Building a destination for films and filmmakers in Happy Valley

Building a destination for films and filmmakers in Happy Valley

A recent Center Daily Times article referred to movies produced in Pennsylvania in 2023. Our state is, of course, no stranger to the film industry, with many notable films made in the Commonwealth over the years. During my time with the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism Marketing, Film and Economic Development, more than 30 movies were filmed in Pennsylvania. Before that, blockbusters like 1985’s “The Witness” helped make Lancaster County the wildly popular tourist destination it is today.

Elsewhere, blockbusters like “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Midnight in the Garden of Evil” led to major tourism booms in Iowa and Savannah, respectively. Montana is experiencing the same thanks to the popularity of the Yellowstone series.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have long been major film production centers in the Commonwealth. The flow of film tax credit dollars into the state’s two major metropolitan centers to boost film production has resulted in significant economic impact.

Since 1990, the Pittsburgh Film Office has injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the city’s economy, employing thousands in the industry. The Film Office of Greater Philadelphia has benefited the economy of that region to the tune of $6 billion since 1992.

Imagine if one day a similar CDT article listed major movies or TV shows produced by Happy Valley, and these successful productions lead to millions of new dollars injected into our local economy. It’s a concept that many in the community, including The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), don’t consider to be entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Penn State is one of the best film schools in the country. Many students are playing prominent roles in film and television. Imagine a scenario where more of them stay here to achieve their dreams.

On top of our integrated talent pipeline, the region has a growing ecosystem of people with experience in the film, television and theater industries in New York City and Los Angeles. That talent has settled in the Happy Valley region because of its lower cost, great outdoor amenities, slower-paced lifestyle, and for some, because it’s a great place to raise a family. We have a solid ecosystem to build on.

Add in the attractive locations, and Happy Valley is an ideal center for film production.

Stimulating, encouraging and promoting film, television and other video production in Happy Valley would boost local businesses and create jobs. From accounting and law firms with experience in incentive/discount/credit ratios, and who can offer advice on banking and tax issues, to venue and equipment hire, to short and long term accommodation for production crews, opportunities for businesses that support the industry are numerous. So are direct labor needs, including camera operators, set designers and carpenters, rigging electricians, “extra” talent and more.

Instead of looking back and saying, “we should have done something,” like-minded stakeholders are having serious conversations about the next steps in growing the film industry here, giving talent a reason to stay to develop their craft.

HVAB recently hosted filmmakers who were in town for the Downtown Film Festival. The event was an opportunity to hear what matters to the industry as well as highlight potential film locations in Center County. This in-depth dialogue coincided with an important anniversary of the Center Film Festival: five years, making it eligible to be an IMDb-certified film festival.

HVAB also recently joined the Association of International Film Commissioners to expand relationships within the film industry. IFCA membership is an important step in our desire to engage at a greater level and evolve our local film community.

Why imagine building a destination for films and filmmakers when we can take meaningful steps as a community to make it happen?

Fritz Smith is president and CEO of Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

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