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'Supah Ninjas' producers want to keep filming in Pittsburgh

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Gracie Dzienny, center in mask, gets directions on the set of Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas' on Thursday Sept. 20, 2012. The action comedy is filmed in the Strip District. Dzienny, 17, plays Amanda, one of three teenaged ninjas who take on bad guys in Empire City.
Donald Rager, Nickelodeon
Donald Rager, Nickelodeon
Gracie Dzienny, center in mask, gets directions on the set of Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas' on Thursday Sept. 20, 2012. The action comedy is filmed in the Strip District. Dzienny, 17, plays Amanda, one of three teenaged ninjas who take on bad guys in Empire City. Donald Rager, Nickelodeon
Ryan Potter takes a break on the set of Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas' on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. The action comedy show is filmed at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District. Potter, 17, plays Mike Fukanaga, an average high school student who discovers he's descended from a long line of ninja warriors.
Donald Rager, Nickelodeon
Ryan Potter takes a break on the set of Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas' on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. The action comedy show is filmed at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District. Potter, 17, plays Mike Fukanaga, an average high school student who discovers he's descended from a long line of ninja warriors.
'Supah Ninjas' Pilot --Pictured, Mike (Ryan Potter), and Grandfather (George Takei) 
Photo: David M Moir/Nickelodeon.©2010 Viacom International Inc All Rights Reserved
NICKELODEON
'Supah Ninjas' Pilot --Pictured, Mike (Ryan Potter), and Grandfather (George Takei) Photo: David M Moir/Nickelodeon.©2010 Viacom International Inc All Rights Reserved
Pictured:   Owen (Carlos Knight), Amanda( Gracie Dzienny) and Mike (Ryan Potter), in 'Supah Ninjas' on Nickelodeon. 
Photo: James White/Nickelodeon.©2011 Viacom International Inc All Rights Reserved
NICKELODEON
Pictured: Owen (Carlos Knight), Amanda( Gracie Dzienny) and Mike (Ryan Potter), in 'Supah Ninjas' on Nickelodeon. Photo: James White/Nickelodeon.©2011 Viacom International Inc All Rights Reserved
Leo Chu is an executive producer for Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.' The children's action comedy show is filmed in the Strip District at 31st Street Studios.
Nickelodeon
Leo Chu is an executive producer for Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.' The children's action comedy show is filmed in the Strip District at 31st Street Studios.
Upper St. Clair native Eric S. Garcia is an executive producer for Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.' The children's action comedy show is filmed at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District
Nickelodeon
Upper St. Clair native Eric S. Garcia is an executive producer for Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.' The children's action comedy show is filmed at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District

Nickelodeon's “Supah Ninjas” is hoping for a third round of filming in Western Pennsylvania.

The high-energy children's action-comedy is in the final stages of filming its second season at 31st Street Studios, a converted Strip District steel mill that hugs the Allegheny River. Show executives and the Pittsburgh Film Office are keeping their nunchuks crossed that the show can be renewed for a third season, which could be a boon for the Steel City.

“The crew base here in Pittsburgh is tremendous,” says Eric S. Garcia, a 1986 Upper St. Clair High School grad who created the show with Leo Chu. Both men serve as executive producers. “We knew coming here would be a huge advantage for us and the show.”

“Supah Ninjas” traces the misadventures of three teens: Mike (Ryan Potter), his BFF Owen (Carlos Knight) and Amanda (Gracie Dzienny) as they kick an assortment of bad guy butts all over Empire City.

“Supah Ninjas” also stars “Star Trek” alum George Takei as Mike's dead grandfather who channels guidance to the trio as a hologram.

Each week, there's a new celebrity villain to tame; Christopher “Kid” Reid and Sydney Tamia Poitier are among antagonists who've been whipped by the trio. And executives for WWE announced recently that Big Show is expected to reprise his role as celebrity villain Two-Ton Harley.

No exact date has been set for when season 2 of “Supah Ninjas” will premiere, although it's expected in 2013.

The first season was filmed in Hollywood.

Cast members say they've had little trouble adjusting to life in Pittsburgh during filming, which began in June. They dove into some of the city's offerings.

Potter, an avid baseball fan, is a fixture at PNC Park during Pirates' home games; Dzienny says she has developed an affinity for several of the Steel City's shopping malls; and Knight dotes on the panoramic views of the city and its twisty rivers from Mt. Washington.

“It's exciting for a city to embrace us the way Pittsburgh has,” says Knight, 19.

Garcia and Chu previously teamed as executive producers on the hit animé series “Afro Samurai,” voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, and the television movie “Afro Samurai: Resurrection.” The latter made history as the first animé project to ever win a primetime Emmy Award.

It can be tough for studios to find experienced crews outside of New York City and Los Angeles. Garcia, who studied fine arts at Dickinson College in Carlisle, says Pittsburgh's film talent has deepened in recent years, and crews also can make use of the city's diverse scenery.

A 25 percent tax credit the state grants productions that spend at least 60 percent of their budget in Pennsylvania has helped keep the city a desirable place to shoot in recent years.

Lawmakers have let stand the $60 million a year tax-credit program, although its overall budget is smaller from the $75 million it was in 2009.

“We've had pilots before, but our goal has always been to have series work in Pittsburgh,” says Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. “Longer-term employment for casts and crew is simply a benefit for us all.”

From 2007 to September 2011, the state awarded $242.5 million in credits. “Supah Ninjas” employs 200 to 250 people, including set designers, costumers, makeup artists and grips.

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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