How Sharon Pinkenson Helped Transform Philly Into a Hollywood Mecca

The Greater Philadelphia Film Office director is the reason so many movies are filmed here.

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Oct. 17, 2012

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The Film Tax Credit program is number one. That’s all they want to know: Is there any money in the program? This is my 20th year at the film office. I used to have to explain about crews and permits and equipment. Now all they want to know is if there’s any money in the tax program or has the program changed.

The tax credit program was gutted in 2009, although it was brought back up near its original size the next year. What is the state of that today?

When Gov. Corbett entered office, we didn’t know if we were going to lose the program altogether. We were overjoyed that he endorsed the program so strongly and kept it at a $60 million level. Then, in the last budget, they changed the law so that it could never exceed $60 million. That was extremely depressing because there’s so much indigenous cable TV—I need half of the budget just to cover that. This is the only state in the nation that has a big tax credit program that has two major production centers. Thirty million [for Philadelphia] is a drop in the bucket for what we need. What we’re doing is turning jobs away—it’s horrible—even though the program would more than pay for itself.

How do you treat indie productions versus Hollywood productions?

Exactly the same. A lot of productions are independent. You might think some are studio productions, but they are produced independently. We work with more independent productions than with studio. We get a tremendous amount of repeat business.

What is your relationship with other parts of Pennsylvania that encourage film productions?

We have a weekly phone call to the state Film Office [in Harrisburg] with the Pittsburgh office and me. We compare notes, we discuss tax credits, we address any issues that we have. Do we compete for projects? We absolutely do. But if it stays in Pennsylvania, then it’s a win.

What are your future goals for the Film Office?

One is to make Philadelphia the third busiest place for filmmaking in the U.S. We should be directly behind New York and L.A. [Editor’s note: In 2010, Movie Maker magazine rated Philly No. 9 in its annual “10 Best Cities to Live, Work and Make Movies” countdown, behind locales like Albuquerque, Austin and Boston.] I’d like to get the Film Tax Credit program where it should be. We should have unlimited funds. They should be throwing money at us. If we had uncapped tax credits like some states do, like Massachusetts or Louisiana, we would reach that goal. Philadelphia is a far better place to shoot film in than New Orleans by a landslide. Those are my two main goals.

What are your proudest achievements with productions coming to town?

Just making great movies. One of my proudest achievements is my relationship with one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, M. Night Shyamalan. He’s got a tremendous slate of work he’s going to continue doing. He’s breaking into television work as well. We’ve been together since ’92. I’m very proud that when I started, no one thought of Philadelphia as a movie town. And now they do.

Does your favorite Philadelphia movie ever change?

Philadelphia ... was and will always be my favorite movie. Not only because it was the first movie made entirely in Philadelphia, and it was under my tenure in my first year. It got five Oscar nominations. It created a lifelong friendship with Tom Hanks and Jonathan Demme. We changed the world with that movie. I could go on and on.

What is it like being a professional woman when you started, versus now?

In 1993, Philadelphia magazine did a “Best of Philly” issue. They contacted me. They wanted to take a photograph of me. I asked what it was for. And they said they couldn’t tell me exactly, but it would be really beautiful, and I’d be really happy. I thought it would be for Best Film Commissioner Ever. The magazine came out, and it was for Best Hair. I thought my husband was going to kill the publisher. I think that’s what’s changed—I get respected more. Maybe I still have the best hair, but I get a lot of respect for being a successful businessperson.

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:08AM

“Kudos to Sharon and her incredible efforts to make Philadelphia the backdrop for countless movies, and her battle to increase the PA Tax Credit Program. Her (and her hair) are legendary.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 02:49PM

“Fabulous job.”

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3. Skeptic said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 05:54PM

“Interesting how the glowing comments are being made by Anonymous. Self-promotion maybe? The Greater Philadelphia Film Office is mostly populated by public relations weasels, so it wouldn't surprise me.”

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4. Jamie Moffett said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 11:59AM

“Sharon, Joan & the gang at GFPO are doing an amazing job for filmmakers- both studio and indie (like me). A million thanks to them for their tireless efforts”

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5. paul said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 07:36PM

“great job Sharon...nothing would promote our city more overseas than being featured in a movie..preferably an action adventure youth oriented type film along the lines of Avengers and the like..all the young people watch that stuff”

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6. broke ass film worker said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 08:34PM

“Film production may be the backbone of the industry, but it's only a small part of the film world. There is no real pre or post production scene in Philly at all. Either you work for Shooters, NFL, or Banyon, or you're not really getting paid. And all of these big productions that come into town aren't bringing that many jobs. All of the skilled trade positions and union jobs are all New York guys. If you're serious about making it in production, you're not staying in Philly. All these shoots hire a few scouters and some assistants and then turn all of the other low paying P.A. jobs into free internships for students. It's really a croc. But it does help the local economy, it's just silly for Sharon to take soo much credit for EVERYTHING. Her ego knows no bounds. She's done a lot of good and there's no need to diminish that, but it's insulting to everyone else in the city to lay claim that she's the sole reason why anything happens here.”

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7. broke ass film worker said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 08:49PM

“And it was Rendell's support through out his mayor and governorship that made Sharon's work possible, & it's a shame there's no mention of her co-workers who are actively in the field doing their best to aid actual Philadelphians with locally made productions rather than just putting their names on everything & setting up photo-ops with A-list celebrities. Still, there's a much much bigger picture than just the glitz & glamor of film-making. There is distribution, PR, casting, advertising, & so much more that simply doesn't exist on a professional level here outside of a few small insular agencies. Philadelphia is no mecca for film although there is a thriving DIY subculture here that rarely gets the press it deserves. It's outrageous to take claim for Shamaylan's career & success. He's one of the nicest, best directors to work for, but all four of his last films were Razzie winners, not sure if I'd pronounce him one of the greatest directors alive.”

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8. Skeptic said... on Oct 20, 2012 at 05:04PM

“Broke-ass-film-worker is spot on. Pinkerson is credited with Philly's booming position in the film world, but really it's not booming. Most of the revenue generated by these productions is short-lived. There really isn't much of a film community in Philadelphia. Mostly production workers are brought in from NY for the medium and large projects.

I can't say she's done nothing, but I can say she hasn't don't as much as she implies ... and certainly not a fraction of what should be done to promote the local filmmaking industry.”

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9. Philly fan said... on Oct 24, 2012 at 11:12AM

“It's so typical how the haters are always the losers and blamers,finger pointers, etc. get a Life and try and Learn something instead of blaming your own misfortune on the successful.”

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10. Aspiring Film Maker said... on Aug 17, 2013 at 06:46PM

“Who, exactly, proposed and succeeded in getting it passed, a bill capping the total amount allowable for Film Tax credits to never again exceed $60 million dollars? Whose bright idea was that? I would really like to know so that I can make sure I never vote for him or her ever again, or anyone who voted for it to become law. What about inflation? Idiots!!!
What lies between Philadelphia and Pittsburg in this wonderful Commonwealth? Give up? The answer is "Alabama". Get it!!”

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11. sharon needs a haircut said... on Aug 19, 2013 at 01:20PM

“It's all about Sharon. She knows how to bang a drum...and not pay her interns who are college graduates; nor introduce them to players in Los Angeles or NYC who can help their careers. I think she has a salary of about $ 250,000 per year. Wow. I think the money would be better spent on (5) people who have marketing;film etc. degrees. She knows how to clean teeth.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:29AM

“Sharon is a total waste of tax payers money. Never has she showed up for any of the large gatherings the film community have monthly. These parties are full of local film people ,not the sort that Queen Pinkerson would care to be around. No famous shoulders to rub and be photographed with. Years ago I expressed how I and others feel ,about her lack of interest in getting locals hired. I also brought up how her main interest it appears is being seen in her designer clothes which we pay for. Someone heeds to put a rhinestone collar and leash, walk her around Rienhouse”


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