BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Several Hollywood movie studios, directors, and producers have discovered Buffalo as a great location for shooting their films. How did the Queen City capture Hollywood’s attention?
Many movies were filmed in Buffalo. Recently, there’s been “The Untitled Cabrini Film” and Bradley Cooper’s movie, “Nightmare Alley,” which premieres December 17. Some of the credit belongs to the Buffalo film commissioner, who is committed to making it the Tinseltown of the East.
Buffalo hit a few home runs in Hollywood during the early 1980s. Robert Redford was the star of “The Natural,” using the old Rock Pile as the stadium for his baseball classic. Actor James Caan directed and starred in “Hide in Plain Sight,” a drama about a Buffalo mobster put in the federal witness protection program. Buffalo’s Central Terminal was the backdrop for the opening scene in “Best Friends” starring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn.
Then the scene went black, with nothing filmed in Buffalo for many years. Enter Tim Clark, the Buffalo-Niagara film commissioner, who tries to sell the area to Hollywood movie-makers.
“Once people get here and that’s the hook—they realize you move around very easily here and you can get anywhere in 20 minutes,” Clark said. “You have the friendliness of the people of Western New York. There’s a rhythm and energy here like none other in the world. The culinary scene here is great—the quality of life is so great here.”
One of the biggest movies shot here was “Marshall,” a biopic on the early life of Thurgood Marshall, who became the first Black Supreme Court justice. “Once they got here and saw the architecture, realizing this was a period film in the ’30s and ’40s, they realized they could do the whole thing here,” Clark said.
The film starred Kate Hudson and the late Chadwick Boseman. “It was the courthouse, the vacant Dillon courthouse, and they to shoot there for three weeks,” Clark said. “That was the anchor that brought them.”
When the movie wrapped, the crew thanked the people of Western New York. “It’s our job to get them to come to Western New York, and I think what Hollywood has found here is an absolutely reservoir of locations,” Clark said.
And all of these movies need extras, using local people for some of the scenes. “There’s never a shortage of people who want to be in the background,” Clark said.
These movie productions are having a major economic impact on Western New York. “Tens of millions of dollars over the years,” Clark said. “That sounds lofty or whatever, but I have to tell you, these are real, real numbers.”
Then, there was the John Krasinski horror movie, “A Quiet Place Part II” starring Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt. “The opening sequences were filmed in North Tonawanda at a baseball field and they merged it to fit onto Main Street in this small town, and that was Akron,” Clark said.
The film commission also protects the privacy of the superstars. “We’re very discreet and very secretive about where we help sequester people,” Clark said. “Bradley Cooper is another great example. We never really tell people where they are.”
John Cusack starred in a Buffalo cold case movie called “The Factory.” It was filmed in Montreal, but the producer asked Don Postles—local institution and newsanchor at NEWS10’s Buffalo sister station, WIVB—to play himself in the opening scene to give it what he called a “Buffalo flavor.”
And speaking of a “Buffalo flavor,” Hollywood actor and Buffalo native William Fichtner credits Clark for convincing him to shoot his independent film “Cold Brook” in Western New York rather than Cortland. “I wish I had a dollar for every time I say I could not have made my film without the film commissioner Tim Clark,” Fichtner recalled. “Tim started working on me and said this would be a great location for your film—then we went to East Aurora and that incredible Main Street with red brick.”
“The Cortland Main Street is pretty, but it’s not East Aurora,” the actor added.
Fichtner, a true Buffalo booster who has had major roles in scores of films, says the tax incentives in the state give moviemakers the financial break to come here. “You try to get people to invest in a project, whether it’s a small film like ‘Cold Brook,’ or a larger than that—especially with a studio film, they look at the tax incentives,” Fichtner said. “It makes all the difference in the world, because, at the end of the day, it’s not ‘show trend.’ It’s ‘show business.'”
The movie industry is big business. The site where they’re building a new sound stage on Buffalo’s West Side is someday is expected to create hundred of new jobs. And Fichtner believes a new sound stage could lead to an explosion of new projects. “If you don’t have a sound stage here everything is not on location and a lot of times you can save money by building a set on a sound stage, it’s a game-changer,” he said. “You build it and they will come.”