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Lights, camera, action ... Ninja Turtles!

Lights, camera, action ... Ninja Turtles! Fans cheer for stunt motorcyclists Monday as they ride along the Kensington Expressway before the filming of scenes for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2" was to being Monday night. The expressway will be closed each night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. through May 17. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

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Hours after the highway was closed and the giant lights along the Kensington Expressway turned Monday night into day, audience members opted for a different kind of seat on this first overnight of production for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.”

“Mommy, is somebody going to blow up the bridge?” asked 5-year-old Korey Burnett. The little boy held onto his mother’s hand as they stood on the Northampton Street overpass looking down on stunt crews preparing a fleet of Dodge SUVs for a night of pyrotechnics.

Elizabeth Stewart shook her head and smiled as she steered her son off the bridge and down the street toward their home.

“He begged to come see the lights,” Stewart said. “And now we’re going to bed.”

Not everyone was leaving the spectacle that would close 1.7 miles of inbound and outbound expressway between Elm Street and Route 198 every night through May 17.

Kim Smith of Herman Street stood nearby, looking at the bystanders watch the production preparation.

She had a theory about the blasts and booms that Buffalo Film Commission officials had warned of. “It may be louder than we thought, depending on the direction of the wind, but right now we are excited,” said Smith, 40.

“Just to know that our little Buffalo will be included in movie – losing sleep for two weeks – is worth it,” said Tracy Pettigrew, a Fruit Belt resident.

The midnight hour was slated to launch a rousing pyrotechnic show that was the subject of a press briefing early Monday evening.

“We want to make sure that no one is super frightened by the noise,” said Tim Clark, director of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. “Paramount has done a really good job on public outreach, but again, the first night we want to remind people.”

Sinclair Fabor, 54, said he would probably sleep through the blasts, which brought chuckles from 17-year-old daughter Jordan.

Rich Wall, director of operations for the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, called the two-week production schedule “the ultimate realization of what we do. To have a studio picture of this magnitude come in – even though it’s not the stars – it certainly brings the economic benefits that we’ve been striving for. I’m a fan of $7 million dollars plus coming to town.

“Half Shell Base Camp” was set up nearby at Humboldt Parkway and Northampton to accommodate the 200 people brought in by Paramount Pictures.

A catering truck, equipment trailer, porta-toilets, and one huge hospitality tent to keep workers warm, dry and fed also filled the area. With winds at one point of 32 mph and a misty rain falling, the temperature Monday evening felt a lot colder than the 54 degrees reported.

Reports from the scene hinted the pyrotechnic production activity would not likely get underway until past midnight, when dinner was to be served in the tent.

Included in the armada of support vehicles provided by Union Concrete & Construction Corp. of West Seneca was a water truck for wetting down the highway, even though the forecast called for showers throughout the night.

“The roadway looks better cinematically when wet,” noted Tim Clark, Buffalo Niagara film commissioner.

Carley Hill of Union Concrete & and Construction said her crew of 15 was eager for the extra work since Buffalo’s construction season is so short.

“Let’s just say I don’t have a lack of response when I ask who would like this extra work,” she said.

The firm is handling road-closing and detour signage around the Kensington Expressway, along with equipment to safely shut down the busy roadway. It was also handling cleaning up the 33 after shooting wraps every night.

“Every morning, after they’re done playing around on the highway, we’ll clean up their mess,” said Hill.

Buffalo businesses mixed with Paramount’s crews on the first night of filming on the Kensington. The production has hired 150 people locally and is using 150 vendors for everything from catering to replacing windshields from stunt cars. They’re happy for the work and thrilled to be part of the latest incarnation of their childhood heroes – in a half-shell.

Sterling Lee, owner of EM Tea Coffee Cup Cafe on Oakgrove Avenue, was asked by Paramount to provide his services.

Timothy Hall of Ink Spot printing on Jefferson Avenue said the production was keeping him busy too. “They’re not asking for five paper clips,” said Hall. “Their orders are in the hundreds.”

As soon as his shop was closed Monday, Hall would be heading down to a friend’s house on Humboldt to try to catch a glimpse of the action scenes being filmed.

“Of course. I’m a ‘Turtles’ fan, and so are my little daughters,” he said.

Lee said he plans to watch the production from his own second-floor porch.

“Whatever action is available I will see it,” said Lee, 30. “I was a Ninja Turtle for Halloween for four straight years. I was a big fan. I’m an ’80s baby at heart.”

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

  • lawrence river

    i think closing the road for almost 3 weeks is way too long.

    • http://www.redwoodforest.com This Is A Stick

      Considering it's only 7p to 6a, traffic impact is minimal anyway. If it gives Buffalo some exposure, some income from hospitality & other goods and services, as well as a positive light to film more movies in the future... it's worth it.

  • Jeff Wyngrski

    Ask the folks who saw Spider Man 2 shoot car scenes in Rochester - Once the special effects guys get done editing - You will not even recognize it. Im guessing this is just a stand in for an expressway outside of NYC. Just like Rochester was transformed to look like downtown NYC.

    Buffalo gains virtually nothing from this after the tax give backs are factored in.

    • http://www.redwoodforest.com This Is A Stick

      The only people who could tell it was Rochester were those who work downtown, or those who are very family with the downtown area. Same will be for here. You may recognize how it's the 33, but very few landmarks will be noticeable as they'll probably be edited out in post production (especially if people gawking are caught on camera as well).

    • Alan Baumgardner

      The givebacks amount to 30% on non-actor expenses. That is at the state level and has been given out in NYC for decades, so Buffalo and Erie County DO indeed gain a lot. 8.75% sales tax on $7M+ purchases. Bed tax on 3000+ room nights, far more than most conventions. Plus, if this comes out well, Buffalo will get many more projects of this nature. 150 local vendors. Total recoup of all police and fire expenses. Any other city would give their left one to get this, but Tim Clark got them to come here. Please learn, then comment.

    • Tim H

      Who cares if you can tell that it's Buffalo or not? That's not the point at all. The economic benefit to our city is the real winner.

      Also, please...PLEASE, educate yourself on what a tax incentive is. It is NOT cash money given to the movie studio. It IS a partial refund on taxes paid to New York State. In short, they will pay less taxes than they would have normally paid to the state, but more taxes than if they hadn't shot the movie in New York State at all. And trust me, without incentives...the ones offered by every state in the country, this movie would not have been shot in Buffalo, NYC, or anywhere else in our state.

      $7 million in business done in New York, thousands of hotel nights (and thus, bed tax revenue), and a validation that our community supports movie production on any scale.

  • Lamplighter12

    I'm glad to see there is still some part of Buffalo that is appealing to the outside world.

  • Jeff Wyngrski

    From The Rochesterian:

    New York’s film tax credit program costs $420 million a year. It’s a giant
    subsidy for the film industry and it doesn’t pay for itself through
    economic development.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo convened a tax commission to look at the state’s tax policies and make recommendations. Capital New York obtained a 137-page addendum
    to the commission’s report that blasts the film tax credit program. It
    was never published. But thanks to Capital New York’s Jimmy Vielkind,
    we can read it. Here are some notable excerpts:

    Under current law, film production and post-production
    credits are the state’s second most expensive credit and will cost
    approximately $420 million per year on average through 2019, after which
    they are scheduled to sunset. These credits are large compared to
    industry activity. Because they are refundable, they are akin to cash
    grants for film-making activities. This section recounts the history of
    New York’s film credit program and considers claims that the film credit
    “pays for itself.”

    To understand the significance of a credit equal to 30 percent of a
    film production’s operating costs, consider the impact a similar credit
    would have for other industries. Based on Internal Revenue Service data
    and analysis from the Department of Taxation and Finance, if a credit of
    the magnitude of the film credits were provided to taxpayers in other
    industries, it would eliminate tax liability for companies in most
    industries many times over.

    …it is a misnomer to call film credits refundable: payment will be
    made to the qualifying business even if it never paid any taxes and
    never will. The credit is essentially a spending program subsidizing the
    costs of producing films in New York. Payments to 31 firms in the film
    production industry were so large that they exceeded the entire tax
    liability of all 1,600+ firms in the industry in nine out of 10
    previous years. Thus, it is unlikely that the payments were truly
    refunding past payments of tax.

    …growth in the industry comes at the expense of higher taxes for
    other taxpayers or lower spending on state services and investments,
    possibly reducing activity in other sectors of the economy. There are
    also other problems with the credits. For example, many of the jobs
    involved in film production are temporary and the state can only
    maintain those jobs and the level of activity in the industry if it
    continues to offer the credits. Retaining the jobs could become more of a
    challenge if other states were to increase their credits and other
    incentives.

    This sums up why I was so critical of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 shoot in Rochester.
    People were inconvenienced for days. Businesses lost money and fell for
    false promises of reimbursement. The city didn’t charge any extra fees
    beyond cost to use public right of ways. The best part? Taxpayers paid
    for 30 percent of the spectacle.


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