The Hudson Valley Film Commission
Growing The Local Economy With Entertainment
By Jodi La Marco
Founded in 2000, the Hudson Valley Film Commission began as part of the Woodstock Film Festival. “The idea was that if we’re going to have a festival where we’re bringing filmmakers from all over the world, we want to make sure they come back to the area to produce their next film,” says founder Laurent Retjo.
To encourage production companies to come to the Mid-Hudson Valley and Catskills, the nonprofit organization strives to make the process of creating films and television shows in our area as easy as possible. Moviemakers must ferret out appropriate sites where they can film, as well as the caterers, accountants, lawyers, florists, and other professionals needed to bring a project to life. “We will help them find locations, vendors, or local crew and cast members. Anything we can do to make the production easier, we will do. On the bureaucratic side, we will help people get their permits and anything that’s required,” Retjo explains.
So why go through all the trouble of luring production companies to our area? Moviemaking is a multi-billion dollar industry, and where films are made, money is spent. “Any time a production spends money on lodging, catering, crew members, cast members, anything like that, it’s staying in the area,” says Retjo. According to data collected by the HVFC, 20 percent of crews were hired locally in 2016. The HVFC has also been keeping an eye on production-related spending to measure the organization’s impact on the local economy. “We track the film’s productions after it’s finished. We get all this information about how much was spent locally, how many locals were hired, how many rooms were rented, how many actors were hired,” Retjo says. Since 2008, the HVFC has tracked more than $70 million in direct regional spending.
Thanks to a new state tax incentive, even more companies are expected to bring projects to our area. “Tax incentives are a big deal. Getting films to film in your state is an incredibly competitive business. In order to compete, New York State has film tax incentives, which are 30 percent across the board on ‘below the line’ costs, which are anything that’s not creative,” Retjo explains. In contrast, creative costs—such as the salaries of the director, writer, composer, and actors—are known as “above the line” costs. “You can’t get a tax incentive on any of the creative positions. But for all of the crew members—the carpenters, the drivers, the grip and electric—the state will basically offer 30 percent on those costs if the production is filmed in New York.” With the help of Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, films made in the Mid-Hudson Valley will now also benefit from an additional 10 percent tax incentive.
“Now we can basically offer 40 percent tax incentives to films on below the line costs. That has made a huge difference. People who wouldn’t have otherwise filmed here are now filming here because of that new tax incentive,” says Retjo. As of August, 19 feature films had been produced in the region this year. Popular TV shows like Homeland and The Americans, and commercials for Delta, Jaguar, and Jeep were also recently filmed in our area. “We have a big film right now that’s a Paramount film that’s called The Quiet Place with Emily Blunt, and they would have never filmed in this area if not for the tax incentives.”
These extra incentives are also helping locals stay local. “Local crews get to stay here, and they get to pay their school and property taxes,” Retjo explains. “They get to stay in the area instead of having to travel. It used be that everybody had to travel. Now that we’re able to compete, a lot more films are happening here, and we’re seeing a lot of local crews working locally. People who used to travel to the city or Georgia or Canada can now stay home and just work on films. That’s our biggest goal.”
Now that the word is out, Hudson Valley natives are getting more involved in local film production. “One of our most successful grip and electric people—that’s the person who is in charge of all the lights and the cables—was a house builder and now he has a truck full of gear that caters to the film industry. He’s working on a film in Shandaken right now. His name is Greg Meola, and he owns a company called Company 1 Productions. That’s my favorite thing—I met Greg when he was a house builder,” recalls Retjo. “I got him a few jobs as a production art director because he was so good with his hands. Suddenly he started becoming the most sought-after grip and electric vendor in the Hudson Valley. It’s fantastic to see stuff like that.”
The HVFC will offer two informative workshops on October 24 at 4pm at the Stone Pony in Saugerties, and on November 1 at 6pm at SUNY New Paltz for people interested in becoming involved in the film industry. “We have drivers, we have lawyers. There are sign-makers, there are landscapers and caterers. There’s always ways for people to get involved in the film industry,” Retjo says. For more information on these upcoming events, email Laurent Retjo at firstname.lastname@example.org.