Many different avenues of production and post-production ground to a halt when COVID hit the United States in March, but the Post New York Alliance (PNYA) is seeing a boom in work for visual effects companies in New York State thanks to financial incentives from New York’s Film Tax Credit Program. Producers are turning to virtual production and other visual effects techniques in order to reduce the normal amount of travel, location shoots and even crowd scenes.
PNYA, an association of film and television post facilities, labor unions and individuals working in New York, spoke to two of the key players in the New York visual effects industry: The Molecule CEO Andrew Bly and Phosephene CEO Vivian Connolly (pictured) about how visual effects are changing and even booming in New York State.
Bly, whose company, The Molecule, provides effects for TV series Billions and Dickinson and did the VFX for Tom Hanks’ Stillwater, said, “In talking to studios, showrunners and producers, we’re finding that they are reevaluating how they use visual effects. They can shoot actors in front of a green screen and we can make it look like they’re on a street in Manhattan. Or we can place virtual actors into the background of scenes and eliminate worries over social distancing. Visual effects can do a lot to help productions fill in the gaps and shoot safely.”
The tax credits offered by New York State with the advice and support of PNYA has greatly helped the growth of the industry within New York. Connolly’s company did the VFX for Sony’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Amazon’s award-winning series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the tax credit allowed her to hire more permanent staff. “Tax credits have had a major impact in bringing bigger projects to New York. They have also attracted high caliber artists to New York because they know they’ll find consistent work,” she said.
The challenged posed to visual effects houses by the pandemic crisis were numerous as The Molecule had to shift its workforce to remote operation and develop a new business strategy. “From the beginning, we looked at it as a long-term issue and formulated a plan to carry us through to fall,” Bly said. “We were fortunate to be part of the 30 Rock Reunion special and other projects that helped us work through it. We were also lucky to have strong leadership from the state government.”
“From the beginning John [Bair, Connolly’s partner at Phosphene] and I were committed to doing whatever it took to keep our team,” Connolly agreed. “So far we have managed to avoid furloughing anyone.”
“The types of shows that we service are coming back to production with a different perspective on visual effects,” Bly says about the increased need for VFX. “Schedules may be longer and they may rely more on VFX than they have in the past. Everyone is going to need a safe plan. It will require trial and error, but we will evolve.”
The need to change with the difficult times has helped bring together some of New York’s competitive visual effects house in order to figure out the best and safest way to meet their clients’ needs, according to both Bly and Connolly.
You can learn more about Post New York Alliance and its efforts to push for things like the New York tax credit for VFX on its official site.