By: Charlie Poag
Onondaga County, the hub of Central New York (CNY) which includes the city of Syracuse, recently launched the Production Rebate Incentives for Movies and Entertainment Development, known as the PRIMED Program. The program offers some of the most generous incentives for filmmakers looking to shoot feature films, advertising commercials, and television pilots in the state of New York.
The best part? There is no impact on a production’s New York State film tax credit. The PRIMED Program offers a 25% rebate on film-related expenses incurred in Onondaga County, which has the potential to be raised up to 30% with a diversity hiring incentive, making it one of the most lucrative locations in the state, if not the country, to make a movie.
The drive behind the program comes from a growing effort to build a film industry in Central New York. New York State invested in the development of a 15,000 square-foot sound stage in Dewitt, NY, just outside of Syracuse. The sound stage, now called the Greater Syracuse Soundstage, is merely one of five Qualified Production Facilities now operating in the area.
Eligibility for funding is considered competitive and specific requirements depend on the type of production activity. This program is ideal for those filmmakers and producers already choosing New York for a production to take advantage of the state’s tax credits. As the only locality in the state offering such incentives, Onondaga County represents an obvious opportunity for filmmakers to make every dollar of their production budget stretch farther than it would elsewhere in the country.
The program comes after the success of the CNY Film Fund, which offered similar incentive rebates for filmmaking activity. With the support of a $4.8 million grant provided by Empire State Development, the CNY Film Fund has awarded 11 films to date. In return, Central New York’s economy has been infused with more than $13 million through either labor or non-labor expenses during those productions.
“Central New York is home to a thriving community of arts and cultural organizations. We put a lot of effort into advocating for these artists and helping stand up an industry is part of those efforts,” says Stephen Butler, Executive Director of CNY Arts, Inc., the regional arts council for Central New York.
CNY Arts administers the program to provide financial resources needed to properly incentivize productions that will have a benefit to the local industry. The application process includes an audit of the production’s budget and financing, as well as a panel review from industry professionals. While it’s understood that the requirements and application process may filter out some productions, the intent of the process is to ensure that those production companies that receive funding agreements will have a positive impact on the local labor force and economy.
Onondaga County has been steadily growing a talented labor pool and built up a reliable base of industry workers to staff most positions with talented crew members. Workers in the local industry are experiencing significant growth in capabilities, many advancing into higher positions faster than their peers in areas more traditionally renowned for movie production. To help grow this local base, PRIMED incentivizes hiring two groups in addition to the standard diversity initiatives.
The program offers additional resources for productions that hire local veterans. Onondaga County is home to 24,000 military veterans, a number of whom have found their way into the film industry through the sudden growth in the local area. Productions hiring local veterans for any position can receive additional percentage points on their rebate depending on the number of veterans hired, their positions, and length of full-time employment.
The PRIMED Program offers additional incentives for productions offering internship opportunities for college students located in Onondaga County. With many area colleges and universities offering film or film-related degree programs, the region has a readily available pool of eager professionals looking to enter the industry. A production can earn up to a full percentage point in additional rebate funding by offering paid internships or working with the schools to provide credit-based internships.
Onondaga County is home to a vibrant community of professional organizations working together to grow the film industry locally including Visit Syracuse, the tourism and marketing organization for the region. Filmmakers looking to learn more about Onondaga County and the resources available here are encouraged to reach out to the film office to learn more. This supportive and energized infrastructure, together with PRIME Program incentives, make Central New York an ideal choice for film producers across the country!