“Lights, camera, action”, a phrase associated with film and television, has been said many times in this area.
The charm and history of Washington, Fayette and Greene counties have drawn a number of productions to the area. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Film Office, which represents 10 counties for the film industry, offers a national film tax credit that is one of the best in the country.
“You have charming small towns, stunning natural beauty and great venues that diversify their scenes and production,” said Anna Weltz, public relations director for Go Laurel Highlands.
Fayette County has hosted some classic films. Buffalo Bill’s house in Perryopolis was used in the Oscar-winning film, “The Silence of the Lambs.”
“They’ve done several movies in Fayette County over the years,” Commissioner Vince Vicites said. “It obviously helps our economy in the short and long term. Anytime you can get your county advertised, it 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, art director and props stylist, bought the house in Perryopolis in January 2021. The avowed fan of the horror genre opened it later that year as a place people can stay for the weekend -end.
“Using my experience, I wanted to create a unique aesthetic that would become memorable and create an immersive experience for guests,” Rowan said. “I’ve kind of sprinkled the dark accents of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ throughout the house. It’s an absolutely stunning property. It’s such a grand house and it certainly brings to mind an era of architecture past. It there’s just a timeless classic feel to the house.
Filming was done in Brownsville for a film called “Maria’s Lovers” in 1984. A house used as the main filming location has since been converted into a film-themed guesthouse.
And Fiddles Diner, a Brownsville landmark more than a century old, was used for filming several times. “Maria’s Lovers” used the restaurant, as did the movie “Abduction” and the Netflix series, “I Am Not Okay With This.”
“I think (they use Fiddles) because of the age of it,” restaurant owner Debbie Santello said. “It’s an authentic old school restaurant and there aren’t many authentic ones left.”
The Nemacolin resort town in Farmington was the home base for “The Bachelor” in 2021 and part of “The Bachelorette” in 2016. During this season of “The Bachelor,” one of the dates was took place at Ohiopyle State Park.
Washington & Jefferson College and California University of Pennsylvania were also popular filming destinations.
The movie “Foxcatcher” used both campuses. W&J served as the backdrop, while Cal U.’s arena was turned into the site for an international wrestling tournament in the film. A bathroom in the lobby of Cal U. Convocation Center was used for an airport bathroom scene.
“The opportunities we’ve had for students to observe (people working with the film or show) and witness it and give them exposure to a career area that may be of interest to them or that they have perhaps never seen before, I think it’s really exciting for our campus,” said Becky McMillen, director of student auxiliary operations at Cal U.
The Showtime series, “American Rust,” also used the Cal U. campus.
“It’s obviously the aesthetic,” McMillen said of what the campus offers filmmakers. “Cal U. has that classic college look that a lot of movies go for.”
W&J has also been the site for Netflix shows such as “Mindhunter” and “The Chair.”
“I’ve had a lot of different movies come here, done a site tour and spotted the location of different movies,” Valentine said. “It’s really a fun thing to do. You have to plan it really well, so that it is not too disruptive, because we always respect the spaces of the students.
People in the film industry also like to film locally, because it’s more profitable. This 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 formerly based in Waynesburg.
Films filmed locally by the couple include ‘Were-Grrl’, ‘Severe Injuries’, ‘A Feast of Flesh’, ‘Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation’ and ‘Razor Days’. Portions of “Razor Days” were filmed in Fayette County’s Laurel Caverns and throughout Waynesburg.
“We found that we preferred to use the money for local people rather than flying them in. It’s a very welcoming environment,” Watt said.
There are also other reasons.
“We can do any type of terrain,” Best said. “You can make it whatever 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 type of landscape except a beach or a desert.
“Our most requested location is places that look like New York,” she said. “It’s much easier to film here than in New York City. Everything is there, which makes it easier to work here.
Jeff Monahan, a producer, writer, director and actor from Connellsville, 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 here is you have the city and the country,” Monahan said. “The Cows are just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. You have a lot of different looks, a lot of different architectures, you can have any weather you want.
Monahan, owner of 72nd St. Films LLC, said a pilot for a series called “Actors on: MacBeth,” filmed in part at the Edwin S. Porter Theater in Connellsville, as well as the East Park Outdoor Stage in Connellsville.
“It’s a great area to work on as much as you can,” Monahan said. “We’ve had so many people opening their doors for places and things you can use. You can cut costs, work locally, and work with local talent.