Local areas provide stage for movies, TV shows

“Lights, camera, action,” a phrase associated with film and television, has been said plenty of times in this area.

The charm and history of Washington, Fayette and Greene counties have attracted a number of productions to the area. Plus, the Pittsburgh Film Office, which represents 10 counties to the film industry, offers a state film tax credit that is one of the best in the country.

“You have charming small towns, stunning natural beauty and great locations that diversify their scenes and their production,” said Anna Weltz, director of public relations for Go Laurel Highlands.

Fayette County has been the home for some classic cinema. Buffalo Bill’s House in Perryopolis was used in the Academy Award winning film, “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“They’ve done several movies in Fayette County over the years,” said Commissioner Vince Vicites. “It obviously helps our economy in the short term and the long term. Anytime you can get publicity about your county, that brings more people to the county. It’s a win-win. We welcome filmmakers to Fayette County. We have a lot to offer.”

Chris Rowan, an art director and prop stylist, purchased the house in Perryopolis in January 2021. The admitted fan of the horror genre opened it later that year as a place where people can stay for the weekend.

“Using my background, I wanted to create a unique aesthetic that would become memorable and create an immersive experience for the guests,” Rowan said. “I peppered in kind of the dark overtones of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ throughout the home. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of property. It’s such a grandiose home and it certainly hearkens to a time of past architecture. There’s just a timeless classic feel to the home.”

Filming was done in Brownsville for a movie called “Maria’s Lovers” in 1984. A house used as the primary film location has since been transformed into a bed and breakfast with a theme from the movie.

And Fiddles Diner, a Brownsville landmark that’s more than a century old, has been used for filming many times. “Maria’s Lovers” used the diner, and so did the movie “Abduction” and the Netflix series, “I’m Am Not Okay With This.”

“I think (they use Fiddles) because of the age of it,” said Debbie Santello, the restaurant’s owner. “It’s an authentic old-school diner and there’s not too many of those around much anymore that are authentic.”

Nemacolin resort in Farmington was home base for “The Bachelor” in 2021, and a portion of “The Bachelorette” in 2016. During that season of “The Bachelor,” one of the dates took place at Ohiopyle State Park.

Washington & Jefferson College and California University of Pennsylvania each have been popular destinations for filming, too.

The movie “Foxcatcher” used both campuses. W&J served as a backdrop, while Cal U.’s arena was transformed into a site for an international wrestling tournament in the movie. A bathroom in the lobby of Cal U.’s convocation center was used for an airport bathroom scene.

“The opportunities we’ve had for students to shadow (people working with the movie or show) and to witness that and give them exposure to a career field they may be interested in or may have never seen before, I think is really exciting for our campus,” said Becky McMillen, director of student auxiliary operations at Cal U.

The Showtime series, “American Rust,” also has used Cal U.’s campus.

“It’s obviously the aesthetics,” McMillen said of what the campus offers filmmakers. “Cal U. has that classic college look that a lot of films are looking for.”

W&J also has been the site of Netflix shows such as “Mindhunter” and “The Chair.”

“I’ve had a lot of different movies come through here, do a site visit and scout the location for different films,” Valentine said. “That’s really a fun thing to do. You have to really plan it well, so it’s not too disruptive, because we’re always respectful of the students’ spaces.”

Local people in the film industry like to film locally, too, since it’s more cost effective. That has been the case for husband and wife Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best, who own Happy Cloud Media, LLC, now based in Eighty Four and once based in Waynesburg.

The couple’s locally filmed movies include “Were-Grrl,” “Severe Injuries,” “A Feast of Flesh,” “Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation” and “Razor Days.” Parts of “Razor Days” were shot in Fayette County’s Laurel Caverns and throughout Waynesburg.

“We found that we’d rather use the money on local people than fly people in. It’s a very welcoming environment,” Watt said.

There are also other reasons.

“We can do any sort of terrain,” Best said. “You can make it out to be anything you want. In western Pennsylvania, you have so many different terrains and so many different possibilities.”

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said southwestern Pennsylvania can offer just about any kind of scenery — with the exception of a beach or a desert.

“Our most requested location is places that look like New York,” she said. “It’s far easier to film here than it is in the city of New York. It’s all here, which makes it easier to work here.”

Jeff Monahan, a Connellsville producer, writer, director and actor, has been involved in a number of local projects. He said a house and hotel in Uniontown were used in “George Romero Presents: Deadtime Stories,” a 2009 horror film.

“The great thing about being around here is you have the city and the country,” Monahan said. “Cows are just 20 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh. You have a lot of different looks, a lot of different architecture, you can have all the different weather you want.”

Monahan, owner of 72nd St. Films LLC, said a pilot for a series called “Actors on: MacBeth,” shot partially at the Edwin S. Porter Theatre in Connellsville, as well as at the outdoor stage at East Park in Connellsville.

“It’s a great area to work out of as much as you can,” Monahan said. “We’ve had so many people open their doors for locations and things that you can use. You can keep costs down, work locally and work with local talent.”

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Local areas provide stage for movies, TV shows