The new company is a joint venture between Empire Visual Effects and Daemen College, and New York State has awarded a $4.5 million capital grant for the project. The facility is part of a larger initiative supported by Governor Cuomo to attract postproduction film and television activity to the state, including communities in Upstate New York. The grant funding will also provide Daemen College’s International Center for Excellence in Animation (ICEA) with significant new technology tools for a Visual Effects Certificate Program. A key goal of the ICEA program is to provide fast training for the Buffalo and Western New York students who will be hired by the new post/animation company. “Daemen College and its International Center for Excellence in Animation have been working for more than a year with Empire State Development and [Post N.Y. Alliance Co-Chair] Marcelo Gandola to forge this impressive partnership of higher education with the visual effects industry,” says Daemen President Gary A. Olson.
The Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan will be utilized by the company to provide space build-out; special computer and high-speed Internet networks; supercomputer connections; and other power systems for a state-of-the-art post/animation platform at the Tri-Main Center. The funding will also allow Daemen College to establish the technology infrastructure required for its Visual Effects Certificate student training. This program represents a coalition between Empire Visual Effects, Daemen College and a network of community colleges across the state to secure a steady stream of qualified students ready to meet the challenges of today’s visual effects industry. Daemen College’s world-class visual effects training facility will have all the software, hardware, computers and pipeline infrastructure needed to train the workforce and interface with the industry.
“Empire Visual Effects builds upon the strategies for prosperity laid out by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and the Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan, including innovation, workforce development, smart growth and job opportunities for young adults,” reports Howard A. Zemsky, managing partner of Larkin Development Group and co-chair of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. “The success of Governor Cuomo’s expanded postproduction program helped bring this project to fruition and will allow it to succeed.” Buffalo Niagara Enterprise President Thomas Kucharski also sees great promise in the new facility. “Empire Visual Effects is precisely the kind of innovative higher education/private sector initiative that can be transformative for our region, and we are delighted to welcome this new business to Buffalo Niagara,” says Kucharski. “We look forward to working with them, Daemen College and our colleagues at [Empire State Development] to help the company meet its goal of developing a new industry and creating new jobs in our community.”
The motion picture and television industry is a major component of New York State’s economy — it’s responsible for over 90 direct jobs and $8.2 billion in wages for both production and distribution-related jobs. For the last few years, postproduction film budgets have increased dramatically due to the demand for visual effects. A film and tax credit law signed by Governor Cuomo in July 2012 boosted a 10-percent postproduction credit to 30 percent in the New York metropolitan commuter region, which includes New York City and the counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester. For postproduction work in Upstate New York, 35 percent in tax credits were made available to encourage additional investment and construction of new facilities in the region. In April 2013, the Governor signed new legislation to further expand and improve the program, extending funding through 2019 while lowering the thresholds for VFX and animation projects from 75 percent to 20 percent of the total VFX /animation budget or $3 million (whichever is less). And, starting in 2015, there will be a 10-percent credit on qualified labor in production or post, which means film and TV projects will be able to get up to a 45-percent tax credit on labor expenses incurred in the New York State.