P100 Podcast

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Ep. 3 - Port Authority, Getaways, Pittsburgh in Film and Flower Crown

September 24, 2019

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Welcome to another episode of the P100 Podcast. Today we cover our own Port Authority. Robin Rectenwald shares with us some local getaways inside tips. Director, Dawn Keezer from the Pittsburgh Film Office talks about on location in Pittsburgh. This episode winds up with Pittsburgh Polyphony spotlight - Flower Crown.

This Episode is sponsored by WordWrite

Centuries before cell phones and social media, human connections were made around fires as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts and minds and inspire action. At WordWrite, Pittsburgh's largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand, before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story. The reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented story-crafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S Story.

Here is the full transcript from this episode:

Logan:
You're listening to the P100 Podcast, the biweekly companion piece to the Pittsburgh 100, bringing you Pittsburgh news, culture, and more. Because sometimes 100 words just aren't enough for a great story.

Dan:
All right. Welcome back to another episode of The P100 Podcast. I'm Dan Stefano. I'm here with Logan Armstrong.

Logan:
Good to see you again, Dan.

Dan:
And Paul Furiga, who'll be joining us just momentarily.

Dan:
Today's episode, we've got four segments for you. First, we're going to be discussing public transportation in both Pittsburgh and other American cities. We're going to talk with Dawn Keezer of the Pittsburgh Film Office, which will be a lot of fun. It was a really good chat with her. We're going to discuss quick getaways you can take outside of Pittsburgh. Sometimes you got to get away, and we'll be talking with Robin Rectenwald of WordWrite for that one, and then we'll finish it up with talking about a good local Pittsburgh band for our Pittsburgh polyphony series. Excited to hear that, so let's get to it.

PORT AUTHORITY

Paul:
All right guys. Let's talk planes, trains, and autonomous automobiles. A little shout out there to the old John Candy movie.

Dan:
That's a classic movie.

Paul:
It is a classic movie.

Dan:
Steve Martin too, right?

Paul:
Steve Martin, that's right. Yes indeed.

Logan:
Much before my time.

Paul:
Oh, you got to see that movie.

Dan:
Logan, you weren't even alive.

Paul:
You weren't alive, but you can stream it.

Dan:
Is it John Hughes?

Paul:
Yes. I think it's a John Hughes film actually, one of the-

Dan:
Okay. See, I know my movie stuff.

Paul:
... few he did in that era when it wasn't all about teen angst. But speaking of teen angst and public transportation, it seems like a perennial topic in the news in Pittsburgh, is how to get from point A to point B. And I just don't mean the topography. For instance, if you drew my street on a map, it would look like a lasso, you know the old cowboy thing?

Dan:
Sure.

Paul:
You can get onto Courtney Place, the street I live on, and turn left on Courtney Place and go around a circle and turn left, and you're still on Courtney Place. That's another issue. What we're talking about today is, maybe because of things like that, how difficult it is to get from point A to point B. And the importance of public transportation.

Paul:
And so, recently Dan, Logan, we were looking at the news about the Port Authority starting or considering some 24-hour transit routes. And Logan, I know you're an Oakland denizen, some of those routes would head out that way, that we'd start with you. Thoughts?

Logan:
Yeah, I'd be a big fan of that. I know that they're only considering really the heavier routes, which obviously make sense. You don't want to have empty buses going all night, but I think that would be really helpful.

Logan:
I know there have been a few times where, whether I'm in Oakland or elsewhere past midnight or so, I mean, it gets pretty scarce trying to get to point A to point B, and there are Uber and Lyft, but Pitt students have Pitt IDs and they get free Port Authority rides, and so, I mean, you're going to expect college students to be out pretty late, so I think they should be able to take advantage of that. So I think it's a great idea.

Dan:
Well, it's not only for the college students too. I believe one of the aims behind the Port Authority trying this is to help people who might work late shift. Those late shift workers who, maybe they're not done until 2:00 or 3:00, and they're working at least on some areas near these routes and it really helps them, and I think they're important to have for modern city living.

Paul:
You know, one of the challenges that we've had in the last several years is funding for public transportation. I think that still is a huge issue. Now we have competition for public transportation.

Paul:
Logan, you mentioned ride sharing, Lyft or Uber. And of course Pittsburgh is a hotbed for autonomous vehicle development, and it made a bit of news a few weeks ago when the CEO of one of the companies here in Pittsburgh that are testing autonomous vehicles, Argo AI, wrote a medium blog post in which he said that that company will never build autonomous vehicles for personal use.

Paul:
And I think a lot of people were figuring that, again, remember my street, it goes in a circle, that Uber and all of them were here because they were ... If you can figure out how to drive in Pittsburgh in an autonomous vehicle, you could drive anywhere in an autonomous vehicle.

Paul:
I don't know. Dan, what do you think? Autonomous vehicles in your garage? Yes? No?

Dan:
I don't know. Maybe a personal vehicle…that'd be a difficult buy-in. I think it's one of those things where just in my life I've always had a car that I drive myself. I mean, obviously if, say in the future there are babies that are born that only know autonomous vehicles and might be used to it for them.

Dan:
But I can say that I have been in an autonomous car. And I've had the AI driving me around. I took an Uber once that was an AI car, and obviously there were two people in the front seats, one behind the wheel who just had, was a little bit hands-off, and then another with the computer taking in all the data. It was a really cool experience.

Dan:
But one part that, at one moment we were driving through, I believe it was Bloomfield or somewhere along Baum Boulevard, and we came to one of those classic Pittsburgh 19-streets-meet-at-once intersections. And there was somebody coming in the opposing lane who had made a sharp cut in front of us. And the car made a really sudden stop. And so, I was talking with the operators about it and they said one of the problems that, problems or issues or minor things is, these AI, they still have to take into account other people's decisions. And that's really where I think that that's where the work has got to be done yet, in autonomous vehicles here.

Dan:
And so, it's going to be tough if not every car out there is going to be driven by another robot, you know?

Paul:
Well, and you know, Dan, we were talking about this earlier, and if you think about it, if every new vehicle after some date and time were autonomous, you would still have, what did you say? 200 million?

Dan:
I couldn't tell you how many-

Paul:
Millions.

Dan:
... cars are out there, but probably hundreds of millions of cars.

Paul:
Non-autonomous vehicles.

Dan:
Right. Precisely. So it's going to take a while before this stuff is at its scale and it's the only thing available.

Logan:
Yeah. You can map streets all you want, but you can't really map human decision making.

Paul:
Well, one thing we know for sure, the topic of getting from A to B here in Pittsburgh is not going to go away anytime soon. So on some distant future podcast, look for us to update our musings on getting from here to there.

Dan:
You're going to keep complaining about that lasso, aren't you?

Paul:
I am.

GETAWAYS

Dan:
All right. For this next segment, we have Robin Rectenwald. And she's an account supervisor here at WordWrite.

Dan:
Robin, thanks for being here.

Robin:
Thanks for having me.

Dan:
Absolutely. We wanted to bring you in because a couple of stories recently that we had in the 100 discussed some short getaways that you can take from Pittsburgh here. And there were both some really interesting luxury type locations, and Robin, one of those places that you went to was Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford, PA. And you talked about just being your first solo trip, but also just seemed like a really cool, unique place that was a quick little drive away.

Robin:
Yeah. My best friend had actually told me about the Omni Bedford Springs Resort. She needed some time away, she was going through a really stressful time in her life. And so, years later I finally was able to take the trip for myself. It was on my to-do list for a while.

Dan:
Sure. Well, it seems like it's pretty cool to take one of these trips, and it's really just in your backyard, too. And I think maybe a lot of people don't quite realize all of these ... You don't have to go all the way to the coast. You don't have to go to California or something, Florida, to find a really great vacation. And did you find that?

Robin:
Yeah, that's what I loved about this trip. I actually am someone who doesn't like to drive very far distances by myself. I'm a little bit of a drowsy driver.

Dan:
That's really safe, to be on a Pennsylvania turnpike as a drowsy driver!

Robin:
Yeah. But this one was quick and easy. It was literally on the dot two hours. So yeah, just getting there was super easy. I felt comfortable going by myself.

Dan:
Right. And was it as relaxing as it claimed to be?

Robin:
It was beautiful. I really did feel like I was in paradise. The hotel itself is beautiful, it's historic, so you go in, it's these big staircases, these old elevators, this creaky floors. It was just taking a step back into time into, like the 18 hundreds.

Dan:
It's kind of like The Shining hotel before it became The Shining hotel. Right?

Robin:
Much less creepy.

Dan:
Right, yeah. No Jack Nicholson bursting through your door. That's good to know.

Dan:
Logan, you recently wrote just recently in the 100 here about some pretty cool little cabins through a company called Getaway.

Logan:
Yeah, quite a fitting name. I had seen one of their ads on some social media, and-

Dan:
Social media has ads?

Logan:
I know, right? It's incredible.

Dan:
Wow.

Logan:
But so, they're these cabins, they're just 45 minutes from Pittsburgh. They're in Lisbon Creek, Ohio, tucked right next to a state park out there. And yeah, I mean, they're cabins across these 59 acres of land, and I'm definitely trying to make it out there. I haven't yet, but they look beautiful and they're nice and away from wifi so you can just let yourself go. But so, I had seen one of their ads on social media and I've now been barraged with Getaway ads for the past two weeks on every single social media platform.

Logan:
But yeah, it's 45 minutes, something just quick and easy, you can getaway. It doesn't take too much time off work if any at all. Just go out there for the weekend and just relax.

Dan:
Right? Now those cabins are actually next to Beaver Creek State Park. So very close. And I edited that story, so I have a lot of ads from Getaway right now, too. It's great.

Dan:
I think one thing that is cool to remember here is that we can take these small trips, and it's such a great time of year to get away and be into the country. Do you guys like going out, maybe doing some hiking, going to see some fall leaves? Robin?

Robin:
Yeah, I'm actually going on a train ride with my mom, the end of September. It's in Elks, West Virginia, and they have these four-hour train rides. So yeah, another quick getaway.

Dan:
Right? When I was a kid, I took a, it was all the way up in North Central PA. We took a trip through the --

Robin:
Oh, Kinzua Bridge?

Dan:
Yeah. Which, I don't think that exists anymore. I'm pretty sure it got blown down-

Robin:
No, it's still there. I was just there in May.

Dan:
Oh. I could have sworn it got blown down in a storm. I guess I'm completely wrong.

Robin:
It's partially did, so you can actually go there and see a partial bridge, and you can hike underneath it. It's pretty cool.

Dan:
Oh wow. That's really cool. Yeah, so I remember it being very high, so that's pretty cool.

Logan:
Yeah. I also love going out to Ohiopyle, or Ohiopyle depending on who you ask. But that's great. It's probably a two, two and a half hours. You can go out there and see Fallingwater while you're out there. Yeah. Lots of hiking trails.

Robin:
Kentuck Knob.

Logan:
What's that?

Robin:
Kentuck Knob is another Frank Lloyd Wright's house right nearby Fallingwater.

Logan:
Oh really?

Robin:
Yeah.

Logan:
See, I did not know that. I’ve got to put that on the list.

Dan:
Right. Well, I think the important thing to take away from this is, everybody, we've got some really great fall weather coming up, some really awesome leaves to see and foliage, and everybody should definitely take advantage of these locations that are just a couple hours away.

Logan:
Centuries before cell phones and social media, human connections were made around fires as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts and minds and inspire action. At WordWrite, Pittsburgh's largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand, before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

Logan:
WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story. The reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented story-crafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S Story.

PITTSBURGH IN FILM

Paul:
Well, welcome back everybody. I'm Paul Furiga, I'm publisher of the Pittsburgh 100 and President and Chief Storyteller of WordWrite. And we are pleased today to have with us Dawn Keezer, who on September 24th will celebrate 25 years of running the Pittsburgh Film Office.

Paul:
Logan, that's just hard to believe, isn't it?

Logan:
Yeah, no, it's awesome. I'm glad that we have such a great organization here in Pittsburgh. It does wonders for the city.

Paul:
Dawn, welcome.

Dawn:
Thank you.

Paul:
Tell us a little bit about the film office and what you folks do.

Dawn:
Well, the Pittsburgh Film Office is an economic development agency that focuses on marketing Southwestern Pennsylvania to the film industry. And that includes everything from feature films, television shows that you see on TV, commercials, documentaries, corporate videos. Anything, I used to say, anything rolling any kind of film. Now it's anybody using their iPhone that's doing anything on a professional level. We're helping them make that happen here in Southwestern PA. We represent all 10 counties in the region. Some people don't realize how big a reach the film office has.

Logan:
Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day role in the film office and what you're doing on a day-to-day basis.

Dawn:
Well, we have a huge staff at the film office. There's three of us that work there full time and that includes me. We all do a little bit of everything.

Dawn:
I've been there a really long time, so I'm the go-to both for our relationships with the government officials who really help us make everything happen when we're closing streets and closing bridges and need help getting into places like SCI Pittsburgh, but essentially the film office is a one-stop shop for the film and entertainment industry.

Dawn:
Whether they need permits to close streets, whether they're looking for an office supply company to give them their copier machines, for lumber for to build their sets, to find local crew. Anything that's going to involve their project moving forward, they call the film office and we're the ones that help them make that happen.

Paul:
When Logan and I were talking about this segment, Dawn, we were talking about the history. One of the cool things that people always talk about with Pittsburgh is that so much happens here with film and with TV, but that didn't happen by accident. Tell us how the film office got started and why.

Dawn:
Well, the film office got started, as I was told, I'm the second director, Robert Curran was who actually was here when they started the film office under the Greater Pittsburgh Office Of Promotion. It was all being operated, I'm showing you guys, because I like to use my hands, but it was in the bottom drawer of a person working in Mayor Sophie Masloff's office at the time. He'd pull out a drawer, go, "Okay, what do we do with this one?"

Dawn:
And when Silence of the Lambs decided to film in Pittsburgh, they went, "Wow, we've really got to step this up."

Dawn:
So the Greater Pittsburgh Office Of Promotion created the Pittsburgh Film Office. Russ Streiner, who's our current board chair, actually founded the film office with a few others, and they really started professionalizing the whole approach. By the time I got here it was an established film office, but it was really about making sure the community is protected and the clients, the film companies, are getting what they want done and accomplished.

Dawn:
Pittsburgh looks great, but everyone feels good about it at the end of the day.

Paul:
I think, and Logan, chime in here, but most people in Pittsburgh, and I'm making a generalization here, but I think they're proud to see Pittsburgh in TV and film, but we don't really have an understanding as Pittsburghers of how this all really works.

Paul:
An economic impact of 650 million, you said?

Dawn:
Well, that's how much wanted to be spent here. And it is.

Paul:
Wanted it to be spent.

Dawn:
They wanted to spend here. We're going to be lucky to retain about 200 million of it.

Paul:
Oh my goodness.

Dawn:
And this is money spent throughout the entire economy. The big spend, of course, is on our local crew, which we have some of the most experienced, amazing craftsmen that work in this, craftsmen and women, who work in this industry throughout the region.

Dawn:
Our crew is so good people travel them. They take them elsewhere because if they're not working at home, they leave. And in the old days they were lucky to stay. I say the old days prior to the film tax credits, they were lucky to be here for one film a year, and then they would go work in different states, in different places. They've all been able to stay home now.

Paul:
Well, let's talk about that for a second, because, in Pennsylvania anyway, it seems like certain legislators get upset about the size of the credit. But from what I've seen, our credit's not really that big compared to other states.

Dawn:
Our credit is woefully underfunded and oversubscribed. We needed $127 million dollars to retain all the work that Southwestern Pennsylvania had for this year alone. And we have to share the film tax credit with our friends over in Philly. We're one of the only states that have two production centers, meaning two places where people film.

Dawn:
I equate the tax credit to a 25% off coupon you get at your local store. This is money coming in. We're giving them 25 cents on every dollar they spend after they've spent 60% of their budget in the commonwealth. And they have to prove this. They fill out forms, they're audited. We know where every dime is spent on every single thing they do well before they ever get their tax credit certificate.

Dawn:
We just keep having the conversations and hopefully, we'll get to the point where they go, "Oh, we really do need to increase the film tax credit."

Dawn:
Georgia has a 30% uncapped tax credit. I told you, we had topped 1.5 billion this last year, and that's since 1990. Georgia had six billion dollars’ worth of film work last year.

Paul:
Wow. Now that is just amazing.

Dawn:
And they're looking for other places to go. If you look at the level of content that's being created right now, with the growth in all the streaming channels and everything else, they're all looking for homes. It's Netflix, it's Disney, it's Amazon. All our clients, they've all been here, they're all coming back. They're all, it just ... We have an opportunity here to really grow it, and I'm really hoping we get to capitalize on it this year.

Logan:
Like you said, everything you're saying makes sense. I would think that just pounding the nail and then hopefully it gets through some people's heads and realize that there are two production centers here and that that would bring so much money into our economy that otherwise goes unspent.

Logan:
Through your 25 years though, it sounds like people have wanted to less have Pittsburgh as a double, and actually want their film set in Pittsburgh. Would you say that's correct?

Dawn:
It's really interesting. It's a great question because we've really seen a growth in the number of shows that set it here. And primarily we're getting more people to write Pittsburgh into the scripts. There's more work being created. It saves them money when they set it in Pittsburgh because then they don't have to worry about, "Oh, there went a police car that's got the wrong logo on it, there goes -

Paul:
Re-badging, resigning things, yes.

Dawn:
... everything."

Dawn:
We've seen a huge increase in that, which has been fun and it makes life a lot easier for everybody. And it gives us some great marketing.

Dawn:
Sometimes not so much. Right? Sometimes it's not a storyline that Pittsburgh would want to promote, but again, it's a movie. We're not portraying real life here, or a TV show, whatever it happens to be.

Paul:
That's great. So, as Pittsburghers, what can we do to help the film industry here thrive and grow?

Dawn:
Well, what we're really lucky about, I always tell people there are three main reasons anyone films here. It's the tax credits, it's our crew, it's the diversity of locations.

Dawn:
The fourth unofficial one is the film friendliness of Pittsburgh. We welcome these projects with open arms. We still are excited about it. Yeah, sometimes they block your driveway. Sometimes they're in the way, and we deal with all this usually minor inconveniences that happen throughout the region, but for the most part, we're very supportive. So we'd love for that to continue when people really get to know how friendly our region is.

Dawn:
Our website is pghfilm.org. We're on all of the social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere else you're supposed to be these days. It's important that you go check in on what's happening, and if you want to be an extra, we put that information up on our website. We really try to keep things up to date and current as possible.

Dawn:
I mentioned we have three full-time employees. I have a full staff of interns, they're amazing, from all the local major universities in the region, and they're charged with getting all that stuff updated, so they've been doing a great job. But it's really just checking in and staying supportive.

Dawn:
And for the legislators that are listening, are you people out there who have friends that are legislators? It's important to remind them that the film tax credit affects the entire region. Not just the people who see the direct impact, but the entire region. We're all benefiting from this economic development generator. And the goal with the tax credits was to not only have an incentive but to build an industry sector. We've done that. Now we need to start building infrastructure and getting purpose-built sound stages and getting some things moving.

Dawn:
Just supporting the film industry as a whole, as a real viable business in the region, it's really the key.

Logan:
Great. Well, thank you so much for being here, Dawn. We really appreciate you being here and giving your info and knowledge and expertise on this. This has definitely given me an expanded view of what the Pittsburgh Film Office does. And so, yeah, just thanks for being here.

Logan:
This is Logan Armstrong and Paul Furiga with the P100 Podcast, and thanks again.

Dawn:
Thank you.

FLOWER CROWN MUSIC

Logan:
Okay, Dan, coming into our next segment, I want to take a couple of minutes to spotlight a local band, Flower Crown, who is on the Crafted Sounds record label, who is a local record label which is run by my friend, Connor Murray. They're doing a lot of great things. But Flower Crown is, I would call them dream-pop, very hazy, very ambient, chill.

Logan:
My first introduction to them was when I heard their song Bender Szn, it landed on Spotify's Fresh Finds Six Strings playlist, which is a pretty prominent playlist in the platform. It got them a lot of good exposure. As an artist, you're always looking to get on playlists like those.

Logan:
But yeah, I know you had a little chance to listen to them. What did you think?

Dan:
Yeah, I think that dream-pop is maybe a good way to describe them. I hadn't heard that term for a genre until you brought it up to me. Until you introduced me to this band here, but I'd agree with it. They'd be nice to just have, put them on for a good mix, a good playlist for a long drive or something like that. And just a nice, kind of soothing, but they do a pretty nice job with their instrumentation. They sound good. So yeah. Excited to hear some more.

Logan:
Yeah. Yeah. It's a five-member band. And what I like about Flower Crown is that while the music is, like you said, it's great for a long road trip. It's very just, you can kind of get into it. They create their own atmosphere. I haven't met them personally, but from what I've seen on social media and in the public, they're pretty likable guys.

Logan:
Their profile picture on Facebook has one of them in a big hot dog suit. One of their single covers has them taking off, the guy's in an alien suit, they're taking off his alien head, almost like a Scooby-Doo character. It's nice to be able to see bands that you're able to relate with and are still making music on that scale.

Dan:
That's awesome. What are we going to hear from them coming up?

Logan:
Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, I think a great introduction to them is Bender Szn, off their latest project called Sundries, which came out in May. It's a great little single to head out into your day. Very chill. Great for a day like this in October. So yeah, I hope you enjoy.