Posted October 31, 2016

Starring Philadelphia

Sharon Pinkenson, EDU ’71, is the force behind Philly’s thriving film and television scene.

Video Production: Gina Benigno

If you’ve seen Marley & Me, National Treasure or Silver Linings Playbook, you’ll know that these very different movies have one thing in common—they were all filmed, at least in part, in Philadelphia.

More than 200 film and television productions have been lured to the city since Sharon Pinkenson, EDU ’71, became executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. Under her leadership, the office has generated more than $4 billion of economic impact for the southeastern Pennsylvania region.

A one-time owner of a trendy clothing boutique in Center City, Pinkenson parlayed her fashion skills into a career as a freelance costume designer. Actors donned her designs in films such as Confessions of a Suburban Girl, Mannequin II: On the Move and Renegades.

Throughout her stint as a designer, the film office that she and other Philadelphia-based freelancers relied on functioned as little more than a permit office. Pinkenson believed it could offer filmmakers—and the city—much more. When Ed Rendell was elected mayor in 1991 after having campaigned on making economic development a priority, she saw her opportunity. She approached him with her vision, and he appointed her to lead the office.

It didn’t take long for that vision to become reality. She hit the ground running, traveling to Los Angeles to pitch Philadelphia as a prime location for filmmakers. Director Jonathan Demme was one of the first to buy in: He chose Philadelphia for the setting of his groundbreaking and eventual Oscar-winning film centered on a man living with AIDS.

That he named the film Philadelphia is a tribute Pinkenson treasures. The impact of that film went far beyond the City of Brotherly Love. It’s a story that changed the world.

But Pinkenson isn’t driven by accolades and tributes—her love of the city is what motivates her. And like many other Owls, she approaches her work with fearlessness and perseverance.

In a world without Temple, Philly’s star wouldn’t shine as bright.