We are watching our breath in what used to be a plumbing supply office on Rock City Road in Woodstock, a rambling structure that has served as the box office and festival headquarters for the HVFC’s sister Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) in recent years, and which Rejto and WFF executive director Meira Blaustein now have under contract as their entities’ new home. Suffice it to say that all systems are shut off until the property sale is completed in the coming weeks. But also that the sight of one’s breath in the chill air is as good a visceral reminder of the Film Commission and Festival’s current capital campaign needs as any flyers that they’ll be sending out for community support over the coming weeks and months.
“So I go into what used to be the Miron Lumber Supply building on Lake Street through some offices, and they say to go downstairs,” Rejto continues about the new Newburgh facility. “And there I find a 21,000-square-foot space with 24-foot-high ceilings, big enough to drive tractor-trailer trucks into and park them – which is what the production then did.” Rejto added how the new soundstage was also spotless, with an adjacent 50,000-square-foot space being renovated into a new motorcycle museum, Orange County’s second.
“This was a treat,” Rejto said of the $14,500-per-year position that keeps him constantly busy upgrading lists of the region’s film resources, from editors, grips and production assistants to working trains, lighting equipment and other soundstages – including one at Kingston’s Tech City and another at the city’s Backstage Productions on Wall Street – as well as fielding a steady stream of calls from incoming films looking for extras and other help. The Film Commission, he adds, does not charge productions for its services, while actively searching them out from a host of sources. Although much of what actually shoot in the region are film-school productions or commercials, he adds how everything adds to the local economy – especially when he succeeds at drawing in something like Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds with the help of a helicopter-owning friend, or he gets the right elements to land the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial that he’s now luring.
The HVFC gets its money from public support, including some private business aid and monies from Ulster County, which are dwindling. Rejto stresses how important it would be for other counties to start chipping in for the economic development benefits that the film industry is providing the region – as well as the cachet. “It’s very competitive, with every state trying to outdo every other state, and even regions of New York now going after each other for productions,” he continues. “It doesn’t help that City productions look at every location more than 30 miles from Manhattan as too far…What we offer, especially here in Ulster County, are working film professionals and services.”
He points out some of the stars, from actors and actresses to leading editors and cinematographers, living in the area. He cites the pride that he feels in having helped a bona fide French-financed film company set up shop in Kerhonkson in the last year, and then start up several major Hollywood film shoots in the area (Peace, Love & Misunderstanding and The Art of Love among them).
Also helping, on a statewide basis, is the fact that the debacle of a loss to the state film credits several years ago, which forced a host of major television shows to leave New York City at the time, has since been rescinded and strengthened to the point where ours is now seen as one of the more stable film industry states outside of California. The result, Rejto says, is that the movies are now a $6 billion business statewide. “The old Coffey Gallery in Kingston’s becoming Gargoyles, a set-dressing entity,” Rejto said. “It’s nice to see all these elements building.”
He pointed out that the creation of a new HVFC headquarters will mean that the entity will now be able to provide a space for regional casting calls, office rentals and an ongoing supply of needed equipment, plus screening rooms and space for seminars and workshops.
“I don’t run the numbers, but everyone says film pays back two for every dollar it spends,” the former New York City documentary editor and School of Visual Arts grad added. “We’re hoping people start to realize how important this is to the Hudson Valley and helping us out some.”
That means not only visiting the Commission’s website at www.hudsonvalleyfilmcommission.org, its blog at http://hudsonvalleyfilm.blogspot.com and its Facebook page, but also attending its many fundraising events, including the upcoming “Songs from the Silver Screen” gala benefit concert at the Kleinert/James Arts Center on Saturday, December 4 at 8 p.m. We all owe it to ourselves – and our silver screens.