A furious fourth-quarter rally mounted by New York State officials – including a top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo – has fallen short in keeping the film “Draft Day” in Buffalo.
The movie, which was to depict Kevin Costner as a fictitious Buffalo Bills general manager trying to restore his team to past glory, will instead be shot in Cleveland, with the actor portraying the Cleveland Browns GM.
The big reason, said Tim Clark, who heads the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, was economics.
“At the end of the day, it was a money thing. I think Mr. [Ivan] Reitman really wanted to shoot here, but it just came down to the cost factor. What we were told is that the Cleveland incentives were better,” Clark said.
“I feel the worse for the Buffalo Bills, because they worked real hard to convince the film company that Buffalo was the place to shoot this, and that Buffalo was America’s team.”
Last month, Reitman, the film’s director, and a location scout toured Ralph Wilson Stadium, asb well as other local sites, and seemed excited about filming the movie in Buffalo, Clark said. But Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, thought otherwise despite efforts by state officials to sweeten the pot and keep the movie here.
Howard Glaser, chief of state operations, was enlisted by the governor to talk with Lionsgate officials in an attempt to change the studio’s mind. Howard Zemsky, one of Cuomo’s go-to guys in Western New York, also was brought in to try to find a solution.
“The state responded in short order in a very robust way and was able to narrow the gap considerably. But at the end of the day, the producer selected Cleveland,” Zemsky said.
Despite the added incentives offered by New York State, it was still about $3 million cheaper to film in Cleveland than Buffalo, a source said.
One factor was that there is a 35 percent tax deduction incentive for making the movie in Cleveland for Ohio crew members, 5 percent higher than New York State. A bill sponsored by State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, would increase incentives for upstate and Western New York, allowing up to a 45 percent credit for Buffalo.
Such legislation, sponsors say, would boost the local film industry and create the kind of workforce that would mean it would not be necessary to bring in stagehands and other crew members from New York City, with the added expenses of transportation and per diem payments.
“I wish I could say what happened was a rarity, but it’s becoming a more common occurrence,” Clark said. “I don’t know if the Reitman film would have come here if we had a higher tax incentive upstate and in Western New York, but it wouldn’t have hurt.”
Gallivan also weighed in on the loss of the movie: “The news today that Cleveland was selected over Western New York as the filming location for ‘Draft Day’ is just the latest example of why New York State needs to expand and reform its film production tax credit program,” he said.
“We have desirable locations through the area, and we have near-universal support from within the community, but we are lacking an incentive program that can compete with neighboring states.
“Western New York didn’t lose a movie today, we lost jobs. A failure to act after this latest development would be inexcusable,” Gallivan said.
Principal photography is expected to begin next month at the NFL draft in Radio City Music Hall.
Gallivan’s legislation has received the support of the Buffalo Common Council and the New York Production Alliance, based in New York City and representing 75,000 movie and TV professionals, in a letter to Cuomo.
Downstate theatrical stagehand unions have also expressed support for boosting the tax credits in upstate and Western New York.