'Hatfields' pilot likely to film elsewhere

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NBC's Pittsburgh-set "Hatfields & McCoys" pilot doesn't look like it will film in Western Pennsylvania.

The pilot for this modern-day retelling -- working-class McCoys vs. well-heeled Hatfields -- is likely to be produced in another city that will double as Pittsburgh. Producers are scouting Providence, R.I., and Boston as possible filming locations because Pennsylvania's film tax credit program for 2012-13 has been exhausted, confirmed Janet K. Daily, a publicist for Disney-owned ABC Studios, which is producing the pilot for NBC.

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said unlike other state's programs with more robust funding or funding further into the future, the Pennsylvania program is capped at $60 million and has to be renewed each year by the legislature.

"I spoke with an executive at Disney [Wednesday], and if we had film tax credit money available, 'Hatfields & McCoys' would begin shooting their pilot in Pittsburgh. It is their preferred location," Ms. Keezer said. "Unfortunately there's no money, so it will go the way of the Bradley Cooper film that went to Boston."

Ms. Keezer said director David O. Russell wanted to return to Philadelphia with Mr. Cooper for a new movie following on their Oscar-nominated collaboration "Silver Linings Playbook," which filmed in and around Philadelphia.

"We've lost seven feature films in the last couple of months, all from major studios, because of our inability to provide a tax credit," Ms. Keezer said, pointing out that the state program's website (http://filminpa.com/incentives/) won't accept applications again until April 1. "We're competing against other states for this very lucrative, job-producing industry without any resources to help level the playing field."

Projects that filmed in Western Pennsylvania that burned through the film tax credit include Nickelodeon's "Supah Ninjas," A&E's "Those Who Kill" pilot and the big-screen movies "Foxcatcher" and "American Pastoral."

"The region has topped $100 million in quantifiable, audited economic impact for each of the past three years," Ms. Keezer said. "And now we are at a complete standstill. ... We're sitting here with an opportunity to have work, but we can't get it because we're not able to compete."

Ms. Keezer said because Pennsylvania has two cities that have the infrastructure and crew base to serve as production centers -- Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- a film tax credit program limited to $60 million is insufficient.

"Most states that are successful in this industry either have uncapped programs or have programs that have been approved so far into the future that the industry can count on that program being there so they can make longer-term business investments in an area and continue to provide good jobs for local residents. With our plan that we have to get reapproved every year, it slows that growth."

Western Pennsylvania has been on a roll in recent years landing big film projects, including Tom Cruise's "Jack Reacher." That film's executive producer, Jake Myers, called tax credits a "game changer" in an address to the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association at the Westin Convention Center hotel in January 2012. As reported by Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri, Mr. Myers said state leaders should build longevity into their tax credits to create a sense of security among producers weighing one state against another.

If "Hatfields & McCoys" gets a series order from NBC and if the legislature reapproves film tax credit funding for 2013-14 (kicking in with a new budget cycle that begins July 1), it's possible that a "Hatfields" series could still film locally. TV shows that get picked up to series in May usually begin production in late July.

"If the pilot is successful, which we hope it is, they would consider shooting the entire series in Pittsburgh," Ms. Keezer said. "Hopefully by the time they go to series the tax credit program is healthy enough to support the project and local jobs."

"Hatfields & McCoys" is executive produced by Charlize Theron and written by John Glenn ("Eagle Eye," "The Lazarus Project"). Michael Mayer, who directed NBC's "Smash" and "Do No Harm" pilots, has signed on to direct. No casting has been announced.

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TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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