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Movie Making Helps Boost Local Businesses

Courtesy of Andy Wincko
Owned by Andy and Mary Wincko (pictured), the Pittsburgh Smokehouse food truck delivers catered barbecue at all hours of the day and night to film sets around Pittsburgh.

January is typically a slow month for Pittsburgh Smokehouse owner Andy Wincko, but this year he said business was good thanks in part to the film industry. 

“When they’re filming, it’s about 25 percent of my business, and that’s a lot," he said, talking about the Netflix thriller "Sweet Girl," which has been filming in Pittsburgh since last fall starring actors Marisa Tomei and Jason Momoa. "I’m basically on call for them. Whenever they want it, I deliver.”

According to the Pittsburgh Film Office, the industry itself delivers a big economic impact on the region. Figures show that since the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit was created in 2005, the industry has generated close to $1.5 billion in economic activity.

Pennsylvania offers a 25 percent credit to companies that spend at least 60 percent of their budgets filming in the state. The credit is capped at $70 million. 

Kelly McCord, who owns the coffee food service Sweet Sips Café, estimated about 20 percent of her business comes from movie productions, and . She said being available on short notice is a must.

“You have to be flexible," she said, "and if you are, movie casts and crews are fun people to work with.”

McCord said a casting agent recently asked her to work as an extra on the set of “Sweet Girl,” which came with a modest extra payday. Wyncko said he just confirmed he'll be providing food for the upcoming Showtime production “Rust.”

A busy local production schedule means business won't slow down any time soon, McCord said. But beyond the business perks, Wincko said sometimes it's just the satisfaction of knowing someone else values what you bring to the team that makes the whole experience special.

“When I drive up in my little van, the mini-meat wagon, people ask me, what did you bring? What did you bring?" he said. "I just get a big smile on my face, and I know people are going to be happy.”

UPDATED: 9:06 a.m. Monday, Feb. 10 to reflect that Pennsylvania's film tax credit began in 2005. 

Maria Gabriel Scapellato began her radio career at a commercial radio station in Harrisburg in 1985. Later, she moved to WITF 89.5 FM as the local host of All Things Considered, returning to Pittsburgh in 1992, where she has since worked in both radio and television at various Pittsburgh stations as a general assignment reporter. Originally from West Mifflin in the Mon Valley, she studied Journalism at West Virginia University.