13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia film community’s last couple of years have been rocky, no pun intended. While the city has its perennial film heroes like Philadelphia’s Andrew Beckett and the Italian Stallion, a real-life champion is what’s been needed to help Philly’s commercial film scene dig out of a malaise attributed partially to uncompetitive tax incentives and competitive neighbors. The Greater Philadelphia Film Office’s failure in 2016 to lure David Fincher’s Netflix series Mindhunter to Philly after Fincher had begun scouting locations (the show ultimately went with Pittsburgh) caused enough of a stir to warrant an article in Philadelphia magazine. The Film Office’s chief Sharon Pinkenson told Philadelphia that while Pittsburgh has the same tax credits as Philly, the unspoken difference was Pittsburgh’s more amenable labor union. Around the same time as the Mindhunter loss, a Nicolas Cage thriller with the working title Philly Fury took its production to Mississippi.
Since that period, a handful of marquee projects have turned up on Philly’s doorstep, including the Bryan Cranston-Kevin Hart comedy The Upside and the long-awaited sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, titled Glass. Also, this past June, Pinkenson and her colleagues in the Film Office rebounded in a major way, staging a passionate public rally at the Philadelphia Museum of Art—the “Rocky steps”—in support of better tax credits. Shyamalan spoke to the crowd at the rally, and repeated what friends in L.A. say when they ask for the low-down on shooting in Philly: “Do they have the tax credits? It’s the first question they ask,” he said.
Meanwhile, the indie film scene in Philly is humming along with production company South Fellini as a good example. Co-founded by Philly natives Tony Trov and Johnny Zito in 2010, the company has developed graphic novels and films for Image Comics, Ford Automotive and Red 5 Comics among others, while shooting the 2013 horror comedy Alpha Girls and, more recently, the as-yet unreleased horror film American Exorcist. “Philadelphia is a great city for filmmaking,” Trov says. “We have tons of resources and few restrictions, plus the city is just beautiful. If you’ve ever fantasized about making a gritty, down-in-the-streets, ’70s-style indie film, this is where it can happen, right now.”