KINGSTON—Mary Stuart Masterson has plans—big plans—in Ulster County.
The actress and director hopes to open a Kingston-based company next spring that will serve as a center for film production and hub for creative types to make their ideas a reality.
Masterson, whose credits include the role of Idgie Threadgoode in the 1991 film “Fried Green Tomatoes,” said on Tuesday the project, Stockade Works, will be backed by several unnamed investors and steered by advisers like Sundance and AMC.
In recent days, Stefan Reinhardt, a co-head at AMC Studios, praised Masterson’s vision for the region.
“At AMC, we’re always looking for locations that allow for efficient production,” he said.
“The proposed plans for Stockade Works includes educational programs, production facilities and an increase in incentives, which would help make the Hudson Valley a strong competitor versus other potential locations.”
Masterson, a Dutchess County resident, said in an email that the level of enthusiasm for the upcoming project is high.
“Clearly, there is a need and a desire for this to happen here (and) now. We are a region overflowing with creative class leaders who want to work where they live.
“That fact, coupled with a demonstrated need for jobs and urban renewal, makes Kingston the perfect place for this to happen,” she said, adding that its access to freeways, trains, big-box stores, hotels and “relatively inexpensive, large volumes of space” make it even more appealing.
According to Stockade Work’s developing website, the studio will be a “place where productions and a film crew boot camp is based, but also where the entire region comes to enjoy local food, beer, wine, and conferences, TED talks, Moth-style spoken word events, curated screening series and filmmaker events, maker bar, and countless seminars and workshops on everything from canning to 3-D printing.”
Masterson has been pushing county and state officials to make it easier for those with similar goals to bring their productions to the Hudson Valley.
A huge part of that is getting Ulster County included in a 10 percent state film tax credit program on qualified labor expenses incurred in counties that include Albany, Broome, Allegheny and Oneida.
In fact, the subsidy is available to 84 percent of Upstate counties to cover film-related costs, such as travel and lodging, outside the MTA zone.
Ulster has been excluded.
In recent years, a similar incentive went into effect in Georgia, making the state a major player in content creation and generating an economic impact of more than $6 billion last year, according to Gov. Nathan Deal.
Close to 250 productions were shot in that state in 2015, representing $1.7 billion in spending in the state.
Masterson has been keeping her eye on what’s happening elsewhere and aims to make Ulster County a formidable contender in the industry.
“Though Kingston isn’t a bedroom community to New York City, it is being lumped in with the metropolitan area when it comes to the tax credit,” she said.
“New York City gets 30 percent, which is really good, but 40 percent makes us competitive with other states’ programs, such as Georgia’s, which currently draws long-term production away from our state. Long-term production, like TV series and bigger feature work, relies on cheap space, an available, skilled workforce and competitive tax incentives.
“If we get TV production up here, we are creating long-lasting jobs and a huge economic impact on the region. There is no way New York City will suffer with the Hudson Valley getting more production. New York City will always be one of the greatest cities in the world in which to film, visit and live. There is no way we will draw production away from counties farther Upstate.”
Laurent Rejto, the director of the Hudson Valley Film Commission, lauds Masterson for her plans in Kingston and her commitment to building a strong, production-ready region.
“It’s a tough topic to talk about because we don’t want to turn anybody away by talking about how we don’t have additional incentives and how there’s additional costs,” he said.
“Everyone who’s ever made a film here has been delighted. There’s something in the air here. The people are nice. The location fees are cheaper. Everything works out wonderfully.
“It’s just when the producers are looking at their line items, their budgets, and they see that there’s additional costs and it’s not being offset, that’s when you lose out. We just need to make that budget item a wash so we can compete fairly.”
As for the future Stockade Works, Rejto said he is delighted to see such entrepreneurial spirit.
“I’ve been waiting for 15 years for someone like Mary Stuart Masterson to move forward with the kind of project she is proposing. It’s a win-win for the entire Mid-Hudson Valley region.”