For almost 5 years now there has been a buzz surrounding the Kingston area, touting it as a ‘new Brooklyn’; a hip new place to escape the bustling city and explore your passions and creativity. We’ve followed that buzz for a while and have seen the changes in and around Kingston over the last few years, from the assortment of new and thriving businesses and restaurants that have come to town to the burgeoning ‘artist’s corridor’, livening up the once neglected Mid-town section of the city.
What was once a small whisper of a buzz about Kingston though, has transformed into a much louder call, beckoning even more people and more industry to Ulster County’s largest city. Forget the designation of being the “new Brooklyn”... Kingston is poising itself to quite possibly start being thought of as a ‘new Hollywood’- that’s right- Kingston is ready for it’s big screen close up!
Setting the Scene
It’s early 2016, and the stage has been set for some potential shake-ups in the film production industry.
New York State had recently adopted a Film Tax Credit program, offering up to a 40% tax credit towards qualifying production costs for New York produced films and television shows. This credit would provide incentive for the film production industry to come to New York to film, edit and produce programs, not only to their benefit, but also to the benefit of our local residents and communities as well. Certain counties, Ulster amongst them, doubled down to offer even greater tax credits than what the state program set out, leading some serious attention being drawn to upstate New York.
Now, enter Mary Stuart Masterson, a well-known actress, producer and full time Hudson Valley resident, best known for her roles on “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Upon news of this tax credit, and with the Hudson Valley in her heart, Masterson raised the stakes, founding the non-profit company Stockade Works, dedicated to bringing the film production industry to Ulster County and to, as their slogan suggests, “Make Local Work.”
“2016 was a huge year for the future of film and tech production in the Hudson Valley, and now the real work begins. We need to go big, and stay home!” - Mary Stuart Masterson
Lights, Camera, Action!
The NY Film Tax Credit is a statewide program, and many other New York counties can offer just as much of a credit as Ulster County can, so why is Kingston once again the center of so much buzz and talk?
The reason behind all of this comes from a partnership created between Masterson and Stockade Works, Ulster County executive Michael Hein, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and RUPCO, a Kingston based affordable housing provider/developer. With the help and support provided from local officials and Stockade Works, this past December, RUPCO was granted $1 million in funds to help purchase the 70,000 square foot property in Mid-town’s South Prospect Street, that will house television and film production studio spaces. Formerly home the the MetLife offices, the site would be transformed into a multi-faceted space that would include TV and film production suites, a screening room, state of the art sound mixing theatre, office space, event space and much more. Designed to provide the equipment and space that would ultimately further attract film companies to the area, the new Metro building will also greatly serve to benefit the community, by providing community accessible event spaces and by becoming a major learning hub. Stockade Works has emphasized the importance of developing a local workforce that can keep up with the industry demand, and plans to do this by offering an abundance of workshops, programs and ‘bootcamps’ to educate and train. And on top of it all, this new Metro building is expected to be a Net Zero Energy building, just like our office building at 231 Main Street in New Paltz, making it more sustainable and efficient for the entire community.
What Happens Next?
While the space has been secured, and the footings of Stockade Work’s mission is in place, this project is still a ways from fruition, but Masterson and Stockade Works don’t expect the ramp up time to be an issue when it comes to getting film companies to travel upstate. Stockade Works is already working to connect the existing workforce with local prospects, who will be trained through Crew & Tech boot camps to meet the incoming production company needs and demand expected. The more likely obstacle to overcome includes another key issue; money. Zones established around New York City film and TV production unions require producers to pay stipends to employees outside the metro area; a factor that despite the big tax breaks, could discourage execs from traveling upstate- something that Masterson’s organization is already looking to see how they can alleviate those financial pressures. The work has only just begun, but with Masterson at the helm, Stockade Work’s vision is already being favorably received by other industry leaders and famous faces. Their holiday ‘Light the Way’ launch party at Senate Garage in Kingston gathered lots of locals amongst some film and TV greats, like actors Vera and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) and Paul Rudd. Rudd already has close ties to the Hudson Valley, and it was Rudd's Rhinebeck candy shoppe, Samuel’s Sweets, which he co-owns with fellow actor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, that catered part of the evening. With the amount of famous actors and film industry professionals who live in or have a home in the Hudson Valley, who knows how many more famous faces may soon be stepping in to support the cause.
The tax credit program creates some pretty big opportunities for film companies, but the ones set to really gain from this venture are our local residents and our communities. The economic catalyst that film production could bring to our area could be quite substantial. Stockade Works projects that within 2 years, the Hudson Valley could play host to 4 TV programs and 1 major film per year. To keep up with this demand, Stockade Works anticipates creating 2,000 jobs in the 1st 3 years alone. While these numbers sound extremely promising, some locals are skeptical that the project can deliver the type and quantity of jobs they are proposing. Until the project moves a little further along and more solid details are announced, it seems like the jury may still be out on if Stockade Works will be the economic springboard the community is looking and hoping for.
Right now, as details are still being released, the best way to keep up to date on all the news surrounding Kingston’s newest venture is to visit www.stockadeworks.org and join their mailing list and be sure to follow us on Facebook, where we strive to share all the latest Ulster County happenings!