After Will Smith pulls film out of Georgia, Sen. Kennedy invites crew to Buffalo

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Will Smith attends the premiere of “Gemini Man” in Los Angeles on Oct. 6, 2019, left, and director Antoine Fuqua appears during a photo session in Los Angeles on July 12, 2015. Smith and director Fuqua have pulled production of their runaway slave drama “Emancipation” from Georgia over the state’s recently enacted law restricting voting access. The film is largest and most high profile Hollywood production to depart the state since Georgia’s Republican-controlled state Legislature passed a law that introduced stiffer voter identification requirements for absentee balloting. (AP Photo)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Could we soon be spotting Will Smith in the Queen City? Sen. Tim Kennedy wants to see it happen.

Recently, Apple Studios and producers Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua pulled production of the film Emancipation out of Georgia. This was in response to recent, controversial changes in voting laws in the state.

“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” Smith and Fuqua previously stated.

Sen. Kennedy has written a letter to Smith, Fuqua and Apple Studios, urging them to consider Buffalo as a place to pick up production.

In his letter, Kennedy not only touched on the recent films that have utilized the local region, but New York’s voting laws and reforms, as well.

“Buffalo and New York State stand ready to roll out the red carpet for Westbrook Inc, Fuqua Films Inc, and Apple Studios. For years, New York has served as a beacon of hope, embracing progressive values and prioritizing inclusive policy, including comprehensive voting reforms that increase voter participation and accessibility, and encourage more New Yorkers to seize the opportunity to make their voices heard. Paired with its extensive film and production capabilities, our region and state prove to be an ideal backdrop for any production that truly puts people first, and invests in the future of our democracy by valuing the liberties of all Americans.”

Sen. Tim Kennedy

According to New York State’s Film Tax Credit Program, “production companies may be eligible to receive a fully refundable credit of 25 percent of qualified production costs and post-production costs incurred in New York State.”

Read Kennedy’s full letter to Smith, Fuqua and Apple Studios below:

Dear Mr. Smith, Mr. Fuqua, and Mr. Dentler,

In light of your joint decision to pull the production of your film “Emancipation” out of the State of Georgia, I write to urge the selection of Western New York for the completion of this project. New York State offers some of the most competitive film production tax credits in the country, and our region features a diverse offering of on-location production sites.

I applaud your decision to take a stand against Georgia’s discriminatory and anti-democratic changes to the state’s election laws. If we learned anything in 2020, it is that our goal should be to expand access to voting, not make it even harder. In New York State, that is precisely what we have done. We have expanded early voting days, made it easier for new voters to register, made voting by mail simpler, and are in the process of amending our state’s constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Additionally, we are examining new initiatives, such as my legislation to expand early voting by one week, as well as the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which I am proud to cosponsor. This legislation would establish “pre-clearance,” which would require local governments to seek the New York State Attorney General’s approval before moving forward on any election changes. We embrace democracy in our state, and respect the outcomes of elections regardless of who comes out on top.

As I stated, New York State’s Film Tax Credit is among the most generous and competitive in the nation. Under this program, production companies are eligible to receive a 25% fully refundable credit for qualified production costs and post-production costs. On top of that, projects in Upstate New York, including in Buffalo and its surrounding areas, are eligible for an additional 10% credit for labor expenses. Buffalo’s film industry continues to grow and thrive thanks to this tax credit, as well as our city’s plethora of diverse filming sites. Our location on Lake Erie provides easy water access, while our urban core offers some of the nation’s best examples of historic architecture. Likewise, in the surrounding areas more rural and suburban filming sites can easily be found. In just the past few years, major productions such as “A Quiet Place Part II,” “Marshall,” and “The First Purge” have been filmed in our city. Indeed, Paramount is scheduled to film another production here this year, showing that our region has the resources and manpower needed to host multiple major films.

Beyond the benefits that Buffalo has to offer a film production like “Emancipation,” your presence here would be an energizing moment for our city. Buffalo is a majority minority city, with the Black, Latino, and Asian communities representing nearly 55% of the total population. Your presence here would help to create jobs, further grow our economy, and instill a strong sense of civic pride.

Buffalo is ready to roll out the red carpet for Westbrook Inc, Fuqua Films Inc, and Apple Studios, and we are excited to help you complete “Emancipation.” I strongly urge you to select Western New York for the competition of this major motion picture. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. Should you have any questions, I welcome your call.

Sincerely,

Timothy M. Kennedy

New York State Senator, 63rd District

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