In case there was still any doubt, Pittsburgh’s filmmaking scene received a major stamp of approval by a prestigious entertainment industry publication.
MovieMaker Magazine is an online and print outlet “focused on the art and craft of movies and cinematic TV,” as stated on its website. Every year, MovieMaker releases its Best Places to Live and Work as a Filmmaker rankings, generally breaking its lists into two categories: “big cities” and “small cities and towns.”
Earlier this week, MovieMaker released its 2023 Best Places to Live and Work as a Filmmaker rankings. After a few years in the small cities and towns field, Pittsburgh was elevated to the big-kids’ table and performed so admirably that it came in as the 10th-best big city for filmmakers.
“We used to list Pittsburgh as one of our best small towns, but it can hold its own against much bigger cities,” MovieMaker editor Tim Molloy wrote in his blurb about Pittsburgh. “Shockingly affordable, especially given its beautiful housing stock, it boasts architecture that begs to be filmed, rolling hills, countless bridges crossing its three rivers, and world-class museums, music and food.”
“People who visit from elsewhere often wonder why no one’s ever told them how cool Pittsburgh is, so folks: We’re telling you now.”
Molloy also mentioned Pennsylvania’s film production tax credit program, which provides studios with a rebate based on how much money they spend in the commonwealth. It used to be capped at $70 million but was increased to $100 million during last summer’s state budget cycle. That process also resulted in setting aside $5 million specifically for independent filmmakers operating in the Keystone State.
Pittsburgh slotted in right behind Philadelphia, which Molloy praised for many of the same things that Western Pennsylvania has to offer, as well as its proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C. The rest of this year’s big-city top 10 included Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Chicago; Montreal; Albuquerque, N.M.; Toronto; New Orleans; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and Atlanta at No. 1. (New York City and Los Angeles were not eligible for this list.)
For reference, Pittsburgh finished at No. 3 in the small-city rankings two years ago, behind only Santa Fe, N.M., and New Orleans. The Steel City came in at No. 4 last year behind those two cities and Savannah, Ga.
Naturally, Pittsburgh Film Officer director Dawn Keezer was ecstatic about Pittsburgh’s top-10 status.
“The Pittsburgh Film Office is thrilled to be included once again in the Moviemaker Magazine rankings,” she said. “We have been in the top 10 for small cities for a few years now, but being compared with the larger cities is an added bonus. Glad others are recognizing that Southwest Pennsylvania is the place to be.”
The MovieMaker ranking arrived on the heels of three Western Pennsylvania-filmed projects being released in rapid succession. The Netflix thriller “The Pale Blue Eye” and the Tom Hanks-starring tearjerker “A Man Called Otto” both came out on Jan. 6, and season two of “Mayor of Kingstown” premiered Sunday on Paramount+.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since entertainment production returned to the region after COVID-induced shutdowns, we’ve seen the releases of Western Pennsylvania-shot television shows “The Chair,” “Archive 81,” “American Rust,” “A League of Their Own” and “Sprung,” along with locally made movies “Sweet Girl,” “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” “Anything’s Possible” and “Dear Zoe.”
Season two of “American Rust” is currently being filmed in the Pittsburgh area. Locally filmed movies and shows still awaiting release dates include Netflix films “Rustin” and “The Deliverance,” Ethan Coen’s untitled road trip comedy and the FX miniseries “Justified: City Primeval.” There are scores of independent projects also made here over the past three years, including the short film “Tender” that’s screening at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
If Keezer has her way, Pittsburgh streets will be lined in perpetuity with trucks from Haddad’s Inc.
“We are proud of the community we have helped to create for filmmakers, local crew and local businesses,” she said. “We are looking forward to 2023 being an another amazing year for the film industry in Southwest Pennsylvania.”