It’s nice going to the movies, but nicer still when the movies come to you. That’s the idea behind proposed state legislation that would increase the tax credit for filmmakers on a sliding scale tied to a region’s distance from New York City, the state’s film capital.
The measure, proposed by Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, would bolster Buffalo’s attractiveness to the film industry. The need is significant, given estimates that filming in Buffalo is nearly 45 percent more expensive than filming in Staten Island. Travel expenses, rental vehicles, accommodations and per diems add up quickly.
That is one of the reasons that Angelina Jolie didn’t film a fight scene in Buffalo, where a location scout wanted to shoot, but went elsewhere. It is why a film called “Draft Day,” about a fictional Buffalo Bills coach, directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Kevin Costner, could end up being filmed in Cleveland, which offers financial incentives that are not available here. Another new film, “The Factory,” was set in Buffalo but filmed in Montreal.
“There is huge competition with the tax credits all over the place, and when we made ‘The Factory,’ even the New York State rebates weren’t that big a deal,” said producer Don Carmody. “It was just better for us to shoot the thing in Montreal and take advantage of their tax credits.”
But Buffalo has assets that few, if any, other cities can match: a waterfront location, framed by a dramatic Skyway, and a treasure trove of historic buildings designed by some of the nation’s leading architects. Those features make Buffalo a natural location for making movies. We just need to make it more affordable.
In that, Gallivan has lighted on a creative solution. He has proposed a multi-tiered production tax credit, increasing from 30 percent to 45 percent, to give regions outside New York City the chance to compete economically for movie studio work.
The idea mirrors a successful program that bolstered the post-production tax credit to 35 percent, or 5 percent higher than in New York City, were most of that work is done. It’s working, according to Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp.
“For the first couple of years that the post-production credit existed, there were 17 projects that sought support,” he said. “In the six or seven months since, we’ve had 34 projects sign up for the credit, indicating there is strong interest.”
Buffalo’s plans for its waterfront, with its faux canals and other attractions, will only make the city a more desirable location for filmmakers. An increased presence on the nation’s screens could tempt more people to visit here and discover what Western New Yorkers already know about this jewel of a city.
That makes this the right time for Albany to improve upstate’s ability to play host to an industry that benefits this region too little. The Legislature should give Gallivan’s bill serious review, and then it should approve the measure.