Film production dollars spent in Hudson Valley up 300%

Producer Jen Gatien, Whoopi Goldberg, Melissa Leo, Laurent Rejto, and Tessa Thompson on the set of the film Furlough. (photo by Randy Harris)

An increased number of big-budget film productions in the mid-Hudson region in 2017 have resulted in a 300% increase in direct spending, according to the Hudson Valley Film Commission. Laurent Rejto, director of the Film Commission, cited 2017 as a “turning point” for film production in the area because of additional New York State film tax credits that were passed at the end of 2016.

According to Rejto, “A lot of films shy away from filming in the area. For almost a decade we were being handicapped by unfair film tax credits that were really benefitting the metropolitan area.”

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Prior to November 2016, New York State film tax credits made filming outside the New York City area, especially in the Hudson Valley, a burdensome expense. An additional 10 percent credit (on below the line labor costs) incentivized filming in the mid-Hudson region by increasing the existing state wide 30 percent film tax credit (on below the line costs).

Below the line costs go “towards non-creative costs only. None of the creatives are eligible for tax credits. That means that if you have a star who’s making $20 million, New York State will not be participating in getting him or her a rebate on their salary.” Instead of going to actors, directors, and producers, the tax credits go towards the “grips, gaffers, drivers, catering, carpenters — all the labor people. It’s a blue collar push,” said Rejto.

The new additional ten percent film tax credit, instated in 2016, better encourages productions to film in the mid-Hudson area. “It eliminated a lot of red tape,” said Rejto. He noted that the state of New York benefits from these credits because they “keep work in the state.” Thus, “that work will create additional indirect spending and bring back that money through other means.” According to Rejto, the results of the new film tax credit have already been notable. A short list of films that took advantage of the additional tax credits includes Love Comes Later; Upload; A Quiet Place; Fabled; The Escape of Prisoner 614; Sara; Norman; The Buried Girl; Twelve; Do Unto Others; Unintended; Camp; Green Dolphin; Departures; Furlough; The Ranger; and The Bread Factory 1 & 2.

The Film Commission collects data on the direct spending of productions in the area, which is essentially “what a film spends on production costs, whether it’s lodging, catering, hiring local vendors, local actors: all of the costs that go into the making of the product.” This direct spending is what has increased 300% within the past year, since big-budget movies have moved into the area and spent money locally.

Rejto said that indirect spending also plays a large part in the economic growth that film productions bring to the area. “Anytime you have a production spending money on keeping people in the area, those people are also doing indirect spending, which means they’re going out to bars, they’re going shopping in their off-time,” he said. In addition to supporting local businesses, “people will fall in love with the area and they’ll move [here]. They’ll buy a house or they’ll move their family here, and they’ll become a part of the community. We saw that in 2017 more than any other year,” said Rejto.

Established in 2000, the Hudson Valley Film Commission works to bring film productions to the area. Rejto said, “We deal directly with these companies and show them why they should film here. We will immediately try to find the exact locations they’re looking for, we’ll send them a local crew list of anyone who’s in the area who can work the film so that they don’t have to travel people into the area.”

The Film Commission’s emphasis on locality is further demonstrated by its affiliation with the Woodstock Film Festival. Characterizing the relationship between the two as “joined at the hip,” Rejto said, “when we did the articles of incorporation, the idea was to bring filmmakers here from all over the world to show their films, and then convince them to come back here to make their films, and then to come back again to show those films. That’s worked over and over and over again. We’ve been able to attract people to this area to come back here to make their films. That’s been a cycle that we’re really proud of.”

Additionally, the missions of the Film Commission and the Film Festival overlap. Rejto said, “We’re always trying to help local filmmakers and build the film community. We work with interns and volunteers to get them into films. A lot of the crew that works during the Film Festival are people who we refer for films throughout the year.”

Most of all, Rejto said the Hudson Valley Film Commission is focused on promoting and utilizing the vibrant community. “We’re all about trying to create mutually beneficial relationships that lead to economic and also cultural development.” The Hudson Valley Film Commission is a 501c3 nonprofit organization funded by the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, the Orange County Office of Economic Development, and Dutchess Tourism, Inc., all agencies dedicated to regional economic growth. Rejto concluded, “It’s all about community for us.”

Do you work in the film industry? Are you interested in being added to the local directory of film workers? Contact Laurent Rejto at filmcommission@me.com. For more information, see https://www.hudsonvalleyfilmcommission.org/.

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