CNY Film Professionals Launches Website to Unite Growing Film Industry
When one thinks of Syracuse, salt city or home of the orange may come to mind. But if it were up to Elias Gwinn, founder and president of the nonprofit organization CNY Film Professionals, Syracuse would be synonymous with “film production hotspot.” Gwinn’s extensive experience in film has positioned him as the perfect local ambassador for sharing the area’s potential with other professionals who may not have previously considered Syracuse for their project’s set. This year, the organization partnered with Onondaga County to launch syrfilm.org, the website that is now filling a once-empty gap between those with a project in mind and those with the resources to complete it.
“We have the infrastructure and we are ready to develop an industry here,” said Gwinn.
New York State offers a tax credit equal to 40 percent of the cost of production for movies and television shows made in Central New York. This is a ten-percent increase from the tax credit offered in New York City, giving Central New York a competitive advantage over cities that have been long established in the film industry. Additionally, Central New York is home to The Greater Syracuse Soundstage, which opened in 2015 in hopes of jump-starting the area’s film industry.
However, without a workforce ready to shoot films, the tax credit is futile. When Gwinn set out to begin shooting his own film, he hosted a networking event in hopes of finding crew. He expected a modest turnout yet the robust results were anything but. He discovered Syracuse was home to a vibrant population of professionals and novices alike who were hungry for projects to work on. The Syracuse Film Center was born out of this energy and Gwinn’s desire to make Syracuse’s true potential known.
“We all need to know each other and the resources that are available so we can continue to build this professional community,” Gwinn explained. “It can be maddening for a producer to try to find who and what they need. We can make the region more inviting by showing them Syracuse is organized and prepared.”
The new website does exactly that. It features directories of crewmembers, vendors, locations and film professionals eager to work with production companies. Gwinn encourages local businesses of all types to list their services in the directory, even if they don’t consider themselves to be part of the film industry sector. When a film crew descends upon a new region, they need to know everything from who can cater their on-set lunches to who brews the best cup of coffee to fuel their grueling days. CNY Film Professionals envisions that the increased presence of the film industry will bolster the Central New York economy as a whole.
Supporting local jobs is at the heart of this project. While Syracuse once was home to a thriving industrial sector, many of the companies that championed industry in the area have disappeared, taking with them 20% of the region’s manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2003 alone. There is hope that the film industry can help break that rut and influence employment numbers in Syracuse. To become a crewmember and rise to professional status, the only necessary education is the one that comes from hands-on set experience.
“I see CNY Film Professionals as an incubator for film professionals,” said Gwinn. In the future, he looks forward to offering training sessions for aspiring film industry professionals along with professional development workshops for those with already established careers. “This alliance will attract more projects to the area.”
Since CNY Film Professionals is not yet one year old, it was challenging for the organization to find funding. While daily operations could be sustained on a committed volunteer base, the same could not be said for the maintenance of a high-functioning website. The Community Foundation awarded the organization a grant for website development and hosting.
“Although our track record is short, it speaks widely of our ability to engage the community,” said Gwinn. “In the span of just a few months, more than 500 members joined us. We are fortunate that the Community Foundation recognized our ability to fulfill a community need.”
If the grassroots energy behind CNY Film Professionals is any indication, the film industry will find a place to thrive in Central New York.
Visit CNY Film Professionals online at: http://syrfilm.org/