by Artvoice Staff (@Artvoice) - posted 12:30 pm, October 30, 2014
When I moved to Buffalo 11 years ago, there was no film industry. Commercials, maybe, and the occasional indie feature like Poultrygeist, but that was it. This started to change with the popularity of pro-sumer HD equipment: a lot of local filmmakers started making features here: now dozens are making micro-budget indie features and many more making shorts, and local and semi-local filmmakers have made bigger films here, like The Romans and The American Side. We’ve seen an influx of progressively larger out of town shoots make their movies here: Model Hunger, Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 & 2, Battledogs, a $1 million feature wrapping now called Anna.
We have a small Film Commission here – a two-man operation (that used to be a one- man operation). I’ve worked closely with them on some projects, and I’ve done other projects that didn’t require their support, but I’ve always supported them and their efforts to bring productions here. Last year, the news broke that beginning in 2015, Western New York is getting a 5% bump in the New York State Film Tax Credit: any production shooting here that takes the time to meet the state’s requirements, and does its post here, will receive 40% of its qualified costs (excluding above the line fees like writers, producers, director and stars) back from the state – 5% more than productions would see in NYC. It’s an incentive to bring films and film jobs here, not “corporate welfare.” NYC already does well with productions, and WNY needs all the help it can get. Who’s responsible for this bump for WNY? A lot of the credit goes to Buffalo-Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark, Rochester Film & Video Office Executive Director Nora Brown, and Buffalo Film Office Director of Operations Rich Wall, who worked tirelessly to push this through. And it’s working: Anna shot here because of the Film Tax Credit, more films in the $1 mil – $2 mil range will come here, and out of town filmmakers contact me frequently to discuss the film tax credit, locations and crew. At a time when Buffalo is turning around, we’re actually seeing something many of us thought would take another decade: a vital film production industry that will enable many of us to make a living in our chosen fields.
Now Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino wants to phase out business incentives in NYS to lower the personal income tax rate – including the Film Tax Credit. It’s pandering to the public, because so many people have adopted an anti-taxes stance as their religion, rather than using their common sense to arrive at a sound judgment. Getting rid of this credit, or sharply reducing it, will stop Buffalo’s film industry dead in its tracks; it will also seriously harm – possibly destroy – the film industry in NYC. Without that, the entire state will suffer, and anyone here who hopes to make a living in film will have to go elsewhere. This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue (Republicans are supposed to be pro-business, remember?). Rob Astorino is the enemy of film production in NYS, and a vote for Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is a defacto vote for Astorino. If you want to see a film industry in Buffalo, and if you want to see the billion dollar film industry in NYC – which benefits the entire state – continue, Andrew Cuomo is the only choice. Keep your eye on the prize, New York!
– Gregory Lamberson, Cheektowaga