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North Hills Monthly

Pittsburgh Film Office Putting the City on TV and the Big Screen

Aug 31, 2018 11:41AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

On the set of the TV show, Gone.

Everyone in Pittsburgh knows that the city has played host to the filming of numerous movies and television shows over the past few decades. The Steel City has served as not only Pittsburgh in films, but as a stand in for New York City, San Francisco, Paris, the Ukraine, Buffalo and many other locations.

The increase in filming here isn’t by chance. The Pittsburgh Film Office (PFO) was created in April of 1990 to help showcase and attract filming crews to the Greater Pittsburgh Area. The nonprofit serves not only Pittsburgh, but a 10-country region of western Pennsylvania.

Located in downtown Pittsburgh, there is a staff of three full-time employees including Dawn M. Keezer, who serves as the director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. Keezer, who lived in Los Angeles for a few years to increase the visibility of Pittsburgh as a filming locale, is now back in the area, working to bring more film crews to town.

North Hills Monthly (NHM): What does the Pittsburgh Film Office do?

Dawn M. Keezer (Keezer): The Pittsburgh Film Office works to attract film and television productions to the southwestern Pennsylvania region, using incentives such as the Film Tax Credit provided by the Commonwealth, a very strong local crew and vendor base, a film-friendly community, as well as a wide variety of locations ranging from urban to rural. The work we do has benefited the local economy to the tune of over $1.2 billion since 1990.

NHM: How many movies and other filming projects has the PFO helped bring to the Greater Pittsburgh region? 

Keezer: We have had 265 film and TV projects work with us.

NHM: What are some of the most popular films that have been made here?

Keezer: Obviously, The Dark Knight Rises was a huge success. Other popular films include Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, and classics such as The Deer Hunter, Silence of the Lambs and Flashdance. And of course there’s the independent horror masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead, which is said to have kicked off the major film production industry in our region.

NHM: What is the actual process of someone filming here?

Keezer: The process oftentimes starts with a request for locations, or an inquiry about the tax credit.  Our team at the Pittsburgh Film Office will create a package of requested locations, pulled from our database which now consists of more than 40,000 different photographs from all corners of our region. From there, the production team will work with our office to make sure that the application for the Film Tax Credit is completed and submitted; contacts for vendors, labor unions and crews are passed along, and any logistical needs are taken care of. 

NHM: What is the timeline once someone starts filming here, for example, how long does it take until we see the project in the theaters?

Keezer: Every project is different, but it’s usually between six months to a year. 

NHM: Are there any films that have just wrapped up or are being filmed here now?

Keezer: Netflix is currently in town shooting their second season of Mindhunter, and CBS All-Access is currently in production on the pilot season of $1. In September, we will see the start of production on You Are My Friend starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. Where’d You Go Bernadette?, which was Richard Linklater’s second feature shot here, wrapped last summer and should be released this coming March. The premier of $1 is expected to air on CBS this August. 

NHM: Do you have any funny stories about filming in the ‘burgh?

Keezer: My favorite story is that during the filming of Houseguest, production built a McDonalds in Sewickley, and people kept trying to go there to eat, but it wasn’t real.  

NHM: How does it make you feel when you’re sitting in a movie theater seeing a film made in our hometown?

Keezer: I love seeing the end results on the big screen.  It takes such a huge team of people to make it all come together—our local crew, our local government, our local businesses and our clients…it is always amazing to see the end results.

NHM: Why would someone film in Pittsburgh? 

Keezer: We have the best crew in the world, an amazing diversity of locations and a good Film Tax Credit program—why wouldn’t someone film in the Pittsburgh region might be a better question! Our community has a long history of playing host to productions of all sizes, thus putting hundreds of people to work, and generating millions of dollars in economic development. We have no intention of ever letting that slow down.

The Pittsburgh Film Office also serves as a resource for those seeking to offer their homes for upcoming movie productions and provides information on film crew and acting jobs. For more information about the Pittsburgh Film Office and opportunities, visit www.pghfilm.org.