EP NowEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural treasures.
September 20, 2022

Joseph Chianese

Where is Guillermo del Toro’s favorite place to film that features one of the largest sound stages in the world?

Buffalo and Western New York!

With direct flights to LA and NYC, and an additional 10% uplift on top of the 25% New York tax incentive on film, television, and commercial production, Western New York is quickly growing to be one of the top places to film on the East Coast for studios and independent filmmakers alike! An alredy film-friendly region, the recently announced New York Empire State Digital Gaming Media Production Credit, effective January 1, 2023, offers a refundable tax credit of 25% of qualified digital media production costs, with an additional 10% of eligible costs incurred in the state outside the of metropolitan commuter transportation district (e.g., Buffalo and Western New York).

"The repeat business is through the roof!" says Tim Clark, who has served as the film commissioner in Western New York for over a decade. He adds, "You come here, you shoot here, and then you realize how inexpensive stuff is here. Then, you want to come back because it’s too easy of an experience."

The ease of logistics is just the beginning. The Buffalo and Niagara communities embrace the filmmaking industry, willing to open their homes for filming and even, on occasion, bring lawn chairs out to watch the action. "There's a nicety about the people here," Clark says.

When a producer approaches Tim Clark with their vision and needs for a project, he and his colleagues at the Buffalo Niagara Film Office are ready to help. Whether it’s finding a working steam train or closing off a freeway (which they did for ‘A Quiet Place 2’ and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’), Clark will connect you with the community and bring you the right resources to get the job done.

bros-film-billy-eichner-universal.jpeg
Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane in 'Bros' / Universal Pictures

A board member of AFCI (Association of Film Commissioners International), Clark is known in the film community not only in New York, but around the globe, as a trusted ally for every production who calls him, including the soon to be released feature film 'Bros', the first LGBTQ+ romantic comedy released by a major studio.

Buffalo and Niagra landscapes and architecture

Western New York boasts an abundance of diverse landscapes, including two of the Great Lakes, which often double for the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, historic metros, and rolling acres of farmland. The iconic state park, Niagara Falls, is also an easy filming location since it doesn't require the additional permitting and paperwork of a national park.

When it comes to filming in the city, Buffalo is second to none. "Originally, it was built to be a very large city; one of the top ten in the nation," says Clark, "So, the infrastructure supports a lot of industries and municipal resources." Architecturally, it resonates with people too. "There are buildings from every period of American history that date back to before the 1800’s," Clark explains, "Today, there is a blend of modern mixed with the historic which makes it attractive for filmmakers shooting all different time periods.”

In addition to architecture and landscapes, there are a variety of resources that service the film industry, from the art department to camera and lighting. Some of these businesses include Buffalo Expendables and Sloan’s Antiques, where production designers from across the Northeast can source from a wealth of salvaged goods found in old churches, buildings, and homes in Buffalo and beyond.

Expansive sound stages and production resources

In addition to shops for renting camera equipment and refurbished vintage signage, sound stages are also popping up throughout the Buffalo area, including a $50 million facility that is currently under construction, and set to be the largest in the entire state of New York: Buffalo FilmWorks.

Buffalo FilmWorks features over 120,000 square feet of stage space and 60,000 square feet of flex space for production support. And Expressway Cinema Rentals, originally based in Philadelphia, just opened another shop inside the sound stage facility.

Jennifer O'Neill, one of the co-owners of Buffalo FilmWorks, bought the property in 2016 with two other partners. In 2018, productions began filming in the space, including Universal’s ‘The First Purge’ and Guillermo del Toro’s, ‘Nightmare Alley,’ featuring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett. Today, O’Neill and her partners have plans underway to complete a fourth stage, making Buffalo FilmWorks one of the largest sound stages in North America.

cate-blanchett-bradley-cooper-nightmare-alley.jpeg
Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in 'Nightmare Alley' / Searchlight Pictures

While the growth of the film industry is contributing to the economic health of Western New York, it also "changes lives here," according to O’Neill. "Big filming will never go away in New York [city] and LA, but the industry here is a little different. People are willing to help. It’s easier to get things done quicker. You get concierge service, it’s easier to block off roads and find locations, and it’s overall a lot cheaper."

O’Neill and Clark are both invested in supporting every filmmaker who crosses their path, whether it’s connecting them with fire and police departments, or working in partnership with the Amish or Native American communities in the region. Between O’Neill’s background working in finance and accounting, and Clark’s in government and news, they have the network to get your crew and cast members connected with the right people. Clark’s even been known to set up dental appointments for actors!

Western New York's film industry workforce development

As more productions move to Buffalo and the sound stages expand, the opportunity for film crew continues to grow. Clark and his team are careful not to grow so fast, however, that the workforce can’t keep up with demand. “We just want to do it on pace with the opening of our stages. But the crew base here went from virtually nothing when I first started, to over 200 members today!” he says.

IATSE Local 52, The Teamsters Local 817, the DGA, and SAG are all thriving unions in Western New York, supporting Clark and O’Neill in their efforts to create jobs.

"The unions have been unbelievable in training people," says Clark. "They've taken in a lot of people in Buffalo and continue to help our growth rate here. We’ll have had four or five projects shooting at the same time and no problem at all getting crew."

In addition to partnering with the unions, the film office has also partnered with the County of Erie workforce development program and several schools, including the television and film arts program at Buffalo State College, SUNY Fredonia, and the private school, Villa Maria College, to give crew the opportunity and the training to continue developing their technical skills.

"The schools realize where the future is at," Clark says, "We're in the middle of building a very tactile workforce developmnt program that also centers on diversity. And we’re getting into some of the underserved areas of Buffalo with training programs." With the industry booming, Clark is confident that the timing is just right, "I have a feeling that once all the studios are open and episodic shows routinely film here, we'll be ready for all of that because the crew will continue expanding and refining their skills."

Finding exceptional talent in Buffalo can also be surprisingly easier than one might expect. Producers often find that they don’t have to look outside of the area to cast their productions. Need extras for background? No problem. On Universal’s, ‘Best Man Holiday,’ filmed at the Buffalo Bills Stadium, the production put out a casting call for extras, not expecting a large turnout. To their surprise, nearly 3,000 locals showed up!

Back in the sixties and seventies, Canadians from the Toronto area would make the hour-long trip to Buffalo to visit the thriving theater district. Today, there is a wealth of talented actors, both non-union and union, available for incoming productions because of this built-in theater community.

How the Buffalo Niagra Film Office will help filmmakers

Whether you’re a student filmmaker on your first shoot or Guillermo Del Toro directing a multi-million dollar period drama like ‘Nightmare Alley,’ Tim Clark, Jennifer O’Neill, their staff, and the community at large treat everyone the same. As Clark reminds filmmakers, “We close roads for small movies or big movies. Our film office itself is very much involved with the production if they want us to be. I don't want to intrude on anybody's movie, but if they want us, we don't tell them who to call. We call for them. If they want police or fire, we’ll arrange it for them. If they want streets closed and parking, we typically just get it done for them. I think they appreciate it because it's a little more value added to come in here."

If you’re scouting filming locations for your next project and curious to know more about the New York tax incentives, visit our NY production incentives page. And then reach out to Tim Clark and the team at the Buffalo Niagra Film Office to learn more about what this beautiful and diverse jurisdiction has to offer.

Related Content

EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

8/19/2022
Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.

Production Incentives Update: November 2022

11/1/2022
Don't miss these US incentive programs, accepting applications now!
Western Canada

Production Tax Incentives in Western Canada Every Producer Should Know About

10/4/2022
Alberta and Manitoba offer film and TV productions competitive tax incentive programs and versatile...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New York

NY Convenience Rule Impacts Remote Production Workers and Film Incentives

9/13/2022
How remote employee payroll taxes apply to New York-based productions and if an employee’s physical...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New US Incentives 2022

New US Film Incentives Introduced in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and West Virginia

8/23/2022
As production continues to boom, new tax credits and other programs welcome industry to new locations...
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

8/22/2022
Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

7/19/2022
How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

6/29/2022
As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
Virtual Production

The UK Invests in Virtual Production as Content Boom Continues

1/10/2023
The UK is doubling down on Virtual Production infrastructure; learn how and why they’re leading the charge...
Topic: UK
More

Hawaii 2023 Loan-Out GET Tax Rule FAQs

1/5/2023
Productions seeking a Hawaii tax credit must withhold and report general excise tax (GET) on loan-outs in...
tax

Hawaii Production Tax Incentives Notice

12/22/2022
Hawaii announces new rules and procedures for reporting and paying loan-out HI General Excise Tax (GET)...
Master Series Budgeting 2023

Budgeting for 2023: Federal, State, and Incentive Considerations

12/9/2022
Learn what Federal and State payroll tax changes are coming in 2023, plus tips for setting up your...

UK Production Incentives All Producers Should Know About

11/17/2022
Don't miss out on the UK's tax incentives, special programs, and national and regional funding...

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

11/17/2022
Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

US Production Incentives Special Alert: Hawaii

11/1/2022
Hawaii amends Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit

Preparing for Year End: Focus, Find, and Fix!

10/28/2022
EP's payroll tax experts share best practices to identify and resolve payroll tax errors for a smooth year...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Streaming service

Streaming Services Expand to Latin America and New Audiences

10/11/2022
SVOD providers look to Latin America as a gateway to global stories and new subscribers
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

9/8/2022
Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
EP Blog_SQUARE_US Expanded Incentives 2022-2

A Record Number of US States Expand Filmmaking Incentives in 2022

8/25/2022
Your guide to the latest news in production incentives and film programs to come from the 2022 legislative...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Atlantic Canada Expands Incentives

Atlantic Canada Expands Film Incentives in 2022

8/16/2022
Enhanced production incentive programs attract industry to Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

8/11/2022
Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
5 Master Series panelists discussing Atlantic Canada production incentives-square

Production Incentives Update: Atlantic Canada

7/15/2022
Learn how productions can benefit from newly expanded incentives in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador,...
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

7/12/2022
Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

7/7/2022
A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Tax Incentives and Legal Affairs

5/31/2022
Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...

7 Things Production Finance Teams Need to Know for Budgeting in 2023

1/25/2023
Mark Hammond, VP of International Finance & Ops, shares some of the key factors production finance teams...

Production Tax Incentives Notice: Hawaii

1/10/2023
Hawaii Department of Tax (DoTax) issues Tax Advisory notice on tax obligations of persons working in the...
Topic: Alerts
More

Meet the Music Supervisor

1/4/2023
Kasey Truman ('Grey’s Anatomy,' 'The Sandman,' 'Fire Country') on the art of creating cinematic...

Production Incentives Update: December 2022

12/27/2022
A look at changing film incentive programs across the US, Canada, and Czech Republic.

Budgeting and Forecasting Film and Television Residuals

12/13/2022
What production accountants need to know to confidently budget and forecast for residuals.

Entertainment Partners at 2022 Institute on Entertainment Law and Business

11/7/2022
EP's Production Incentives Practice Leader, Joe Chianese, joins panel to educate producers on the wide...

The Production Accountant’s Guide to Year-End Payroll

11/1/2022
A step-by-step breakdown of how to navigate pitfalls and fix production payroll errors for a smooth year...

Film Community and Industry Jobs Grow in Washington State

10/25/2022
Thanks to new funding and a continuous effort by Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks,...

Special Report: Entertainment – A Hollywood Education

10/24/2022
It’s the best of times and the worst of times for employment in the entertainment/streaming industry.

Special Report: Entertainment – Soundstage Gold Rush

10/24/2022
Hollywood is experiencing an ongoing boom that fills its Los Angeles production hub to overflow levels.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Creating a development budget

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Development Budget

10/18/2022
Before you start the filmmaking process, learn what basics you need to budget for to get your idea off the...
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

9/20/2022
On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_1st AC Matt Sanderson

Meet the First Assistant Camera

9/7/2022
A conversation with 1st AC Matt Sanderson ('Everything Everywhere All At Once')
EP-Newsroom-Below the Line-Thumbnail-480

Union Roundup: Production Incentives Experts Gather, Hoping Hollywood Can Bring Economic Recovery As We Learn to Live With Covid

9/6/2022
Entertainment Partners offered an update on U.S. Production Incentives for 2022. The seminar focused on...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

8/2/2022
A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

7/26/2022
How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
EP Blog_Jesse Wente

Supporting Indigenous Storytellers of Canada

6/21/2022
How the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) offers advocacy and funding for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis...
Topic: Canada
More
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

6/14/2022
Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
EP Blog_Residuals and the streaming model

Residuals and the Streaming Model

5/24/2022
How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
uk-gdpr-and-how-productions-reduce-exposure-LC

The UK GDPR and how Productions can Reduce their Exposure - Q&A with Sheridans

5/3/2022
Sheridans’ Associate Krishan Neelendra answers key UK GDPR questions from production companies and...
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

5/2/2022
Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
More

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2023 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.