Building a destination for film and filmmakers

– by Fritz Smith

A recent Centre Daily Times article referenced movies produced in Pennsylvania in 2023. Our state is of course no stranger to the film industry, with many recognizable motion pictures made in the Commonwealth over the years. During my time with the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Film and Economic Development marketing, more than 30 major motion pictures were filmed in Pennsylvania. Prior to that, blockbuster movies such as 1985’s “Witness” helped make already well-known Lancaster County the extremely popular tourist destination it is today.

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Elsewhere, successful films such as “The Bridges of Madison County,” and “Midnight in the Garden of Evil” led to major booms in tourism in Iowa and Savannah respectively. Montana is experiencing the same thanks to the popularity of the “Yellowstone” series.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have long been the Commonwealth’s leading film production centers. The flow of film tax credit dollars into the state’s two major metropolitan centers to incentivize film production has resulted in significant economic impact.

Since 1990, the Pittsburgh Film Office has injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the city’s economy, employing thousands in the industry. The Greater Philadelphia Film Office has benefited that region’s economy to the tune of $6 billion since 1992.

Imagine if one day, a similar CDT article listed Happy Valley-made major motion pictures or TV shows, and those successful productions lead to millions of new dollars injected into our local economy. It is a concept that many in the community, including The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), do not consider to be entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Penn State is one of the top film schools in the country. Many alumni are playing prominent roles in film and television. Envision a scenario where more of them stay here to achieve their dreams.

On top of our built-in talent pipeline, the region has a burgeoning ecosystem of people with experience in the film, television and theater industries in New York City and Los Angeles. This talent has located to the Happy Valley region because of its lower cost, wonderful outdoor amenities, slower paced lifestyle, and for some, because it is a wonderful place to raise a family. We have a solid ecosystem on which to build.

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Add in appealing locales, and Happy Valley is an ideal center for film production.

Stimulating, encouraging, and incentivizing film, television, and other video production in Happy Valley would boost local businesses and create jobs. From accounting and law firms experienced in incentive/rebate/credit reports, and that can provide advice on banking and taxation issues, to venue and equipment rentals, to short- and long-term lodging for production crews, the opportunities for industry-supporting businesses are plentiful. So too are direct workforce needs, including camera operators, set designers and carpenters, rigging electricians, talent “extras,” and more.

Rather than look back and say, “we should have done something,” likeminded stakeholders are having serious conversations about the next steps in growing the film industry here, giving talent a reason to stay to develop their craft.

The HVAB recently hosted filmmakers who were in town for the Centre Film Festival. The event was both an opportunity to hear what matters to the industry, as well as to highlight potential film locations in Centre County. This insightful dialogue coincided with the Centre Film Festival reaching an important anniversary: five years, making it eligible to be an IMBd certified film festival.

The HVAB also recently joined the Association of Film Commissioners International to broaden relationships within the film industry. Joining IFCA is an important step in our desire to engage at a greater level and evolve our local film community.

Why imagine building a destination for film and filmmakers, when we can take meaningful steps as a community to make it happen?

Click HERE to learn more about filmmaking in Happy Valley.

Fritz Smith is President and CEO of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at