Students, staff of cinema and digital arts, demonstrate to keep the PA film tax credit

Written By Rachel Nunes

Point Park University cinema and digital arts students, faculty and local filmmakers gathered in front of the Warner Theater on Fifth Avenue to symbolize the historical relationship that Pittsburgh has with the film industry, adjunct faculty member Christopher Sepesy said, while standing on two apple boxes after demonstrators marched to the corner of Wood Street and Oliver Avenue just below the governor’s office.”This is a goose that is laying golden eggs,” Sepesy said.The goose Sepesy referred to was Pittsburgh being selected as the shooting location for films like “Zach and Miri Make A Porno,” and Oscar-winning films like “Silence of the Lambs.”Sepesy and demonstrators stressed that if the tax credit is not included in the new state budget, local businesses along with Pittsburgh filmmakers will feel the financial repercussions of a lack of job opportunities and incoming business.The tax credit allows filmmakers to fund projects within the state; Gov. Corbett has cited it as a potential program to be cut from the state budget, a decision to be reached by Tuesday, leaving many filmmakers and film students anxious about the future of the industry in Pittsburgh, students like Benedict Baldauff, a senior cinema and digital arts major, who addressed the issue atop the apple boxes.”This is about my future…our future,” Bauldauff said. “I don’t have a future in this wonderful city if this tax credit does not go through.”Baldauff, like many other  Point Park students, has worked on multiple film and television projects that have come to Pittsburgh, including a recently wrapped sitcom pilot that was based and shot in the city.”I think we are going to need a lot more [student support] to get this passed,” Baldauff said as the demonstrators, primarily cinema and digital arts students, marched toward Alumni Park.Angela Semple, a freshman cinema and digital arts major, felt that the demonstrators, especially those who stood on the makeshift stage, made empowering statements to help the cause. Semple herself took the stage to stress the importance of writing and calling elected officials to voice outrage that the credit may be cut.”It’s the perfect way to communicate … plain, concise, respectful message [of the cause].” Semple said  in Alumni Park after the march.Sepesy explained that  the film industry supports than directing, producing, screenwriting and cinematography; if the film industry leaves Pittsburgh, technical workers such as electricians, carpenters and crew members that work behind the scenes will be hurt just as much as the artists.Semple echoed that statement and added that it is a particularly important one for Point Park.”We’re a school of performers,” Semple said, “Any film that comes through is a potential employer [so the interest spans], actors, dancers, [and] technical theater.” Baldauff said that the time to act is now, but also recognized the difficulty of  Governor Corbett’s task of balancing Pennsylvania’s budget, which faces a $4 billion shortfall, without raising taxes.”If he really wants to listen to people’s voices than this is my voice, this is our voice,” Baldauff said.