to me is we’ve never had 17 active projects looking to set up shop, hire our people and spend lots of money in the commonwealth,” Keezer says. “The film tax credit has been so successful you’re starting to see infrastructure being developed to support the industry.”
However, to compete with other growing film states such as Georgia, Louisiana and New York, Keezer believes the cap on the film tax credit, currently set at $60 million, has to be lifted.
“There are 42 states that have some kind of incentive program. The ones that are most successful are the ones whose programs are uncapped.”
Studio C is expected to open this Monday, December 1, though the Casteels will continue to build out the space. George Dayieb of Advanced Electric was the general contractor.