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Economy & Business

Film Studio Opens to Industry Representatives

Pittsburgh’s newest film studio is open for business – sort of.

Studio C, located in a 120,000-square-foot facility in Robinson, opened its doors to location scouts and studio representatives Monday as part of a soft opening, according to Cyndi Casteel, vice president of business development.

The studio won’t be open to the public for at least another week due to construction, but Casteel said the preliminary opening gives scouts a chance to plan their schedules for the upcoming year.

So far, five television shows and 12 movies have shown interest in filming in Pennsylvania next year, Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said, but with the tax credit capped at $60 million, only a few projects will be filmed in the state.

Funded largely by a $10 million investment from private local financiers, Studio C is trying to meet certain state criteria, such as utilizing soundproofed walls and meeting electricity requirements, to become a state “qualified production facility.” This gives clients an additional 5 percent tax credit on top of the state provided 25 percent tax break.

But the studio isn’t just for major motion pictures. Casteel said the studio will work to serve local filmmakers as well.

“As much as we are focused on feature films and television series, we also have special places for anyone in the community,” she said. “From television commercials to small indie films, we want to attract and accommodate all of those people.”

When finished, the studio will have five sound stages between 1,000 and 18,000 square feet, as well as a green screen and photographer’s studio. The warehouse will also offer camera, lighting and prop rentals.

Studio C will also serve as a Pennsylvania base for prop company Independent Studio Services, aerial cinematography firm 7LineMedia and production communication company Exchange Communications, according to Casteel.

She started her career in the entertainment industry 25 years ago as a film crew member in Pittsburgh, and she said a lot of her early experiences went into the creation of Studio C.

“I can feel the heartbeat of the city,” she said. “I am in touch with the people working on the ground and in it every single day, and the feedback that we’re getting from those people alone is feeding our enthusiasm.”

According to Casteel, the idea for Studio C came from an unlikely place –air conditioning.

“Producers that were coming in from out of town wanted the ability to shoot in a great big open space, but still have heating and cooling as sort of a luxury that everyone becomes accustomed to in a normal working environment,” she said.

Many of Pittsburgh’s other film studios are converted steel mills that lack heating and cooling capabilities, according to Casteel. And while it was an expensive investment, she said air conditioning will attract more filmmakers to the region.

“When I started to investigate and figure out that it [air conditioning] really wasn’t available in Pittsburgh, it provided a huge opportunity, in my opinion, to provide that,” she said.