The mid-Hudson had a banner year for film production in 2019, new data show. And Orange County leaders hope to keep encouraging local productions after recently taking over the Orange County Film Office.
Direct spending in the area by film productions skyrocketed 58 percent to $46 million in 2019 from $29 million in 2018, while production days rose 20 percent to 441 days, in Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties, according to the Hudson Valley Film Commission.
Interest in filming in the region also rose, as the number of days local locations were scouted more than doubled in 2019 to 460 from 215 in 2018. Plus, the number of crew members employed last year in the mid-Hudson climbed 10 percent to 500.
The state recorded even higher figures because it defines the mid-Hudson as including the lower Hudson Valley counties that are popular for filming because they're close to New York City. The state's mid-Hudson figures include Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties
Those counties saw film production spending rise 5 percent to $1 billion in 2019, while employment climbed 2 percent to 57,700, according to new data from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.
“I'm a little afraid that 2019 was so good it's going to be hard to replicate,” said Laurent Rejto, director of the Hudson Valley Film Commission, the region's leading local film facilitation organization that is based in Woodstock.
The strong 2019 figures come as Amanda Dana, the Orange County Film Office's new director, is hoping Orange County leaders will allot more funding to keep attracting films, TV shows and commercials.
Last year, the county government rescued her film office, giving it a $50,000 budget, while tasking Dana, also Orange County's tourism director, with running the office after the Orange County Industrial Development Agency defunded it.
The IDA, an independent, nonprofit that considers economic incentives like tax breaks to attract and retain jobs, cut off the office's primary annual funding, totaling $40,000, for 2019.
The IDA also cut $10,000 in annual funding for Rejto's film commission for 2020. The IDA's decisions came after the state Authorities Budget Office issued guidance suggesting that funding for film offices likely exceeded the IDA's authority.
Instead, the film offices would have to apply to the IDA for funding consideration for specific economic development projects.
The county rescued the film office, previously run by the Orange County Arts Council, because film production has become a significant economic driver since a successful 2016 effort to extend more generous state tax credits for filming to the mid-Hudson, Dana said.
Film offices “are one-stop shops for filmmakers to come and find sites, connect with municipal leaders and even get streamlined permits,” Dana said.
Dana praised Rejto's film commission for facilitating a long list of local productions from HBO to Netflix and a Quiet Place Part II. Now, Dana, who has one film office employee, is hopeful Orange County's Legislature will significantly increase her $50,000 budget, during the county's fall budgeting process, while letting her add one-and-half full-time equivalent employees.
Orange County should take a regional approach to facilitating and funding film offices, because most productions don't merely film in one local county, Dana and Rejto said.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said he supports increasing the film office's funding, given the “strong ancillary economic impacts” of filming and “more productions popping up all over.”
Neuhaus said he'd support contributing funding to Rejto's film commission, provided he can directly show he's lured productions to Orange County.
Orange County Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia called local film growth “impressive,” and he said he's “receptive” to upping Dana's budget. Brescia added he'll consider contributing to the film commission provided the county has the money, given that the county's state Medicaid funds are threatened.
Orange County should support both film offices, to keep attracting productions, said Summer Crockett Moore and Tony Glazer, managing partners of Choice Films, a production company, and Umbra Stages, a soundstage, in the City of Newburgh.
Since 2018, the pair also has run three Below the Line bootcamps, which have trained 52 locals for film production jobs, from carpentry to set design.
Since graduating from the bootcamp, Amber McMillan, 24, of Montgomery, has gone into the film industry, including as a production assistant for HBO and Netflix projects.
“We're seeing such huge growth that film people from the city said to me, 'I wouldn't leave (Orange County) if I was you,' ” McMillan said.