Op-Ed: Film Industry Incentive Offers Promise of New Jobs, Opportunities for PA

Pennsylvania is one of the most sought-after states for filming productions. The catalyst that leads filmmakers to flock to our Commonwealth is the Film Production Tax Credit, which provides a strong financial motivation to film projects here, rather than these projects benefitting the economies of other states.

These productions employ thousands of Pennsylvania workers and support hundreds of local businesses when they come to town. Not only do these productions employ crew people, but they also support ancillary businesses, such as family-owned restaurants, area lumber yards, various means of transportation, hotels, and so many more entities that desperately need revenue following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Currently, a number of projects are underway in the state including Netflix’s “Archive 81” and The Chair, and Showtime’s Rust, which are filming in Pittsburgh. In Philadelphia, Apple TV is shooting M. Knight Shyamalan’s series Servant.

Oscar-nominated Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, released last November, was filmed in Pittsburgh. From the Philadelphia area, Concrete Cowboy and HBO’s Mare of Easttown were released in April.

Since the Film Production Tax Credit program’s inception in 2007, there have been 509 productions in Pennsylvania. These companies have directly injected nearly $3.3 billion into the state’s economy, generated an estimated $5.2 billion in total economic activity and $785 million in total state and local taxes, and supported an estimated 30,650 full-time equivalent jobs.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania only allows 10 to 12 productions to film and qualify for the incentive program, which is capped at $70 million. Each year, the state turns away productions after the tax credit program has been exhausted, resulting in job opportunities being turned away for Pennsylvanians.

That is why I introduced Senate Bill 321 to change the name of the Film Production Tax Credit to the “Film Industry Incentive” and increase the current level of state assistance from $70 million to $125 million.

Increasing the Film Industry Incentive will result in more work, which means more jobs and more spending in the economy throughout the state. According to the state’s film offices, the Film Industry Incentive is underfunded and oversubscribed. In a time where content is desperately needed – particularly as individuals have been home sheltering in place for several months – the joke about finishing all the shows on Netflix and other streaming services has become real.

My proposal has bipartisan support and is being championed by the bicameral legislative Film Industry Caucus, which I helped create with Senator Jay Costa (D-43), and Representatives Joe Ciresi (D-146) and Kathleen “KC” Tomlinson (R-18).

The film industry has the ability to put people to work quickly in family-sustaining jobs, while also increasing opportunities for the small businesses in the area that provide goods and services to the industry. The Film Industry Incentive can offer this promise to the Commonwealth and lead the way in the next wave of creative content for consumers.

It is time that we seize this moment.

CONTACT: Katrina Hanna, 717-787-1463