Massena group hopes to attract filmmakers to area

Elijah Winfrey is hoping to bring filmmakers to the area through a new initiative he calls Film Massena. “We believe that our naturally beautiful landscapes and the film tax incentives make Massena an attractive option for filmmakers,” he said. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — A new group is hoping to bring filmmakers to the area through a new initiative they call Film Massena.

“Film Massena is a group of citizens who desire to bring filmmaking and filmmaking opportunities here to Massena, New York,” Film Massena Coordinator Elijah Winfrey said during a presentation to the Massena Village Board this week.

He said the state has offered tax incentives to film production companies who not only film in New York, but also hire New York residents.

“These production companies have received up to a 30 percent film tax credit each time they come here,” Mr. Winfrey said.

In addition, he said, there are “add-on incentives” for productions that take place outside of New York City as part of an effort to spread filmmaking across the state.

“For example, if a production company came to St. Lawrence County, they could receive up to a 45 percent film tax credit. To present a perspective, not only is 45 percent more than New York City, it’s also more than what is currently offered in California, Georgia and Louisiana, which for those who don’t know have become huge players in the film industry,” Mr. Winfrey said.

He said Film Massena was also creating a fund that could be used to supply funding opportunities to independent filmmakers.

“We plan on doing this so that no matter what happens on the state level with the film tax incentive program, we have our own incentive program to drive filmmakers here,” he said. “We believe that our naturally beautiful landscapes and the film tax incentives make Massena an attractive option for filmmakers.”

Filmmakers would bring employment opportunities with them, Mr. Winfrey said. He said that among those who are needed are carpenters to build the sets and electricians to make sure the lighting works correctly.

“There are a lot of departments like that on a movie set that are overlooked when people think about the process of making a film. For your reference, between 2000 and 2018, the average film released in North American cinemas employed 276 people in crew roles. That’s not including your actors. That’s just behind-the-scenes workers,” he said.

He said, while they want large studio productions to film in Massena, Film Massena believes that their “bread and butter” will be the smaller independent productions to start.

“Our short-term goal is to get them to notice Massena and come here to film. Our long-term goal is to be one of the top locations for independent filmmaking in New York state. Independent filmmaking is a proving ground for Hollywood. So, to use a sports analogy, we would be the farm system for Hollywood,” he said.

To get Massena some name recognition, Mr. Winfrey said they’ve secured their first partnership with a company called Giggster.

“Giggster is a peer-to-peer marketplace for filming locations. They have thousands of film-friendly locations in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Miami and more. They are the first platform that was designed specifically with filming in mind. This is huge for us because we will be able to list places to film in Massena on a site that filmmakers are already looking at,” he said.

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