JOSHUA AXELROD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [email protected] JUL 11, 2022 2:09 PM

Pennsylvania’s recently finalized $45.2 billion budget for 2022-23 has gotten a lot of attention for major accomplishments such as making record investments in education and community safety. It also has the distinction of giving the state’s film production industry a major boost in the amount of projects able to set up shop here.

For years, Pennsylvania’s film production tax credit program — which provides studios with a rebate based on how much money they spend in the commonwealth — has been capped at $70 million. Members of the state Legislature’s Film Industry Caucus and outside advocates have been working tirelessly to increase that figure to at least $125 million in order to attract more productions and, subsequently, more money, to Pennsylvania via its entertainment sector.

Their efforts paid off last week when a provision enshrined in House Bill 1342 and Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 tax code officially increased the film tax incentive from $70 million to $100 million and allocated $5 million to “Pennsylvania film producers.” The bill’s language also states that the new $100 million cap “shall remain at the amount allocated for fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2022, and ending before July 1, 2025.”

It wasn’t exactly the $125 million goal many had been pushing for, but the major players involved are still happy with what they see as a win for all Pennsylvanians. Gillian McGoldrickPa.’s $45.2 billion budget: A closer look at how the state’s tax dollars will be spent

“This is a victory for the working people of Pennsylvania, those individuals who work in this production space,” Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills and co-chair of the state Senate’s Film Industry Caucus, told the Post-Gazette. “It’s going to attract movie and TV productions alike to our region and stimulate local economies.”

Costa and Film Caucus co-chair Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Monongahela, had introduced legislation to expand the film tax credit program on two separate occasions prior to this $30 million increase. Their attempt at adding $55 million to the film incentive failed in last year’s budget cycle, but they kept trying to convince their colleagues that the alleged $1 billion worth of film and TV projects knocking on Pennsylvania’s door was enough reason to up the tax credit.

They both said that this bill is not only a boon for local entertainment workers, but also for the businesses that will reap the benefits of Hollywood productions using their towns and neighborhoods as a home base.

“These are really good-paying jobs that provide livelihoods for families to move here, stay here, buy a home and put their kids through college,” Bartolotta said. “To see that, after all these years, we moved the needle to go up $30 million right now will give us the opportunity to bring hundreds of millions of capital investment into Western Pennsylvania.”

Bartolotta name-checked both Pittsburgh Film Office Director Dawn Keezer and Haddad’s Inc. CEO David Haddad for being “great advocates and storytellers for the benefit of this film tax credit and what it brings to Pennsylvania.” Keezer appeared before a Senate panel in April as part of a discussion about potentially expanding the state’s film tax credit program during the upcoming budget cycle.

She told the Post-Gazette that the 11 projects filmed in southwestern Pennsylvania last year had a more than $300 million in economic impact on the region.

“Our over 20,000 Pennsylvanians and hundreds of local small businesses that rely on this industry are overjoyed with the support from the commonwealth and are looking forward to another record-breaking year for film and TV production,” Keezer added.
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Haddad, whose company rents out film equipment to productions nationwide, is also the chair of the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association, an advocacy group that had been working with the likes of Costa and Bartolotta to explain what increasing the film incentive could do for Pennsylvania’s economy on both state and local levels. The Pleasant Hills native has also been on the board of the Pittsburgh Film Office for 26 years.

He said that the original $125 million ask was based on the amount of film tax incentive PAFIA calculated would be required to attract enough productions for a full year of work. The original $70 million incentive accounted for about six months of work, and Haddad thinks this new $100 million cap should buy Pennsylvania at least nine months worth of film and television projects to keep entertainment workers busy.

“We’re extremely pleased,” he said. “We’ve been working for eight years to bump the credit. It’s been a long journey and roller coaster ride. But we’re glad the legislators and branches of government have seen how successful it was and expanded it.”

He also touted the $5 million set aside for Pennsylvania-based filmmakers as “a feather in our cap” in terms of giving more local creatives a shot at making their dream film or show. That said, Haddad made it clear that “our work is not done yet” when it comes to getting that film tax credit up to the desired $125 million threshold.

For now, though, those who fought for a more robust film tax credit pie are celebrating what they view as an incremental but still necessary victory.

“We wanted to make a clear statement that we value the relationship we have with these folks from across the country and that we want them to come here to produce shows and movies,” Costa said. “Our workforce stands ready and we’re looking forward to the economic impact this will have in the state.”

Joshua Axelrod: [email protected] and Twitter @jaxelburgh.

First Published July 11, 2022, 2:09pm–3o