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Movie CameraNew York State is giving $4.5 million to an unproven Buffalo start-up that will open a visual effects studio and train workers in the field of post production. The gift – er investment – is supposed to create 150 jobs.

Empire Visual Effects and its workers may not have to pay any taxes if it qualifies for StartUp NY, as it is partnering with Daemen College.

What’s more, movies filmed in New York can shave 45 percent of their costs through the state’s tax credit program.

At the urging of the state, Rochester allowed Amazing Spiderman 2 to shut down Main Street for 10 days. The city didn’t charge one cent beyond its own costs, including police and fire. A friend who works in Hollywood was shocked the city levied no fees and made no profit. Meanwhile, Main Street businesses got stiffed by the production and lost thousands of dollars.

But it’s Hollywood, so I guess it’s okay. Movies are so cool, aren’t they?

Here’s the thing. If (and that’s a big if) the state has to give away money to create jobs, I’d prefer it acts as a venture capitalist in the science and technology fields. Those jobs pay well and could fill up empty factories. It’s been a real struggle in Upstate New York to get discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Innovation will be the key to our economic growth. Not call centers, casinos and movies.


Links of the Day:


– Wegmans will allow part-time workers to work more hours to keep health benefits.

– Wegmans could be affected by a Washington D.C. proposal requiring large retailers to pay workers $12.50 an hour. Would the chain abandon plans for the market?

– Jean-Claude Brizard’s Chief of Staff in the Rochester City School District has been forced to resign from the superintendency in North Syracuse. Kim Dyce will get a nice payout. Why is it that superintendents are the only public officials who get golden parachutes?

– The state education commissioner is ordering Buffalo schools to send kids to BOCES because schools are so bad. Why is he only taking this action in Buffalo?

14 Responses to New York is Drunk on Hollywood

  1. July 13, 2013 at 11:46 am Julio Ahumada responds:

    It is shameless to throw taxpayer dollars around on social commerce engineering. Do remember when the City of Rochester got into the Ferry business or its failed attempts at social engineering where an entertainment hub stop should be. The market rules.
    I get the feeling if Albany truly wanted to create the environment for jobs they would impose less taxes on small and medium sized business. Don’t help us do business just get out of the way of us doing business

  2. Despite the made-for-politicians concept of ‘entrepreneurial government’, it is not the function of government to create jobs. The only thing that can come of it is corruption.

    Plainly, that is the case here. The losers are the taxpayers and the business owners who do not depend on government favor to advance their dreams.

    The solution to our economic woes is the separation of the state and the economy. Let the free market work!

  3. July 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm Animule responds:

    StartUp NY is a bigger class of scam than the Empire Zone concept ever was. But the concept between the two is the same – rewarding the politically connected, and those that hail from the preferred political party in power. Clearly Hollywood and the movie business is a favored industry with the Democrats (as is academia itself).

    As for this link with Daemen, that particular (tiny – just over 2k students) school is best known for its physical therapy major though it appears they have designs on making this into some kind of visual arts college. Plus, it’s a private college. Why is the state spending money in the form of tax breaks on behalf of private colleges and universities that are turning the next generation into debt slaves?

  4. July 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm lynn e responds:

    Kim Dyce always had connections that gave her a high place for positions. She was in her 20s when she was basically given the vice principal’s job at East High. I think her fiance was big in the Johnson mayoral office. The principal arranged for two more vice principal jobs to work around her. She never really taught. As for the schools in Buffalo, they are talking about two schools filled with ESOL students who shouldn’t be expected to pass many of these tests, they are learning English. As for giving the students to BOCES, they will end up getting remedial instruction rather than developmental learning and being treated as low level students which they are not. Some of these kids are just slated to attend vocational classes there which will be a shocker. The students need bilingual education in subjects to learn content and time to learn English which might mean more than 4 years in school. They are not behind nor are they dumb. I’m seeing a major lawsuit in the making.

  5. July 14, 2013 at 9:53 am Orielly responds:

    Governments need to be very careful when their plans may affect a business’s revenue and profit. They rarely are,

    Doing road work during prime business hours, Marathons closing roads for hours so 500 people can run for fun, Spiderman movies shutting down most of main st, when no one will know what city it was filmed in, and Rochester will be shown for less than 90 seconds. Was it rally worth it?

  6. July 15, 2013 at 7:27 am Joe in Spencerport responds:

    I know nothing about the particular company in question, but there is a big difference between a movie crew shooting scenes for a week or two and a post production house setting up permanently. These jobs require special skills and are fairly well paid.

  7. Julio is right. The City of Rochester even dumped money into 5th Year Productions expecting employment and it ended up being a failure if not a complete ruse!

    Here’s a big point though:
    NYC is big in film and TV. It’s as much a tourist attraction as it is an industry (which is manufacturing if you think about it). States, not ours, started to give tax incentives to lure work to their states. That put productions in NYC at risk. NYS eventually responded with a very well funded tax incentive that is 30% to 35% depending on the function (NOT 45%, though that was asked for an denied). The result of the 30% tax incentive was to keep work in NYC but it didn’t help the rest of the state much.

    It seems to me that the state putting money into upstate is justified when you see how much they put into NYC. If the money is going to be spent, which again, I don’t like social engineering – I’m a lassie faire type of guy – but if it’s going to be spent then go ahead and put some upstate. Also, we upstate-ers are not competing with MA, MI, GA, and LA tax credits at the 30% level. We lose features to MASS all day! NYC fares well because it’s NYC. Since we are not, we need additional help if we are to build the film industry here in WNY.

    Speaking as a filmmaker who has a feature in the works (small as it may be) we’ll take it out of state if we lose the incentive. We can’t leave money on the table. NYS is less enamored with Hollywood as we are enamored with NYC and it’s continued successes in Film and TV. Remember, we’re a blue state. We’re gonna spend on social engineering and meddle in markets. Given that, I’m ok with them spending on film for NYC sake but they should spend at least some up here too.

  8. If you want to see jobs lured to NYS, cut taxes across the board! Our tax structure is the biggest reason jobs and people leave the state.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • 100% true. I’m a bit of a defeatist about this. NYS is stuck in it’s tax ways. If there’s going to be a redistribution of wealth then send it my way – even if the economic theory is flat wrong. The tax structure here is exactly why I’m expanding into out of state cities and seriously considering a move that makes my business more national than regional.

  9. July 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm Lee Drake responds:

    I defy you to walk around LA and then tell me the movie making industry isn’t profitable, lucrative, and a desirable industry to have here. We have plenty of STEM programs and STEM jobs – but guess what – not everyone is suited for these jobs. Movie making employs a wide swath of the job market, rather than just engineers and those qualified to do the same sort of work. If we need to “grease the wheel” to get them to not go to Hollywood or NYC and bring the business here I’m all for it. Ask the film students at RIT if they wouldn’t want Rochester to be a mecca for movie production. Not charging fees or taxes to do business here is called “being competitive”. You can always charge fees and taxes later, after you’ve established the business. I will tell you that my son is in the USC School of Cinematic Arts program. You can’t breathe in LA if it is on camera without a piece of paper and a million signoffs and palms greased etc. Coming here is probably a welcome relief to the film makers, and should be a welcome relief to us. I don’t understand why you have such a negative attitude towards this. You know me well Rachel – I’m all for STEM. But I recognize that not everyone is good at STEM subjects, and STEM employs only a certain category of employee who – while perhaps somewhat down on their employment stats – DO NOT make up the bulk of the unemployed in Rochester.

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm Lee Drake responds:

      BTW – he’s taking interactive media design – essentially computer game design – which is now so interconnected with movie making that they’re taught in the same school. THAT industry certainly employs plenty of STEM people. And anyone who looks at all the CGI, sound engineering, motion capture, and other technical aspects of film production and concludes that it’s not engineering related is showing their age. We should be bending over backwards to attract studios and production companies and special effects crews away from Expensive LA and to wonderful Rochester.

    • Why the negative attitude? Because it is at taxpayer expense. And that’s wrong. Period.

  10. EXACTLY Rachel! EXACTLY! EXACTLY! EXACTLY! Why can’t the politicians understand what we do?

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