City engaging in a worthwhile effort to attract lucrative film production work

Buffalo wants a piece of the film industry pie, and the potentially lucrative benefits that will go with it.

Getting a film, or even part of a film, shot in the city could provide significant economic spinoff, along with a possible boost in civic pride.

Mayor Byron W. Brown pointed to the possibility of new jobs in his recent talk about wanting to expand the film industry in Buffalo.

As part of that effort, the city is issuing a formal request for proposals in search of a consultant to help move the process along. The city has budgeted for the position, and officials hope to hire in April.

The consultant will work on a variety of tasks, including developing a five-year strategic plan, analyzing the city’s current film industry jobs and growth potential and establishing a workforce development apprenticeship program.

That person will have the benefit of working with Tim Clark, head of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. Clark has worked to bring filmmakers to Western New York, with “Savages,” “Queen City” and Malcolm D. Lee’s “The Best Man Holiday” among the successes.

“The Best Man Holiday” drew notable buzz and bucks – $1.2 million spent in a few days – when it used Ralph Wilson Stadium to stand in as the home of the New York Giants.

The mayor is passionate about films. Why wouldn’t he be? Show business pays off in a big way in the behind-the-scenes jobs needed to get pictures to the big screen. But making sure Buffalo gets a bigger share of that economy will not be easy, and that is where a consultant could play a big role.

That could mean advocating for tax credits that would help level the economic playing field for filmmakers. Because it costs more to film here, most of the business goes to New York City and other downstate areas, along with Albany.

Lacking the tax credits and facilities enjoyed by other states, and even downstate, costs Buffalo Niagara money. If the consultant can help make Buffalo more appealing to the movie industry, it will be money well spent.

This area lost 2014’s “Draft Day,” originally written with a Buffalo setting. Director Ivan Reitman was given the full-court press when he came to scope out the area. But, in the end, the tax credits in Ohio were more lucrative and the film was set in Cleveland. Part of the reason was that Ohio covered the above-the-line expenses, meaning taxpayers subsidized star Kevin Costner’s salary, among others. New York State tax credits cover below-the-line expenses, meaning local and out-of-town workers, hotels and all the other expenses involved in filming.

Winning even a small slice of film work – something that would be a drop in the bucket for New York City – would have benefits far greater than the cost of a consultant and more-generous tax credits.

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