Creative Economy

Jon Russell Cring on attracting filmmakers to the Capital Region

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Jon Russell Cring on attracting filmmakers to the Capital Region

I’m a filmmaker and it seems yearly local newspapers or magazines do a story about how “their region” is attracting Hollywood. When a studio movie comes to town it not only brings added finance but also an electricity unlike any other.  Spotting Bradley Cooper ordering an Apple fritter at Stewarts will get a community buzzing longer than the opening of a new Applebees. But when the topic of business development arises the arts are not always on the agenda, The legend of a city is built by it’s artists. Troy’s River Street was featured in Age of Innocence and the Route 7 Diner is indelibly linked to The Place Beyond the Pines. Having a film made in a city  is like an adrenaline shot to it’s heart.

So every few years, if we are lucky, the circus comes to town and we all get to watch through the flap in the tent. But why doesn’t it happen more often up here?  Dozens of successful films have been made in the last ten years in the Hudson Valley like Taking Woodstock, Michael Clayton, We are what We Are and the recent megahit A Quiet Place.  Some of the first to discover the viability of Kingston and beyond were international television productions that found the area good for simulating Europe. Those local crews passed on the knowledge of an area that was light on  permits and regulations and heavy with hospitality to movies.

Places like Georgia have completely metamorphosized  because they opened themselves up to the creative community. I can see the same thing happening here. We have everything we need already.

I have a friend in North Carolina who was a forest ranger and while she was out a call came in from a location scout who was looking for some majestic woods for a film. Being new to the job the person who took the message didn’t pass it along until a week later. That is why The Hunger Games films were not shot in North Carolina. It can happen that quickly.

NY has great film incentives and they get better the further north from Manhattan you venture.  Every year all over the world there are events attended by filmmakers, producers, and studios that advertise an area that is perfect for filming. Countries, states, and cities have booths set up at film markets and festivals to share what their particular spot has to offer.

However we don’t have anyone that attends these events. This is a huge missed opportunity. We have an incredible wealth of natural beauty and aesthetic variety in our area. My wife Tracy and I were in pre production on a feature and she posted some pics of  paintings  her family from Tennessee had done because they had such a similar look to where we were shooting in Castleton. We ended up being contacted by an amazing artist in New York City who had been referred the link and loved the imagery. He came on the feature and brought tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. The whole time he was here he talked about what he had missed not coming here sooner. Upstate New York can double for anyplace in the world including the Arctic if you can brave shooting in the Winter.

Before anyone ever wrote one story about Grunge the Seattle sound was booming due to the love from it’s hometown. If this area is going to experience a creative renaissance we have to support what is already happening in our own backyard. There are dozens of film projects made every year by the folks who live next door to you and me. That is how you start a scene. You find something you dig and tell others about it.

Jon Russell Cring is a Troy-based filmaker who’s most recent film Darcy was featured at the Film Columbia festival in Chatham NY. He and his wife have worked on films such as The Neighbohood That Disapeared and The Night We Met. 

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