NY Lt. Governor Robert Duffy

Establishment of Empire Visual Effects puts Western New York in position to become a national leader in post-production

New York Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy came to Daemen’s International Center for Excellence in Animation in July to announce that New York State will support a partnership between Daemen and a start-up company, Empire Visual Effects, with a $4.5 million dollar grant.

NY Lt. Governor Robert Duffy
NY Lt. Governor Robert Duffy

The press conference, held in Buffalo’s Tri-Main Center, was opened by Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and Daemen Community Advisory Board member Howard A. Zemsky, and was attended by principals of Empire Visual Effects, local business and economic leaders, elected officials, and Daemen administrators and staff.

The new company will be located at the Tri-Main Center, and is fueled by a portion of the Buffalo Billion initiative announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Thanks to the vision of Governor Cuomo and his Empire State Development team in Western New York and New York City, Daemen and its private sector partners are well on their way to creating new high-paying employment opportunities right here in Western New York,” said Daemen President Gary A. Olson, Ph.D.

Zemsky, also Larkin Development Group Managing Partner, said, “Empire Visual Effects builds upon the strategies for prosperity laid out by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and the Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan, including innovation, workforce development, smart growth, and job opportunities for young adults.

“The success of Governor Cuomo’s expanded post production program helped bring this project to fruition and will allow it to succeed.”

Daemen officials and Empire Visual Effects principal Marcelo Gandola envision the new company as a hub for post-production work on major Hollywood movies, as well as lower-profile educational and industrial film productions. $1.9 million of the Empire State capital grant will go directly to the College for equipment. The funds will allow Daemen to develop a world-class visual effects training facility, with the software, hardware, computers, and infrastructure needed to train a new Western New York workforce in this industry.

The Visual Effects Certificate Training Program will be open to students with two-year associate degrees in technology and other fields, who hope to enter the visual effects industry, and will be offered only through Daemen College in partnership with its International Center for Excellence in Animation (ICEA).

Dr. Laura Watts Sommer, Chair of the Daemen Visual & Performing Arts Program said, “This program will be truly transformational and will produce precisely the kind of skilled workforce that is sought by postproduction companies here in Buffalo and throughout the United States.

“Through new articulation agreements with our community college partners in the region, the Daemen College Visual Effects Certificate Training program will provide the cornerstone for new visual effects and post-production jobs here in Buffalo.We are delighted to be working directly with private sector studios to help make this vision a reality.”

In addition to providing Empire Visual Effects with start-up capital, the Empire State Development grant will also give Daemen funds needed to operate its certificate program in visual effects. Students interested in the Visual Effects Certificate Training Program should contact Dr. Laura Watts Sommer, Chair of the Daemen Department of Visual & Performing Arts, at (716) 839-8359, or lsommer@daemen.edu.