How Buffalo FilmWorks helps bring movies to life

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Off an assuming road, at the corner of Babcock and Dorothy Street, sits an old railcar manufacturing plant that dates back as far as 1857. Some of the tracks still line the floor.

“We’ve finished four stages now, since then we only had one stage done, and we were doing the movie ‘Bashira,’” Jennifer O’Neill, co-owner of Buffalo FilmWorks, said.

The “then” O’Neill is referring to is 2018. That’s when the motion picture film studio started its story. It was a happy accident, after a business venture didn’t go as planned.

“There were things that just came online,” George Pittas, co-owner of Buffalo FilmWorks, said. “Like the first thing was, our first movie, they needed a cyc wall, we were like ‘yeah sure we can.’ Then they as soon as they left and we were Googling cyc wall.”

For reference, that’s a green screen like meteorologists use.

“The stage is 828 feet long, 94 feet across and 39 feet to the truss line, which is gigantic,” Pittas said.

It’s a game changer for Buffalo. Pittas says it is one of the largest soundstages in the world. The hope was to have to have it filled with people and sets already.

“Supply chain issues are the biggest thing that held us back,” Pittas said.

But Buffalo FilmWorks has already made such a name for itself, so the waiting game is just drumming up more anticipation. Since 2018, Buffalo FilmWorks has assisted bringing 13 films to the silver screen.

“We were kind of shocked to see what happened,” O’Neill said. “The movies just kept coming and coming. So the more movies that came, the more we kept expanding. Whatever they asked for, we just kept expanding.”

Calls are always coming in for more roles. Stage 4 is now topic of those conversations.

“You could build anything here,” O’Neill said.

And during any season.

“I have seen soundstages all over the world, but I have never seen anything quite like this magnitude,” Buffalo-Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark said. “I think it bodes well for the future of Western New York, but it also, it is going to be a great piece of the puzzle solved.”

That puzzle includes a trained set of movie crew folks, an environment that’s enticing for large motion picture studios, and beyond. Clark say the space is big, bold and secure.

“They would typically come here, shoot a little of the movie and then head back to New York City to film the rest of the movie,” Clark said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Clark says the calendar is getting booked up fast for shoots in the final quarters of the year, and the beginning of next. The word is out — there is no place like Buffalo.

“It’s the people, the network, where if you don’t know the person who owns the house you want to shoot in, you know somebody who knows that person who does,” Clark said.

As for Buffalo FilmWorks, Stage 4 is not the finale either. Pittas says every inch of the property will one day have a new use.

“There’s another building here, which we will work on next, and that will be turned into offices and apartments,” Pittas pointed.

With three other stages ready, it’s only a matter of time before the lights are back on, illuminating some of Hollywood’s biggest names.