Entertainment - AP TV
Philly-Based 'Hack' Entering 2nd Season
Sat Aug 23,12:37 PM ET
By PATRICK WALTERS, Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) It's sweltering and he's wearing a buttoned-down shirt and blue jeans, but actor David Morse ( news ) appears cool and comfortable as he hops out of his taxi cab and saunters up the steps of a row home on the set of "Hack" in West Philadelphia.
He chats easily with a neighbor working in her garden, flashes a quick grin and heads inside the house as though it were his own.
But the scene is more than just slick acting it's almost reality for Morse, who lives in the city with his family. The show's locale is also a rarity for network television series, almost all of which are filmed in the entertainment hubs of New York and Los Angeles, or across the border in Vancouver and other parts of Canada, where lower fees and the friendly exchange rate help cut costs.
"Hack" itself was originally to be set in New York, but producer Nan Bernstein said that Morse felt so strongly about filming the show near his home in Philadelphia that the producers decided it was worth the extra $40,000 to $70,000 an episode to film in the City of Brotherly Love.
"It became more of a wish to have David in the show," said Bernstein, who added that despite the hassles generated by bringing in crew and equipment, the city has been very accommodating. "The city was not selected as much as David Morse very, very much wanted to be in the show."
So the show was moved to Philadelphia, where virtually all filming is done, pulling an estimated $38 million into the local economy during the first season alone, according to the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.
Morse said he thinks it's refreshing to film outside New York and Los Angeles. He's one to know, having starred in the 1980s series "St. Elsewhere," which was set in Boston, but filmed mostly in Los Angeles.
"They're able to fake it," Morse said. "But it feels fake. It doesn't feel genuine."
Others also point out the advantages of filming in a locale that hasn't been overexposed. While virtually every corner of New York and Los Angeles has been filmed at one point or another, "Hack" has been able to find nooks and crannies of Philadelphia that people don't see every day, said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.
"We're not overshot. The businesses and neighborhoods are not sick of filming," she said.
Other cities in the country have also gotten boosts from major television series, but they're still the exception to the rule.
The WB series "Dawson's Creek was filmed in Wilmington, N.C., for six seasons starting in 1997. Over that span, the show brought $23 million into the local economy, including costs for supplies, crew, labor, equipment rentals and fuel, according to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.
He said it's tough to attract film crews away from New York and Los Angeles.
"It's cheaper to stay there," Griffin said. "Actors want to stay there, they don't want to leave home."
The other major exception is Canada, where some series have gone to save money. Bill Lindstrom, chief executive officer of the Association of Film Commissioners International, said it comes down to saving time and money.
"Obviously they're looking for a financial deal at all times," Lindstrom said. "The exchange rate for Canada allows for some pretty extensive shooting."
Philadelphia has hosted several major films, including the "Rocky" movies in the 1970s and 1980s, "Trading Places" in 1983 and "Philadelphia" and "Twelve Monkeys" in the 1990s. And writer/director M. Night Shyamalan ( news ) has reinforced Philadelphia's reputation for movies by shooting his films including "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs" almost exclusively in the city and its suburbs.
But major network television series just haven't become big business in the city.
Austin, Texas, also sports a vibrant movie industry, but officials there say there is similar difficulty pulling in television programs because of staffing requirements. Brenda Johnson, music and film manager with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that with so many movies being filmed in Austin, the city just wouldn't have the resources for television.
With 24 movie projects worth $51.7 million done in the state in 2002, Johnson said the city just doesn't have the desire to try to pull in television series because they would simply suck up the resources.
And for smaller cities that do want to draw in television series, it's often the intangibles that make it happen, much like Morse's desire on where to produce "Hack." "Luck might come into play," Lindstrom said. "And sometimes it's relationships."