The Philadelphia Film Office is holding its first-ever rally at the bottom of the "Rocky" steps at Philly’s Museum of Art on Saturday in pursuit of better tax breaks – something that could bring more filming to the Philly area (beyond Kevin Hart movies) and additional cash to the economy, not only for film technicians, actors and casting people, but for the businesses, restaurants and hotels serving those crews.
One newly active film community member raising his flag for tax breaks and the freedom to spend more in Philly is sketch comedian, writer, director and producer (“don’t call me an auteur – be very wary of anyone using that title”) John McKeever of “Delco Proper” fame.
Written by and starring Philadelphia’s McKeever and Drexel Hill’s Tommy Pope, the show features “characters that are so different but all connected by the invisible red thread that is the Delco/Philadelphia mentality,” said McKeever, who set most of the series in a lumberyard. “I think comedy has to come from character, not really jokes. Jokes are obviously important but when they're just one-liners for the sake of one-liners, it's like, 'Who gives a s%$#?'"
Not giving a s%$#? That’s "Delco Proper" – a show which debuted with Comedy Central as a limited-run digital series in 2015 with additional episodes added in February 2016 and a request for a network pilot in December, a show that’s only now being filmed in the Delco area (“We can't give away names of locations, but we had a large crew of about 80”) and edited at the Neighborhood Film Co. in Brewerytown. “I've been directing as long as we've been making sketches. Like anything else, I didn't really know what I was doing in the beginning, but now I'm good at faking it,” McKeever said.
One thing that’s crucial for McKeever and Co. is to stay local, especially as, in the director’s words, he would like to see Philadelphians on-screen you don’t normally see in an environment strictly their own.
“Normally, when you see a character from Philly on TV, they're fat, dumb, loud, mouth full of insert-bulls%$#-local-food-references and whining about sports. To make it worse, it's some actor from the Bronx,” he groused. “We plan on showcasing Philly actors, want to shoot the entire thing in this area – using local crew, interiors and exteriors that are all within the city limits.”
They cast the show through Heery-Loftus casting, who understood what they were going for, and the Philadelphia Film Office helped get locations, crew and tax incentives. “This would be nearly impossible to pull off without their help. It's been a local project through and through.”
If "Delco Proper" gets picked up for a full series order by Comedy Central, it would be a no-brainer to shoot in Philly. But without a sizeable tax break, this would likely become a different conversation between network and creative. There’s also the fact that cities such as Pittsburgh have their own labor unions and can call their own money shots. Philly is aligned with NYC’s Local 52, with Philly’s film-set drivers Teamsters 107 connected too to the Big Apple.
“I want to make this show here. I want to hire local crew and talent, but without the incentive, you can see why any network would choose to move the production closer to their home base,” McKeever said. “I'm making a show that would be dependent on the best tax incentives. The incentive makes life easier here for not only myself, but for the hundreds of crew and talent dependent on local work. So, I'll be at the rally. It's great for the Philly film scene. This city has so much to offer, and it's looked over because it's easier to shoot elsewhere. That's why we need the tax credit.”
The rally at the Philadelphia Museum of Art starts June 3 at 10 a.m., rain or shine.