A Movie Place
The production of A QUIET PLACE Part II brings new hope for WNY filmmakers
The film continues the adventures of the abbott family as they fight for survival. From left: Marcus (Noah Jupe), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt)
Images courtesy of paramount
“Have you ever heard of a place called Akron, NY?” That’s what a Los Angeles-based casting agent asked author and actress Alycia Ripley last spring. Having grown up in Western New York and recently returned, not only was she familiar, she didn’t have to go far to submit her materials to the production office of A Quiet Place Part II. From April through December 2019, the movie was shot in locations such as Olcott, Dunkirk, Lackawanna, Buffalo, Grand Island, and, of course, Akron, making it one of the largest film productions ever in the region.
Independent films shot in Buffalo like last year’s Cold Brook and Crown Vic, as well as studio productions like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows in 2015 or Marshall in 2016 have become more frequent in the past few years, steadily increasing the buzz of the region’s filmmaking industry. A Quiet Place Part II is a studio film, and its production scale has brought a higher profile to the area, with plenty of local job opportunities, and a boost to the economy that may have changed the landscape for filmmaking in Western New York.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures, directed by John Krasinski and starring Emily Blunt, the film opened in theaters nationwide on March 20. Seeing Western New York on the big screen may be exciting to residents, but to studio executives, casting agents, and other decision makers, the experiences and expenses of producing a film at this scale here have different optics.
“A studio film brings a huge amount of clout and confidence in this area for its diverse locations, ease of production, and use of regional talent,” Ripley says. She explains that it could put Buffalo higher on a location scout’s list for consideration, leading to more productions in the area. Armed with a credit in a studio production, she hopes this will help bring more consistent work to the region and to her as an actor. Growing up in the nineties, Ripley found Buffalo lacking in opportunities to build the career she wanted. Chances to participate in union productions meant having to fly to New York City and Los Angeles. “I knew I had to leave as a kid. I wish I didn’t,” she says. “I always believed the region was an untapped resource for studio films.”
Film Commissioner Tim Clark has long held the same belief. Visiting scouts and production teams are often surprised by the region’s deep inventory of styles and easy access to diverse locations. “And then, all of a sudden,” Clark says, “they start adding days.” Those production days started adding up fast for A Quiet Place Part II, which finally topped out at forty-seven production days in the region. For Western New York, that’s an economic impact estimated to be almost $4 million. According to Clark, the estimate includes about 250 local people hired, nearly 12,000 hotel room nights booked, plus 2,700 additional nights at other rental properties, adding up to more visitors than most conventions that come here.
“These are staggering numbers to the local economy,” Clark says. He emphasizes that they’re still tabulating the final amount and he expects the total to grow. “This is a business that a few years ago was nonexistent, and now you have hundreds of people making their living shooting movies.”
Architectural inventory is not the only reason the regional film industry is likely getting a boost. Another is the New York State Film Production Tax Credit, which gives a forty percent rebate to productions filming outside of New York City. Tax programs like these have also fostered the production industries in other states, especially in Georgia. Local filmmaker Kyle Mecca crowdfunded his first feature, Dwelling, in 2014 and the tax credit made it financially viable. As someone making his living shooting movies, Mecca knows the subsidy is what gets studios here. “There’s so many factors into why films come here,” Mecca says. “You might come here for the tax credit, but you stay because of the people.”
When A Quiet Place Part II did stay, Mecca was one of the local people hired as crew. “It was a unique experience because you’re on studio level,” he says. “It’s funny, though, because in other aspects, filmmaking is always filmmaking.” For him and other professionals like Ripley, being part of the crew was a chance to learn and improve and an opportunity to do work they love while building more opportunities for the future. “It’s a reality check,” he says, but concedes that the region has a ways to go before becoming the Hollywood of the Northeast. “But maybe we’re not as far off as we think.”
According to Clark, the people are the secret weapon of landing a studio production in the area. While there’s always a bit of novelty to a film being shot in your hometown, he insists the work ethic and the character of the crew and the residents is an intangible benefit. “It just blows people away that people here are so nice and so caring for one another,” he insists. “If you’re coming from out of town, you really appreciate it very quickly, because that kind of friendliness and that kind of attitude doesn’t exist everywhere else. When these box office numbers come in, and this movie comes out, people are going to look at Buffalo in a much different way.”
Alycia Ripley shares this optimism, hoping Buffalo becomes the next Atlanta, with productions an everyday thing for the people and the economy. “It might be the right time,” she says. “Buffalo may have changed the right way for me, professionally, to stay.”