New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that through the Buffalo Billion initiative – a commitment to invest $1 billion in the Buffalo area – a new postproduction, visual effects and animation company will be established at the city’s landmark Tri-Main Center. Empire Visual Effects, which will partner with Daemen College, has pledged to create 150 new visual effects and other postproduction jobs within five years – jobs that will pave the way for the creation of a new postproduction and visual effects industry in Western New York. New York State awarded the company and Daemen College a $4.5 million capital grant to facilitate the project.
The project is also supported by several pieces of legislation Governor Cuomo has signed into law in the past year, which strengthened incentives to attract postproduction film and television activity to the state, with additional incentives to bring film work to Upstate New York.
“We are pleased to welcome this new company to the city of Buffalo as they plant their roots in Upstate New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “The establishment of Empire Visual Effects is evidence of the great potential of transforming Upstate and Western New York into a major film, animation and postproduction destination for the industry. I am confident the momentum generated by the postproduction tax credit, coupled with our Buffalo Billion commitment, will drive even more investment and projects to this region. This will mean more good-paying, high-tech jobs for New Yorkers in an exciting field.”
“I want to thank Governor Cuomo and his unrelenting staff, who are committed to supporting an environment of opportunity that creates jobs in this great state” said Marcelo Gandola, co-chair of the Post New York Alliance and advisor to Empire State Visual Effects. “This is an outstanding day for Upstate and Downstate New York, and the film and television postproduction industry as a whole. I thank Daemen College who took the first step in creating the essential education piece of this process. Ben Porcari, Jonathan Hoffman and Pete Conlin have created what I feel will be a standard in the VFX/postproduction industry.”
The grant funding will also provide Daemen College’s International Center for Excellence in Animation (ICEA) with significant new technology tools for a Visual Effects Certificate Program. The program will provide fast training for students in Buffalo and Western New York who will be hired by the new postproduction/animation company.
“Daemen College and its International Center for Excellence in Animation have been working for more than a year with Empire State Development and Marcelo Gandola to forge this impressive partnership of higher education with the visual effects industry,” said Daemen president Gary Olson. “Thanks to the vision of Governor Cuomo and his Empire State Development team in Buffalo and New York City, Daemen and its private sector partners are well on their way to creating new high-paying employment opportunities right here in Western New York, for those young people who wish to enter the growing animation sector of the national economy.”
The Buffalo Billion incentive funding will be used to provide space build-out; special computer and high-speed internet networks; supercomputer connections, and other power systems specific to the new company’s requirements. The funding will also allow Daemen College to establish the technology infrastructure required for its Visual Effects Certificate student training.
“SUNY‘s community colleges will provide the vital workforce training that is needed to meet the goals of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Initiative and create the industry hubs Western New York needs,” said SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher. “Partnering New York’s colleges and universities with the business community, including through internships and experiential education, is the best way to support new economic activity and provide the best opportunities for our students.”
Through SUNY, (State University of New York), Empire Visual Effects will be able to tap into a steady stream of qualified graduates from a network of community colleges across the state., such as Erie Community College and Niagara County Community College.
Daemen College, based in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, N.Y., will have all the software, hardware, computers and pipeline infrastructure needed to train the workforce and interface with industry. The college has also developed and is growing a 16-week visual effects training program that will train more than 60 students per year.
The state’s 2013-2014 budget includes $5 million for the Next Generation Job Linkage Program, which works with employers to identify a job, define the skills and provide the training for it.
“The future of Western New York’s economy is dependent upon the creation and attraction of new jobs and new industries to our region,” said Senator Patrick Gallivan. “While our community has always been home to world-class architecture and picturesque scenery, upstate New York has lost out on lucrative filming projects and the jobs they bring with them because we lacked the economic and professional tools to compete with bordering states. The establishment of a postproduction, visual effects and animation company in the city of Buffalo, combined with the enhanced upstate film production tax credit enacted this year, will put Western New York in position to become a national leader for motion picture production.”
The motion picture and television industry is responsible for 91,608 direct jobs and $8.2 billion in wages in New York, including both production and distribution-related jobs. The current trend for the last several years is that the post production of film budgets has been increasing dramatically due to demand for visual effects.
Signed by Governor Cuomo in July 2012, the film and tax credit law boosted the available postproduction credit from 10 percent to 30 percent in the New York metropolitan commuter region, including New York City and Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties. For postproduction work in Upstate New York, 35 percent in tax credits were made available to encourage additional investment and construction of new facilities in the region. Then in April 2013, the Governor signed new legislation further expanding and improving the program, including extending funding through 2019, and lowering the thresholds for VFX and animation from 75 percent to 20 percent of the total VFX/animation budget or $3 million, (whichever is less). Also added was an additional 10 percent credit on qualified labor starting in 2015 for productions shooting or posting, which means productions will be able to get up to 45 percent tax credit on labor expenses incurred in the State.