Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, applauds during the State of the County address in Syracuse in a file photo. At right is Ryan Johnson, president and CEO of The Film House…
DeWitt, N.Y. – It was a former train station in Albany that first caught the attention of a film production company coming to the Syracuse area.
The Film House was interested in shooting part of a movie at the station, now known as Kiernan Plaza and owned by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The school runs a center there focused on smart cities technologies.
“So we started talking about their business plan, vision, the governor’s tax credits, etc., and we got them at hello,” said Alain Kaloyeros, CEO of the Nanoscale College.
New York’s film industry tax credits sparked the company’s initial interest in the state, he added. The benefits are the most generous in the nation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly shifted the company’s focus to Syracuse, where Cuomo was interested in spurring economic development.
“Initially, they weren’t interested in Syracuse,” Kaloyeros said. “The governor directed them there.”
State officials brought company officials to Onondaga County for a site visit. Kaloyeros said they “loved downtown Syracuse” as a potential movie location, because it can mimic New York City. And they were impressed with County Executive Joanie Mahoney, “who did a fantastic sales pitch on them,” Kaloyeros said.
The effort culminated last week with Cuomo’s announcement that The Film House would be the first tenant at the Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries at Collamer Crossings Business Park.
The Film House formed in 2013. The company chose New York as its base over other states that offer tax credits for film production, like Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi.
The firm’s new headquarters will be at the hub, where it will also produce and film movies, complete post-production work like editing and special effects and work on distribution of its projects.
The company plans to shoot three movies in the Syracuse area this year, including a romantic comedy, an action thriller and a drama, said Ryan Johnson, president and CEO.
Johnson and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney will announce plans for one of the films today.
Johnson, 39, already has more than 20 movies to his credit as an independent producer.
He got his start in show business as a stunt double for the green Power Ranger in the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” TV show. The gig lasted two seasons.
“I was the punching bag,” he said. “That was my first one. My qualifications were that I actually fit in the suit perfectly.”
He later worked at Mandalay Pictures, which has produced films like “Sleepy Hollow” and “Enemy at the Gates.” He has spent his filmindustry career to date in the Los Angeles area.
Johnson began as an intern and worked his way up until he was managing entire productions, said Kent Purdy, vice president of acquisitions at The Film House.
“He did it the hard way and the right way,” Purdy said.
Johnson was instrumental in the production of a 2010 movie called “Chasing 3000,” said Bill Mikita, who wrote the film. Mikita based the story on a road trip he and his brother took in the 1970s to try to see Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit.
“If it wasn’t for Ryan, the movie wouldn’t have gotten made,” Mikita said.
Johnson brought extensive industry contacts and relationships to the table. He was able to get Ray Liotta involved in “Chasing 3000″ through a connection with the actor’s manager, Mikita said.
Johnson also has hands-on experience in the business, Mikita added. He knows good stories and the day-to-day grind of production.
“He’s not someone who just shows up on set once in a while,” Mikita said.
Marilyn Marchetti is working with Johnson on a psychological thriller called “Oceanside Place.” Marchetti is the film’s writer and a producer.
A third producer on the movie, Michael Glick, has a lengthy Hollywood resume, including work on films like “The Godfather Part II” and “Rocky V.”
Marchetti said Johnson is honest and ethical. She described him as a mentor.
“Ryan has that talent, that sense of balance that a producer needs to keep everything going,” she said. “He’s just careful about what he does and says. He won’t say something if it’s not true!