Nation's first nano film school to launch in Onondaga County

Mar 5, 2014

The movie business is coming to central New York. With the help of some state tax incentives, the nation’s first nano film school, along with a film production company, will set up shop in suburban Syracuse.

"Now who would have ever figured? Hollywood has come to Onondaga. Right, you would have never guessed, but it has..."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Syracuse Tuesday evening announcing a new venture that will create the Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries. It’s part film school and part movie studio. The SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany will oversee the film school, and it will teach students computer generation imagery, animation and motion capture technology, all of which are a big part of movie making today.

Cuomo says a couple of state tax breaks worked together to bring the project to the Collamer Crossings Business Park in DeWitt.

“When you put up that START-UP zone together with the film tax credit, that is a powerful one-two," Cuomo said. "And that can start up a powerful cluster economy. And that is what you’ll see here.’

CNSE chief Alain Kaloyeros says 90 percent of movies are now produced on computers, and that’s where the connection to nanoscience comes in.

"Nanotechnology innovations in software, and computer chips and display, to do all the computer generated imagery, high resolution, 3D is all the innovation part and it’s all nanotechnology driven,” Kaloyeros said.

When students come to this first-in-the-nation nano film school, they’ll need practical experience. That’s where the Film House comes in. It’s a production company founded by Ryan Johnson that will move from California and become a tenant in the DeWitt hub, and then begin making movies. Johnson says moving to upstate New York simply makes a lot of economic sense.

"With 'New York’s Open for Business,' the tax situation, it’s like 35 percent, plus no taxes, plus cost savings, your savings on a budget for a movie would be 40 to 60 percent right off the top just by being here,” Johnson explained.

And students from the film school will work on productions. It’s that synergy that’ll makes this nano school different from other film schools, according to Johnson.

“But part of the curriculum of the school will be working on movies that are real movies, they are not student films," Johnson said. "So you’re kind of eliminating the student film section of it and going right into building a career.”

Cuomo says the move will create a cluster economy in a part of upstate New York that has been losing economic steam for a while. But he says that’s changed.

“And now the sky is the limit, because the arrows are pointed in the right direction," Cuomo said. "And there is no place in this country that has what we have in upstate New York. Every asset, every resource you could imagine, we have right here. And if you could pick a place to live and do business, you would pick upstate New York.”

Construction on phase one of the hub starts this spring. Johnson says he expects to make three movies this summer, and five to ten a year after that.