New York's tax rebates a boom for post


When the postproduction industry thinks of Deluxe, it thinks of post in Toronto. But this March, Deluxe took a long-awaited plunge and announced it would be opening up a 40,000-square-foot post facility in New York City in 2008 -- which got everyone thinking about something else entirely.

"The recovery since 9/11 (in New York) has been terrific, and the tax credit program has made Manhattan in particular a more affordable destination," explains Dan McLellan, executive vp and general manager for postproduction at Deluxe. "The cooperation we received from the film commissioner's office has made it easy to get established. It's a combination of all those factors."

Getting the industry to seriously consider New York as a viable posting home has not always been easy. Of course, there are the long-established facilities like PostWorks and Post Logic, but creating the velcro to convince productions to not just film in Gotham, but to stay in the city once the production was complete has long been the challenge.

The turnaround began in 2004, when New York State (and later on, City) enacted tax rebates: a 10% Empire State rebate, with a 5% Made in New York piggyback for qualifying productions. Last year, New York City hosted record numbers of film, television, commercial and music-video shoots -- including 34,718 days on public property.

Whether that would trickle down into post remained to be seen. But just two years later, post houses are feeling the boom.

PostWorks vp sales Joe Caterini says he's all but expected it. "When the tax breaks were first being discussed, we got a tremendous number of phone calls from people saying they were thinking of doing a film in New York because of that. There's no doubt that we had a notable increase in sales activity and then eventually into real business."

Janet Haller, executive manager at rental facility Hula Post, also notes the uptick in business. "We've consistently doubled our number of clients and revenue," she says. "But whether it's directly related to the incentive program, I'm not sure."

Haller points out an important fact: The current revival comes after a tremendous downturn. "New York City is typically cyclical with film production," says Caterini. "It was in a lull that started in 2000 and then took a blow with 9/11 and went through a prolonged slump."

New York post executives insist it's the tax incentives. "There's something happening here in New York," says Peter Bavaro, the executive director of business development at Post Logic Studios. "I think New York has become a viable option again for both production and cutting-edge post."

L.A. Digital New York CEO Gary Migdal points to the state-of-the-art Steiner Studios, which was built on the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as well as to the increased production presence in Chelsea, Tribeca and the West Village. His 30,000-square-foot facility, which opened in New York four years ago, is reaping the benefits of increased production. "In the last couple of years, the types and volume of projects we've been seeing in New York have absolutely increased," he says.

No one is resting on any laurels, however. There's competition in far-flung states like Louisiana and New Mexico, and closer to home, Connecticut recently got into the incentive game with a 30% initiative for qualifying projects. That makes it more attractive to filmmakers and, potentially, post houses.

"I could see New York City post houses opening up satellite offices in Connecticut," Haller says. "They'd be foolish if they didn't take advantage of that."

Clearly, New York's post industry would prefer if production's post phase stayed local. The New York Production Alliance (NYPA), which includes the post houses, Local 700 and representation from the governor's and mayor's offices, is looking for a way to add to the current incentives to include a stand-alone post credit. So far, it's just in the lobbying stage, but it signals a new stage of one-upmanship in the production-dollar grab for New York.

"I don't think there's any doubt that it will help (the post community)," says Sound One (an Ascent Media company) managing director Steve Tollen.

In the meantime, whether it's tax credits, recovery from 9/11 or just an "up" cycle, post execs can't help but catch some of the film fever -- and some of the film dollars -- on the New York streets and studios. Says Bavaro: "I believe it's an exciting time for the New York filmmaker."