In 2012, actress and director Mary Stuart Masterson moved fulltime to the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City. Before she knew the term “creative class,” Masterson recognized the region was home to writers, creative executives, and filmmakers; the area offered mountains, rivers, and cityscape locations; space was affordable; and the region was served by a train, an airport, and a major highway. Her motto became: “Make Local Work”.
With her business partner Beth Davenport, Masterson launched Stockade Studios (a for-profit production studio) and Stockade Works (a nonprofit education and training program for media and technology) in 2016 with the goal of creating a sustainable media economy in the Hudson Valley. They partnered with RUPCO, a local provider of affordable housing and community development programs.
Masterson’s research revealed to succeed as a media hub, the region needed a tax incentive, professional facilities, union support, and trained personnel – and set out to assemble these necessary ingredients. First, they organized support to expand the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit Program to 40%, making the Mid-Hudson Valley competitive with locations like Atlanta, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Next, they identified a vacant 70,000 square foot building in Kingston, NY1 in a designated arts district and a Qualified Census Tract, and were awarded a $1 million grant from NYS Regional Economic Development Council Initiative to acquire and renovate the facility. The total project budget is $12 million with a capital structure that uses Historic Tax Credits and New Markets Tax Credits, plus $2 million of debt capital. Opening in 2018, the building includes soundstages, equipment rental, post-production facilities, a screening room, event space, and office space.
The majority of jobs in film and TV are blue collar production jobs, and the region is already home to union workers who work in New York City but cannot afford to live there. Masterson is seeking to create a new union zone around Kingston (i.e. a designation used by union film projects to determine per diem rates, driving distances for crew members, and other factors that meaningfully affect the cost of production.)
Lastly, Stockade Works will work with local high schools and vocational schools, and run a boot camp to provide entry level experience, allowing students to fulfill the hard-to-meet prerequisite of 800 on-set hours before sitting for the union test for studio mechanics. In this way, they plan to train a diverse workforce for the future of the entertainment industry.