Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has once again demonstrated that he is committed to helping improve the economic vitality of Western New York. This time he’s vetoed a bill that would have undercut a program of state tax breaks designed to lure movie industry work away from Manhattan to upstate regions.
Lawmakers tried to add 14 counties close to New York City to the 40 upstate counties already receiving the tax credit. Cuomo got it right in his veto message when he said the additional counties already have an “established and robust film production industry by virtue of their proximity to New York City.”
We’re talking about places within a comparative stone’s throw of the Big Apple, including Rockland and Putnam counties and other areas that hardly need the economic boost the breaks are meant to provide.
The 40 counties in the program Cuomo approved in March have “historically lagged” when it comes to film production because the cost of shooting is much higher away from Manhattan.
The fledgling movie industry in Buffalo now stands a chance of booming and perhaps getting some of the action that has migrated north to Ontario or just stayed in New York City.
Limiting the tax credit to areas hurting the most economically provides an incentive for industry numbers crunchers to at least look at shooting away from familiar locations.
Film companies working upstate receive an additional 10 percent New York State tax credit beyond the 30 percent already offered for certain “below the line” labor expenses. Those involve the folks behind the scenes whose names tend to scroll quickly by in tiny type at the end of the film credits, but without whom the “magic” wouldn’t happen.
They leave a lot of blood, sweat and tears – and money – behind after a shoot.
The production crew for the recently released Malcolm D. Lee “Best Man Holiday” dropped $1.2 million here during just five days. That film didn’t get tax credits, but decided to shoot here because it used Ralph Wilson Stadium as the home of the New York Giants.
Cuomo’s veto promises more films with similar outsize benefits. According to Buffalo Niagara Film Commission head Tim Clark, filmmakers are waiting in the wings. A movie producer already called him after hearing the region was in the additional tax credit zone.
Western New York is a gorgeous region that can provide stunning visual backdrops. Buffalo has its own attributes, depicted in the recent video project “Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City” (bestdesignedcity.com).
With this new and, thanks to Cuomo, protected tax credit, Buffalo won’t become Hollywood on Lake Erie, but upstate regions should be able to leverage their unique qualities into new film work.