To fill their respective libraries and attract eyeballs, content-hungry conglomerates like Disney, AT&T and Apple are spending billions of dollars to create new movies and television programs. They’re busy launching online video services to compete in our rapidly changing entertainment economy.
Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, tells NEXTpittsburgh that the so-called “streaming wars” — and the increased TV and film production they bring — have meant an increase in movie making here in Pittsburgh.
“With the additional streaming networks and all the places that need content, it’s definitely increased the amount of business that we’re seeing in Southwestern PA,” says Keezer.
“This year alone, we had applications for 13 feature films and six television series,” she tells us. “That’s probably the most requests we’ve had.”
Earlier this summer, Denzel Washington was on the North Side filming an adaptation of the stage play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” This is the second of 10 August Wilson adaptations — Wilson’s entire Pittsburgh Cycle — that the star will produce for Netflix, presumably with all of them having some scenes shot here. (Check out the cool new home for the piano used in the production of “Ma Rainey.”)
More recently, locals crews wrapped up production on “Manhunt: Lone Wolf” from Lionsgate and Spectrum TV Stream. Next up? Crews are set to begin shooting the feature “I’m Your Woman” for Amazon Studios, which stars Rachel Brosnahan from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Keezer, of course, is pleased to see four high-profile projects come to our city. But she says that with the right tax incentives, Pittsburgh could host many more productions.
Keezer says many studios — most recently Disney — have opted not to film in Pittsburgh because of our state’s limited film tax credit program.
Under current law, film and TV projects that spend at least 60 percent of their budget within Pennsylvania qualify for a 25 percent tax credit. But here’s the catch: The annual amount of support for the credits is capped at $70 million.
“If we had an increase in the film tax credit program,” says Keezer, “you’d see a lot more work, a lot more infrastructure being built. You’d see a lot more permanent businesses that are in this industry moving here.”
In addition to the Pittsburgh Film Office, a number of stakeholders across the Commonwealth continue to lobby for change. A bill to increase the cap to $125 million was introduced in the State Senate earlier this year by Sen. Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware counties).
The legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the finance committee.
“It’s important to remember that so many jobs and businesses that support film production are impacted by our tax credit,” said Sen. Killion in an announcement last February. “We need to help Pennsylvania’s economy and workers by becoming more competitive with the tax credit programs in other states by raising the cap here. I’m hopeful we’ll do so during our current two-year legislative session.”