Press | Is Lancaster The Next Hub For Filmmaking?

Lisbet Byler

Lisbet Byler

October 23, 2019

This article first appeared in Thriving! magazine and was written by Tony Gorick, Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber. Thriving! magazine is a quarterly magazine by the Lancaster Chamber published by Hoffman Publishing Group. Explore the new October 2019 issue in its entirety online here

Cover photo: MAKE films’ Director, Derek Dienner, and Director of Photography, Aaron Dienner, on set of the Lancaster Chamber’s Carpool Karaoke shoot with Mayor Sorace.

The Lancaster arts and culture scene has been growing at a rapid pace. With booming art galleries, local makers markets, talented musicians, premium theater, and more, there are so many areas that are adding an extra dose of vibrancy to the County.

Now, there is another medium poised to push Lancaster even further into creativity and positively impact the economic future of the community: film.

“The combination between innovation and stability in Lancaster makes it a perfect place for film,” says Derek Dienner, Founder & CEO of MAKE films, local film agency. “You have years and years of history and traditional businesses along with new companies coming along and adding to the area. It is making the perfect creative platform where film can thrive.”

We checked in with some of the individuals on the cusp of making Lancaster a hub for film to see how it could both create inspiring productions while impacting the Lancaster economy for the better.

Primed For Production: Lancaster Ready For The Artform

Lancaster is primed to be a space to cultivate filmmaking and the industry as a whole.

“Lancaster is already a very creative hub, and I just think there is a lot of confidence in film opportunity and that’s why you are seeing so many people excited about what’s happening right now,” says David Godin co-founder of Autopilot:Off content production company. He and his wife Rasha Clark are currently finalizing details for their local debut feature film Creek Don’t Rise. “With the democratization of roles, lower prices of equipment, and new technology, it is giving so many new people access and opportunity to engage with this art form—and I think that is something you are seeing here in the community.”

“You’ve got art houses that support film like Zoetropolis, so they already started an audience for Indie films here which is a natural place for film to grow,” adds Rasha. “There is a natural support for the fine arts here and I think it’s a great time to include film as a bigger part of what’s offered.”

Ryan Shank, Executive Director of the upcoming Red Rose Film Festival, also acknowledges Lancaster as a place primed for filmmaking growth and production success.

“When you think of the arts in Lancaster, film is a piece that isn’t as represented as some other areas,” says Ryan. “I see this Red Rose Film Festival and the filmmaking industry as a complement to the artistic identity of Lancaster. With the festival, we are exhibitors of film —we are giving filmmakers and members of the artistic community an additional platform to showcase their work. It’s a next step in Lancaster’s evolution as an entertainment and artistic hub.”

Although film is rapidly becoming a movement here in the County, there have been film agencies and companies in the area for a while. Haverstick Films is a company that has been around since 1989 and more recent additions to the area, Triode Media and MAKE films, are creating more opportunities for film to grow.

“The artistic growth here has been amazing,” says Mary Haverstick, founder and owner of Haverstick Films. “Many more artists have found Lancaster to be a welcoming home, and the cost of living in New York and other metro areas has made Lancaster an appealing option. Lancaster has a walkable downtown, a thriving coffeeshop scene and incredible architecture. The local farmland and beauty of the landscape attracts artists, but that will only continue as long as we are wise enough to maintain that which Lancaster has going for it.”

“Lancaster has always been home to creative industries,” says Evan Scudner, Executive Producer at Triode Media Group, LTD. “Film and video are critical forms of communication and entertainment that are important industries to have in Lancaster.”

Derek from MAKE agrees.

“We love Lancaster and love the entrepreneurial energy that’s here right now,” says Derek. “I am lucky enough to have decided years ago that I wanted to be in video, start my own business, and do it in Lancaster. Without being a film company and without being in Lancaster, it wouldn’t be MAKE films today.”

More Than Film: Growing Economic Impact

The film industry is all about creating stories, shaping narratives and producing something that can move an audience or viewer. But it is also so much more—it can vastly impact the economy where the films are created.

With the Red Rose Film Festival, a five-year vision now finally coming to fruition, Ryan is keeping that at the center.

“We have a focus on four key pillars of our business model: Development, Arts, Tourism, and Education,” says Ryan. “At the core of our mission is to bring more film to the area that has an ancillary effect on small business commerce and employment. We want to bring more jobs to the area and inject capital into our commerce.”

Ryan hopes that this first edition of the festival provides a strong foundation to launch bigger plans to impact Lancaster.

“The overarching goal is that in the next five years this film festival creates such an economic impact that policy makers in the State will consider revising the incentives to draw filmmakers to Central PA which, in turn, will benefit our community in the creation of new job opportunities and financial growth,” he adds. “It will positively impact our small business community and the County’s overall commerce.”

Whether it’s film festivals or film production, workforce is an area that can greatly benefit from this booming industry.

“Film really does open up a whole new realm of creative employment,” says Rasha. “You need location scouts, you need make-up artists, you need hair stylists. You will need someone to help with fashion, wardrobe, the construction and implementation of sets, electrical workers, lighting technicians, all sorts of crew members.”

“The filmmaking industry can be the most collaborative art form,” adds David. “It’s very broad-spectrum. Instead of thinking of filmmaking as directors or actors, think of all of the other types of individuals and their skill sets that will benefit the percentage of needed employment.”

Evan also notes the impact the film industry can have on workforce.

“Nationwide, the film and television industry employs more people than farming, oil extraction and mining combined,” he says. “Lancaster is a great place for filming. The community has excellent locations, experienced crew and talent, and great hospitality. We’re working
hard to bring more film production to Lancaster.”

Derek speaks into the idea of economic impact from another aspect, one that he and the MAKE team specialize in: using video for commercial marketing.

“We challenge ourselves to best tell stories that will help our clients,” says Derek. “Advertising and marketing are less about selling and more about telling stories that connect with others. We always ask the question ‘How do we tell that story authentically?’”

“Video really has the capability to change the relationship a business has with its customer or its end user,” adds Catlin Williams, Producer at MAKE films. “Because of the connection people can feel to a story, a brand, a professional that works at that organization or business, it really strengthens a relationship in a way that we haven’t really seen before. Video is more personal—more driven by human connectivity.”

“When people hear the world ‘film’ or ‘filmmaker’, they think of going to movies, documentaries or watching films on streaming services,” adds Mary. “Currently, Lancaster’s viable filmmaking economy, meaning making a living at it, is restricted to product videos or commercial videos. We are in our infancy when it comes to telling Lancaster based stories that get out to the wider world. In order to make that leap we need to support, fund, and empower filmmakers to do so. To grow our film community, Lancaster needs to grow our support of Lancaster filmmakers to tell the stories they want to tell. Only then will Lancaster’s filmmaking engine evolve from a service provided to businesses, to a viable storytelling community. When that leap happens, it will move our local filmmaking community from a gig economy to an actual engine of economic impact. That is our next step.”

From film festivals and original filmmaking, to opportunities to advertise and market businesses to both the local consumer and beyond, the film industry can be a strong economic driver and it’s just getting started.

Get The Details: The Projects Happening Right Now

Along with commercial film and production, there is a lot of original filmmaking happening here in Lancaster.

Creek Don’t Rise, the current film David and Rasha are working on, is planned to start production later this year.

“The film explores community and isolation in contemporary American society via a narrative of an unlikely friendship between a former Sudanese “Lost Boy” refugee and a woman struggling with bipolar disorder,” says Rasha. “We are planning on using all local talent and local businesses to support the area and are still looking for funding for the film, private donors, investments.”

David, a Lancaster native, is beyond excited to begin production on this film.

“With this particular film, I am most excited to explore two really different types of people connecting on an extraordinarily deep level in Lancaster County—in this place where I grew up,” says David. “To see that type of story, that depth of humanity, amongst this backdrop of this place where I grew up is more than exciting to me.”

As for the film festival, Ryan is ready to bring international filmmaking to the heart of Lancaster.

“We have films from Australia, the United Kingdom, middle east, South Africa, and all over the US,” says Ryan. “They’ll be shown in a variety of local venues like Tellus360the Holiday Inn Lancaster, and the Lancaster VR Lounge.”

For this premier festival, the are three identifying areas of focus: inclusion, innovation, and inspiration. All three are areas important to filmmaking and Ryan hopes they are equally showcased in the films at the event.

“It will be an assortment of film types,” says Ryan. “And I hope people can come and connect to them in an accessible way.”

For Derek at MAKE, he has some lofty goals of his own.

“I would love to say that MAKE could be the next Pixar,” he says. “The way that Pixar builds creative trust is what we pursue as we are growing as a company. We have Gallery Row in downtown Lancaster—why not have a Backlot B for film, too?”

Though MAKE focuses a lot on commercial work, they have been breaking into original content over the years.

“We’re working on a docu-series that will launch sometime in 2020,” says Catlin. “It’s called Unlock Lancaster and will tell the story of Lancaster City in a broad perspective — from buildings to people — for the last couple hundred years.”

They also have three short films going directly to festivals: Oma & Opa, Passive Aggressive Film School Roomate, and AFRAID. Another project is a three-part episode series called Dismantling Democracy — in partnership with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The Final Cut: What’s Ahead

The Red Rose Film Festival is November 1-3, 2019. You can find tickets and more information at redrosefilmfestival.com.

Be sure to explore MAKE films at makefilms.cc and check out their YouTube channel for short films and video series. Learn more about Triode Media LTD at triode.tv and browse their work and the missions behind what they do.

Haverstick Films looks to begin production on their fifth feature length project in 2020, so keep checking haverstickfilms.com for more information.

David and Rasha are quickly gaining momentum with their feature film. To find out more and see how you can donate or make an impact with the film Creek Don’t Rise, visit their website at autopilotoff.tv/creekdontrise or at facebook.com/creedontrisefilm.

The film industry in Lancaster is bright — and it’s exciting to watch what happens next.

“There is some kind of magic about Lancaster — whether you are born and raised, leave and come back, or you are a transplant,” says Catlin. “There is just a magic that draws people in. It’s reflected in the way that people engage with each other in community, both professionally and personally. I think about the saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and feel like that’s the wave that Lancaster is on right now. They are rooted and reaching out. Everything is growing, thriving. And we’re excited that’s happening with film, too.”

The Lancaster Chamber wants to offer you the chance to utilize our recent Lean Into The Bold short film, originally premiering at the 2019 Lancaster Chamber Annual Dinner in May, as your own marketing & recruiting piece for promotion efforts at your company.

This video is an accessible option to recruit valuable employees to the thriving Lancaster area and market the community as a place of immense growth. The Chamber is excited to collaborate with MAKE films to offer this option!

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