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Buffalo on the big screen 'The Savages,' filmed in Queen City, debuts at Sundance festival

Buffalo's fair image flashed across the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival Friday night.

It's a flash of fame that Erie County Film Commissioner Tim Clark hopes will not be fleeting.

Clark was in Park City, Utah, for the debut of "The Savages," starring Rochester native Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, which is set in Buffalo and was partially shot here last spring.

The film was screened at the Eccles Theatre, one of the largest at Sundance and usually reserved for the biggest budget films with the grandest stars and best buzz.

By being where the action is, Clark hopes to capitalize on the high-profile nature of the event to raise the profile of Buffalo and the region among independent filmmakers scouting locations for future movies. The Sundance festival, which was created by movie star and director Robert Redford, is often a key springboard to success for independent films.

"Word is spreading quickly throughout the industry that Buffalo is really a special place and that it's really economical to shoot in New York State," Clark said by phone only moments after touching down outside Park City.

"What's even neater is the fact that everybody had taken an eye toward Buffalo for its pristine architecture and its natural resources, like Niagara Falls and Lake Erie," he added.

"The Savages," Clark said, features some scenes that were shot along Delaware Avenue, the Niagara Thruway near the Peace Bridge, various neighborhoods on the West Side as well as at Niagara Falls and a hotel near the cataracts.

"The Savages" tells the story of an elderly man, Larry Savage, who moves to Buffalo to be closer to his estranged adult children. As the dark comedy unfolds, the son, played by Hoffman, and daughter, played by Linney, are faced with the legacy of their upbringing and the realities of family responsibilities.

Tamara Jenkins, the director of "The Savages," joined the principal actors for the film festival showing.

"When she was filming in Buffalo, I drove her around a lot in my car showing her the sights and sounds of Buffalo," Clark recalled.

Clark, who was invited to the film festival by state Film Commissioner Patricia Swinney Kaufman, is participating in the New York Lounge, a venue on Main Street in Park City that plugs New York as a great place to shoot movies.

"This is definitely good publicity for our city and a good economic infusion into our economy, an investment into our film future, as the word is spreading about New York State and Buffalo, in particular," Clark said.

"Since the tax credit program kicked in two years ago, we've seen a marked increase in inquiries from filmmakers, mostly independent filmmakers who are not connected with a studio," Clark said. "That's kind of the meat of the industry right now."

Clark plans to be at the Sundance festival all week -- a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

"I'll spend the rest of the week talking to producers, directors, actors and actresses about coming to Buffalo, and just selling what we have," he said. "It's almost like a trade show, but a lot more glitzy, I guess."


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