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Film office reborn under CVB Gets $150,000 in county funding

The Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, which faded to black in 2005 after losing Erie County funding, will soon be rolling again as a branch of the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The regional film office, which lost its funding and its sole employee last year, will be re-established under the auspices of the tourism and hospitality agency. In late January, the Erie County Legislature approved a $150,000 appropriation for the commission, assigning the funds to the CVB.

The office, which previously had been housed in the downtown offices of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, will take up residence with the CVB in its headquarters in the Market Arcade. CVB Executive Director Richard Geiger said he expects to finalize a contract with the county in the next week and then will meet with the commission's board to come up with an operational strategy.

"There are decisions to make on how to structure it. We need someone to run it. We need to strategize on how to get the most we can out of the $150,000," Geiger said.

Established by Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra in 2002, the commission had been headed by Mark L. Stricklin, who departed for a similar post in Alabama last fall. Under Stricklin's guidance, the commission is credited with bringing $7 million in film and media projects to the local economy for a total investment of less than $500,000.

The commission's credits include big-screen hit "Bruce Almighty," in which Buffalo starred as the backdrop for the film. Last summer "Poultrygeist," a horror-musical due out this year, was shot in Buffalo. The city also hosted MTV's "Sorority Life," and "Fraternity Life" series.

The area also hosted more than 100 other media projects, including a laundry list of television commercials, TV shows, independent films, documentaries and still-photography shoots.

Cindy Abbott, co-chair of the commission's volunteer board of directors, said the hope is to pick up where Stricklin left off.

"Just when we were at the tipping point to do great things, the county's economic crisis came along. Now that our funds have been re-established, we can build on what we have. We're not starting from scratch by any means," Abbott said.

While the film office has been without a staff since Stricklin's departure, its Web site has continued to get hits from those looking for project locations. The site continues to direct inquiries to the BNE, but for the past few months, all calls and e-mails have been redirected to Giambra aide Tim Clark.

"We've been able to point people in the right direction and get them hooked up with locations, crews, whatever they need," Clark said.

The commission's online library of filming locations in Erie and Niagara counties and across Western New York also has continued to provide one-stop shopping.

"In a way we were lucky we didn't get a call for a Hollywood blockbuster, although I'm sure we would have figured out a way to accommodate them," Clark said.

Several projects that scouted the area in 2005 are continuing to show interest.

Among them is "Lockport," a feature film about a young hockey hotshot, with a budget in the $5 million to $7 million range.

"Savages," a $10 million production with a Buffalo-specific script about an elderly man who moves from Arizona to a Western New York nursing home to be near his children, also is pending.


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