- Parent Category: News
- Category: Location News
- Published on Thursday, 02 May 2013 13:44
- Written by Valentina I. Valentini
When you think of the southeastern tip of Long Island, N.Y., you may picture seaside mansions along pristine beaches and top-down convertibles with bopping preppy teens. But the Suffolk County Film Commission wants you to know that there’s more to southeast Long Island than the Hamptons. “We’ve got architecture from the 1700s through the late 1800s,” says Michelle Isabelle-Stark, director of the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs. “We’ve got maritime assets, of course, but we’ve also got the only decommissioned nuclear power plant that has never been powered up, so it can be used for filming; The Dictator shot there (pictured left). [And] we don’t just offer the ocean and beautiful beaches, but we have lakes, ponds and rivers.” Long Island also boast parks, courthouses, jails, municipal buildings and an airport, which are all available at a much lower cost than in New York City. And with state tax incentives, Suffolk County gives a finishing grant of $6,000 when a production’s principal photography is completed there.
Isabelle-Stark currently has a strategy to lure a pipeline of low-budget independent films (anywhere from $30,000 to $5 million). These productions are attractive precisely because of their limited budgets, which require them to stay in one location during principal photography. It’s preferable to have a production shoot in Suffolk County for 15 to 19 days instead of a second unit crew for a major blockbuster that might only shoot one day. “Of course, we want [blockbusters] as well, but we don’t have to market to them,” says Isabelle-Stark. “They know we’re here and they know what we offer.” So to nab productions that don’t know anything about Long Island other than the iconic Hamptons, Isabelle-Stark attends the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), Hamptons Film Festival and Stony Brook Film Festival to tell producers, directors and funders about filming in Suffolk County.
At the TFF, Isabelle-Stark usually connects with one to four people each year, and that she makes sure to sustain those relationships over time. “This year so far we’ve shot four independent films and those connections come from film festivals like [TFF],” says Isabelle-Stark. “One of those films includes Fool’s Day, which got into the TFF and Cannes, and is [Dee Snider’s son] Cody Blue Snider’s second short film. I’d met him while he was still in high school, and now he’ll hopefully become an ambassador for Suffolk County as he and his short film venture out into the industry.”
Long Island has a long history of nurturing innovative filmmakers, including Hal Hartley (Trust, Simple Men, Henry Fool), Fred Carpenter (The Blue Lizard), Michael Cuesta (L.I.E., Twelve and Holding), Alexandra Brodsky (Bittersweet Place) and Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). The Suffolk County Film Commission recently produced First Exposure, a film and video screening series. The objective of the project is to introduce the public to the work of emerging independent filmmakers from across Long Island by presenting their films in local theaters and visual art spaces. “We love working with these indie writer-directors,” says Isabelle-Stark. “They are so invested and know how to run lean. Running lean like that creates that discipline and creative impulse that they had to make the film in the first place. And we try and match that by making their lives easier by dealing with permitting and other logistics, so they can focus on making their film.”