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ESD Commissioner Hope Knight Op-Ed In Crain's NY Business: Let’s Unlock New York State’s Potential to Become The Next Film Capital

On Tuesday, Crain's New York Business published commentary by Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight about Governor Kathy Hochul’s Executive Budget commitment to rebuilding New York State’s film industry and the enormous potential and impact for the state’s economy.

 Text of the commentary is available below and can be viewed online here.

 What do SuccessionPoker Face and A Quiet Place I and II have in common? They were all filmed in New York. For years, we’ve brought silver-screen blockbusters and small-screen hits to our state, drawing in film crews, creating thousands of good-paying jobs and generating billions of dollars in economic investment statewide. 


But as nearby states upped their incentives to give their film industries a boost, New York has failed to keep up. A Quiet Place: Day One is now filming in London. After extensively scouting New York state, White Noise chose to film in Cleveland. Even Wu-Tang: An American Saga, which is set in New York, is being filmed on the other side of the Hudson. Without adequate industry support, we’re leaving major private investment and thousands of union jobs on the table. 


Thankfully, Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed an overhaul of New York’s Film Tax Credit Program as part of her executive budget to rebuild our film industry and reposition our state as the Hollywood of the East. The changes, which include increasing the annual cap, making more costs eligible for the credit and encouraging television series to relocate here, will have an enormous impact on building the state’s economy.

The film industry is one of our state’s major economic drivers. In 2019 and 2020 the film industry generated more than $20 billion in spending and created 57,300 direct jobs, including production workers, caterers, hospitality workers and other union jobs. These jobs are available to a wide range of New Yorkers—44% of jobs are available to New Yorkers without a four-year degree—and pay $90,000 per year on average. Investment in this industry is an investment in our state’s economic health and good, middle-class union jobs. 


At the same time, other states have made their programs even more generous. New Jersey, for instance, increased its tax credit to cover 39% of allowable costs and added new coverage for directors, actors, writers and conductors. This led to booming sound stage construction, major studio partnerships and, in turn, a windfall of private dollars in its state coffers.


New York’s Film Tax Credit is a sound, strategic investment that’s paying dividends. The state received nearly four dollars for every dollar in tax credits it provided for the pilot of New Amsterdam; Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods brought in more than five dollars for every dollar in state incentives. And when Season 6 of Power filmed in New York, it created more than 6,000 jobs and the state saw a nearly $90 million return on its investment. Overall, according to the last independent audit, every public dollar that New York issues in film tax credits generates nine dollars in return in economic activity.  


This translates into a positive impact on the state as a whole and on individual communities. I saw this firsthand when I welcomed the filming of Power to Southeast Queens during my time as president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. The ripple effect for small businesses—bodegas, neighborhood restaurants and local stores—created a boon for the entire community. And with film studios dotting the state from Buffalo to Syracuse to Woodstock, each of these cities stands to gain from bringing in these projects. 

Expanding the Film Tax Credit will only bring more exciting projects to our state, deepen the industry’s investment in our local and state economies, and spread the community benefits further. New York’s film industry is ready for a change, and with the governor’s leadership and the help of our partners in the Legislature, we will unlock the state’s potential to become the next regional and nationwide film capital. 

Hope Knight is Empire State Development's President, CEO and Commissioner.


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