Just last week saw the Pittsburgh-made directorial debut of hometown hero Billy Porter’s coming-of-age rom-com “Anything’s Possible.” Amazon Prime – but it’s far from the area’s only connection to Hollywood.

The Pittsburgh Film Office estimates that western Pennsylvania saw about $330 million in economic impact from film and television productions in 2021, though those numbers have yet to be finalized. For comparison, the annual average was around $150 million before 2021.

And 2022 looks like another successful year.

Excerpt from the trailer for “Anything is possible”.

Local industry is growing, but so is the need for infrastructure.

Enter Carrie Furnace on the left.

“We’ve had good success using our repurposed warehouses,” says Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Bureau. “31st Street Studio on the Strip has been amazing. We have the former American Eagle distribution warehouse in Warrendale. We have two old Westinghouse facilities that are used as stages; we had a closed JCPenney as a stop on Route 28 (for “Cha Cha real smooth”).

“What we build is something that can be used today and for filmmakers of the future. … It’s important because customers coming in expect to find this kind of facility … and we would like to centralize the industry in one place.

The state provided $7.6 million in grants and loans to the site owner, the Regional Industrial Development Corporation. The essential concerns the preparation of the site, the infrastructures, the roads, the parking and the public works necessary for the construction of a building of 50,000 square feet housing several sound stages.

“Pittsburgh is definitely a hot city for filming,” says Jesse Cute, vice president of Allied Global Marketing in Philadelphia, which promotes much of the film industry in the state. “Our film commissioner in Philadelphia is sometimes the envy of Pittsburgh.”

Billy Porter mural featured in an image from ‘Anything’s Possible’ on Amazon Prime.

So Burbank to Braddock – that’s the plan?

“Ideally, we’ll have six more stages there, plus the outbuildings you need to run the industry, like production offices,” says Keezer. “And then the longer-term plan is to relocate some companies there to serve the industry — what we call the Pittsburgh Film Furnace.”

State tax credits end up influencing the destination of many film and television projects. Pennsylvania has beefed up its movie tax credit program $100 million, a 30% increase, notes Keezer, but there are still more interested productions than available tax credits.

The areas in pink are considered the most exploitable parts of the Carrie Furnace site, covering Swissvale and Rankin. The east end of the site (right) should be developed first. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Department of Development.

It’s a notoriously mobile business, and the film industry is growing outside of California in places like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Vancouver.

But Pittsburgh has a few built-in advantages. Unless you’re looking for beaches or deserts or a few other things in particular, you can find just about any type of “look” here, from Manhattan skyscrapers to densely forested wilderness – all within minutes apart, instead of hours. There are well-preserved buildings from multiple eras, from the 1900s to the 1990s. The crime drama “Mayor of Kingstown” has been lured to Pennsylvania for its next season from Canada because it can use Erie for waterside scenes. the water. Plus, there’s one thing you can find here that you won’t find in many other places: gigantic factories, like Carrie Furnace’s old steelworks.

“If we need a steel mill (for a stage), well, it’s hard to use a working steel mill,” Keezer notes.

Local film crews are well known for their hard work and skill.

“We have some of the best crews in the industry that live in southwestern Pennsylvania,” says Keezer. “In the past, when we were lucky enough to get one project a year, they would travel to work all over the country and around the world. But we’re so busy now because they can stay home.

Area west of the ovens. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County.

If this industry grows more locally, it will need more workers, which opens up opportunities for struggling neighborhoods like Rankin, Braddock and Swissvale.

“It’s surrounded by communities that need an industry,” says Keezer. “We created this workforce training program in partnership with the IATSE union. It’s the first place outside of New York where it’s happening. We start this on August 6, and we need more people to work, and there are jobs available in this industry. These are high-paying jobs that support the family and you don’t need a college degree.

The Pittsburgh Film Bureau is a good place to check out upcoming jobs and training opportunities.

Billy PorterCarrie FurnacePittsburgh Film Office

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