BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Several Hollywood movie studios, directors and producers have discovered Buffalo as a great location for shooting their films.
How did we capture Hollywood’s attention? Some of the credit belongs to the Buffalo film commissioner, who is committed to making the Queen City the “Tinseltown” of the East.
Buffalo hit a few home runs with Hollywood in the early 1980’s.
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”, an American drama film 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 being filmed here.
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 biographical film 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 30’s and 40’s, they realized they could do the whole thing here,” Clark said.
The film starred Chadwick Boseman and Kate Hudson.
“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 here.”
When the movie was a wrap, 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 and I know that sounds lofty or whatever, but I have to tell you, these are real real numbers,” Clark said.
Then, there was the John Krasinski horror movie, “A Quiet Place Part II” starring Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt.
“The opening sequence 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.”
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 me to play myself in the opening scene to give it what he called a “Buffalo flavor”.
Speaking of a “Buffalo flavor”, Hollywood actor and Buffalo native William Fichtner credits Tim Clark for convincing him to shoot his independent film, “Cold Brook”, here in Western New York and not 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 said. “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,” Fichtner recalled.
“The Cortland Main Street is pretty, but it’s not East Aurora,” the actor added.
Fichtner, who has had major roles in scores of films, says the tax incentives in the state give movie makers 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 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.
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, it’s truly a game changer,” he said. “You build it and they will come.”
There are several more movies that were filmed here, including Cabrini and Bradley Cooper’s movie ‘Nightmare Alley’, which will premier December 17.
And in case you didn’t know it, Bill Fichtner is a true Buffalo booster.
Don Postles is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1993. See more of his work here.