State ponies up film tax credit to lure new Mr. Rogers film to Pittsburgh
Jul 3, 2018, 1:58pm EDT Updated: Jul 3, 2018, 3:32pm EDT
The state of Pennsylvania has allocated a film tax credit of more than $10 million for the production company slated to shoot a feature film called “You are My Friend,” involving the life of children’s television icon and local native son Fred Rogers. According to state records, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has allocated a tax credit of $10.19 million to Real Heaven Inc. designated for Allegheny County for “You Are My Friend.” Film production trades have reported that Sony’s TriStar Pictures division has been awarded worldwide distribution rights in a film in which Tom Hanks is slated to play Fred Rogers. It is being directed by Marielle Heller. While Sony announced in May that “You Are My Friend” will be released in fall 2019, it has been less clear on where the film will be shot. The tax credit by Pennsylvania is a significant bid to have the film shot in Pittsburgh, where Fred Rogers
built his career and became a defining figure in the world of children’s television with his “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”
Officials for Sony were not immediately available for comment.
Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said the production has made no commitments to shoot here but has scouted here, including at WQED, and considered it. “I can’t imagine they’re going to do it without being here for some of it,” Keezer said. “I know they’re looking around, but I think they’re trying to figure it out.”
She noted a key caveat about “You Are My Friend” that’s different perhaps from the current documentary on Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” now showing in local movie theaters: It isn’t
purely a biopic about Rogers and is set in New York, also a state with a significant film tax credit, based on the experiences of writer Tom Junod and his experiences with Rogers. To be eligible for a film tax credit, “You Are My Friend” would be required to spend at least 60 percent of its budget in Pennsylvania. Keezer expects the production could find Pittsburgh ready to be both itself and New York if TriStar chooses to shoot here.
“We do New York better than New York,” she said.
Tim Schooley
Pittsburgh Business Times