Pennsylvania People Productions – a film production company that was founded in 2010 – is composed of actors, writers and directors from the Philadelphia area.
The group participates every year in the 48 Hour Film Project (it won best film one year and became city champions of Philadelphia), and has yet to not bring home a prize.
PPP’s latest project has been picked up for distribution by Amazon Prime and Vimeo. The full-length feature – “Hanh, Solo” – was shot entirely in the Philadelphia area and was created by Temple alumni. The film completed the festival circuit by debuting at more than 10 festivals all across America (several of which were local – The Women’s Film Festival, PA Indie FF, and Garden State FF), and was acquired shortly after the pandemic for distribution.
PW recently caught up with Hanh Nguyen, co-writer and lead, and Jason Taylor, co-writer and director, to talk about the film and film production in Philly.
Talk a little about Pennsylvania People Productions. How did it all come together a decade ago?
Pennsylvania People Productions was the name we gave our group while we were working on our first feature in 2010. Most of us had known each other since at least high school, and we’d been making shorts for a few years at that point, but we’d never formally sat down and talked about making our efforts more legitimate. The first natural step toward that seemed to be coming up with a name, and, after a few days of brainstorming, we settled on Pennsylvania People since it defined us in the most literal sense: a group of people from Pennsylvania.
Your latest feature, “Hanh, Solo,” has been picked up by Amazon Prime and Vimeo. IMBD.com describes it as: “Stuck dating guys she doesn’t like and working at her dead-end job, Hanh finally finds the courage to pursue her dreams.” Can you expand on that description a little? Where did the idea for the film originate, and who should see it?
Back in 2013, Hanh and Jason were living together, and one day after work, Hanh came home and said she had an idea for a new project. Having just graduated college and breaking up with a long-term boyfriend, Hanh wanted to use this as a vehicle through which to channel all of her anxieties and doubts, using them constructively and creatively.
After the script was completed, we started reaching out to friends and actors we knew and had worked with in the past (some of whom we had specific roles in mind for during writing). Now, after seven years and many public screenings, the best compliment we’ve gotten has been when audience members tell us that they related to Hanh’s predicament; being at a time in your life where the possibilities seem both endless and nonexistent all at once. Even if you’ve found the path that’s right for you, there’s still that mix of uncertainty and awkwardness present that we feel almost anyone could relate to the movie and its themes.
Did the pandemic impact production? Did you run into any hurdles while making the film?
With any low-budget/indie movies, there’s always going to be a certain amount of difficulty making it toward the finished product. We shot about 80 percent of the movie over the course of about six months, with the last 20 percent taking us about a year to complete. This mostly came from scheduling issues, Hanh moving to New York mid-production, replacing actors, among a number of other complications. Even things as simple as shooting a scene where two characters talk in a restaurant required multiple trips to the set, working within the confines of that sweet spot between when the restaurant was open, but empty enough for us to shoot, and closing, with the owner impatiently watching as we tried our best to be speedy and efficient.
We’d spend a month scheduling a time when Hanh could come down to shoot, only for it to end up raining when the day finally came. However, after all of the delays, we finally finished in late 2017 and had our festival run through most of 2018. While this was all long before the pandemic began, once we were all stuck inside for six-plus months, it became clear that people were seeking fresh content for their quarantine binge, leading us to find a distribution with Bayview Entertainment.
PPP is composed of actors, writers and directors from Philly. Describe the movie-making scene in the city. Is Philadelphia a good place to be for those who want to make movies?
As I’ve (Jason) had the opportunity to work on more and more sets and projects around the city over the last decade, it’s only shown just how small Philadelphia really is, at least as far as the filmmaking community goes. If you’ve haven’t worked with someone, you’ve worked with someone who has and will gladly recommend them if they think they can get the job done. People are pretty generous with their time and talent, and there’s always something exciting happening somewhere. Every job I’ve gotten has come from someone recommending me or knowing me from a past job, and liking the work that I do, and, I think if someone’s willing to put themselves out there, there’ll always be someone who needs a hand on set.
Pretty much everyone who helped make “Hanh, Solo” possible is someone we’d met through local acting classes, local film productions, friends of friends, or were people we’d known for years. We didn’t have to look very far or stretch outside of our network to find talented people or interesting locations…they were right there, ready and willing to help us make our movie! That’s what makes smaller movies like “Hanh, Solo” special…it was made as a labor of love by a group of friends (or people who became friends) as an expression of a shared experience that we all go through. And we’re so happy to finally put it out there for people to discover!
What’s ahead for PPP? If someone would like to join your group, or just stay up-to-date with what you’re doing, what’s the best way to follow you?
You can always follow us on social media, through our Facebook or IG (@pennsylvaniapeopleproductions and @hollywoodhanh), as well as our YouTube page, which has all of our past work. We update pretty regularly/when there’s exciting news to share – we’ve always got something in the works. We’ve been working on our next feature, which is almost done shooting, and will hopefully be done before the world ends! The one thing we do regularly participate in is the 48 Hour Film Project. We’ve been competing since 2010, and every year, we always end up needing people to help us either behind the scenes or in front of the camera, so we’re definitely open to walk-ons if anybody’s interested in joining our group in the future.