Television production crews train lenses on Indiana County
Folks in state government have been making hay marketing Pennsylvania as a site for TV and movie production.
Movie producers making feature films starring Tom Cruise and Matt Damon have been on location in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties in recent months. Agencies such as the PA Film Office have a lot of success stories like that.
But this week alone, producers of two cable television shows have crews in Indiana County shooting video and talking to local people for installments of their reality series.
Filming begins today and will continue through the weekend at the Creekside Volunteer Fire Company grounds. There, the Indiana County Fire Chiefs Association is holding its annual convention, with a full schedule of competitive events for firefighters and a carnival for the community.
The local volunteer fire service is being featured on an installment of "Last One Standing," a program on the History Channel that explores the shrinking volunteer firefighting service.
"Pennsylvania is the state that is hurting the most," said producer Lou Angeli. "The state has probably lost 10,000 volunteer firefighters in the last 10 years. At one time there were 50,000 volunteers in Pennsylvania and we believe that is down to about 35,000."
But wait. Angeli said he's not looking for that kind of distress in Creekside.
He doesn't expect to find it, either.
"Creekside was interesting to us because they don't have a problem," Angeli said. "This struck us as kind of weird."
What "Last One Standing" will find in Creekside is hope.
"When you look at the community, it's the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. There's no lack of volunteers and no lack of training. And we hope they can share their ideas with the rest of the country."
The camaraderie of the firefighters' battle of the barrel and the carnival, where folks plunk down their dollars to play games for prizes, are some of those ideas.
"The carnival is there to raise money and we want our viewers to understand that volunteer fire companies are funded on a local basis," Angeli said. "There are some federal grants out there for items of equipment, and they may get some state funding, which may pay the fuel bills for the year. But the operation of any volunteer fire company is a burden that falls on a local community.
"So the carnival intrigues us, the convention intrigues us and the fire house itself intrigues us because they already are grooming their next generation of firefighters."
Meanwhile, the cameras already are rolling for the Investigation Discovery channel's program "Scorned: Love Kills," for an episode focusing on a "love triangle" slaying two years ago.
The story is about Richard McAnulty, of Center Township, who learned that his wife, Diane, had been contacted by Harry Mears, a man with whom she once had an affair. Angered by the apparent attempt to rekindle the relationship, McAnulty drove to Southwest Greensburg Borough in Westmoreland County, broke into Mears' residence and shot him to death, telling him that he "would never sleep with another man's wife again."
A jury convicted McAnulty of first-degree murder in the case at his trial last summer in Greensburg.
"On our show, we look for stories that involve relationships gone bad -- situations where either a love triangle or an affair or a love-lust relationship … ends up in the ultimate consequence, which is murder," said Steve McLaughlin, the executive producer of the series.
"This one really stuck out to us. This truly is a case of someone who has been scorned by perceived infidelity of his wife."
In the show, the producers analyze the dynamics that lead to such crimes of passion. The one-hour program airs on Saturday nights.
"The fact the murder was so cold blooded and shocking were things that stuck out about this case and caught our attention," McLaughlin said.
"Scorned: Love Kills" just finished its first season of 20 episodes, and the McAnulty story will be one of the earliest to air in the second season -- probably in January or February -- according to McLaughlin.