4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The one time steel capital has transitioned to become a hotbed of entertainment production, with heavy emphasis on nurturing a crew base and creating opportunities for aspiring filmmakers. Pittsburgh Film Office chairman of the board Russ Streiner, known for his role in the groundbreaking Pittsburgh-shot independent film Night of the Living Dead (he’s Johnny who is coming to get you, Barbara), is pleased that Pittsburgh has stemmed the flow of talent leaving the city. “From all the indications, the filmmaking climate is only going to get better here,” he said.
Carl Kurlander, screenwriter of St. Elmo’s Fire and over 100 scripts for Saved by the Bell, returned to Pittsburgh to create the Steeltown Film Factory Competition, which provided grants for short film production, and is now evolving into a Steeltown Indie development and mentoring program.“What we’ve been trying to do is come up with new models, so that we can foster local talent,” Kurlander said.
Dawn M. Keezer, the PFO’s second director (who celebrated her 20th anniversary with the office in September 2014), attributes much of the success to Pennsylvania’s tax incentives and local resources. In 2007, PFO played a major role in supporting the Pennsylvania tax credit, which allows a 25 percent credit to productions that spend at least 60 percent of their budget in the Commonwealth (plus an additional five percent to productions filming in qualified facilities). Over the years, the work has led to an increased local talent pool and resources.
“We’re in the top 10 of the first places people call when they’re thinking of locations,” Keezer said. “It’s not just the incentives—it’s the workforce in Pittsburgh, and people know that.”
Pittsburgh recently hosted the Zachary Quinto-produced Starz TV series The Chair, which experimentally pitted two filmmakers against each other armed with the same script (director Shane Dawson won with his film Not Cool). Other projects in 2014 included indie high-school drama Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, a 2015 Sundance entry from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Beyond its moviemaking prospects, Pittsburgh also comes out tops: For its excellent healthcare, education, overall culture, and low crime rates, it was named the 2014 Most Livable City in the continental United States by The Economist, for the second time in the last five years.