The CNY Film Fund, administered by Innovation Group of CNY Arts, has helped position Central New York as a desirable location for movie productions. Since January 2019, the CNY Film Fund has supported seven feature-length Hollywood projects, filmed, in part, at the Greater Syracuse Soundstage and throughout the region. The CNY Film Fund also helps support the work of the Syracuse Film Office and Visit Syracuse, who promote the advantages of bringing film productions here.
To date, projects supported by the CNY Film Fund have provided over 100,000 labor hours for Central New York residents, and on average 65 full-time equivalent jobs per production. In addition to hiring local crew members, these films also generated $2.7 million of local spending in various commercial sectors including retail, hospitality, lodging and transportation. Although COVID-19 temporarily halted production in March, filming has since resumed in CNY.
“Film production returning to Central New York is welcome news when considering the positive economic impact of filmmaking in the region,” said Stephen Butler, Executive Director of IGCNYA. “Encouraging artistic enterprise is now more important than ever before. Providing jobs to artists and craftspeople while bringing new dollars to the economy is critical to the revitalization and success of our community.”
A CNY Film Fund award recipient titled The Binge, starring Vince Vaughn and produced by the local production company American High, was recently released for streaming on HULU. Another Film Fund award recipient titled The Night House, directed by David Bruckner, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to widespread critical acclaim. Searchlight Pictures recently acquired distribution rights for the film, which currently enjoys an 86% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Other films that received support from the Film Fund are: Odd Man Rush, Confession, The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, and Paper Spiders.
The CNY Film Fund also sponsors the annual CNY Short Film Competition. Each year, the Competition awards four grants worth $40,000 each to aspiring filmmakers who are past graduates of area colleges and universities or current local residents. This enables award recipients to bolster their creative portfolios with a professionally produced project filmed entirely in CNY. Competition applicants are reviewed by a panel of industry-leading professionals, some of whom also share a personal connection to the region. This year, the panel included Michael Daley, a Clinical Professor of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University. Mr. Daley is a Syracuse native and graduate of LeMoyne College, and has an extensive resume of TV and film credits to his name, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The X-Files and Big Love.
This year’s CNY Short Film Competition coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. 45 script proposals were submitted by former students from the CNY region now working as film professionals across the country. Applications were received from graduates who have attended area schools, including Syracuse University, Cornell University, Ithaca College, SUNY Oswego and SUNY Mohawk.
“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and excited to execute my vision and represent all Central New York has to offer for the arts.” said Victoria Diana, a 2020 CNY Short Film Competition Finalist and graduate of SUNY Oswego. “I’m used to making short films on no budget, so to be given a $40,000 grant to make one is unbelievable to me.”
Other winners of the 2020 CNY Short Film Competition include: Andrew Nimetz and Derrick Benton of SUNY Oswego, and Jane Bella Karkhover of Syracuse University. Josh Pitta of Syracuse University and Hobie Ramin, a current Syracuse resident and graduate of SUNY New Paltz, were selected as runners-up. The production experience for this year’s award recipients is ongoing and consistent with state and industry safety guidelines.
Incentive funding for feature film production and the CNY Short Film Competition are provided to Innovation Group of CNY Arts by Empire State Development, through the Regional Economic Development Council with resources from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative awarded to the CNY region.