By Jodi La Marco
In 2015, Beth Davenport was in a colleague’s office when she noticed notes on his whiteboard left over from a previous meeting. “There were all of these ideas about bringing film here, and creating jobs and equal opportunities,” says Davenport. Her colleague explained that the notes came out of a brainstorming session with actress Mary Stuart Masterson, who was interested in bringing more film and television to the Hudson Valley. Davenport has a background in documentary film, commercial film, social justice, nonprofit management, and technology. “It was sort of like looking at a synthesis of all of the things that I care about or have worked on in the past behind his head,” she says.
Davenport and Masterson met and the match was clear. Together, the two co-founded Stockade Works, a non-profit dedicated to bringing film and television to our area, and training local residents for jobs within the industry.
The pair agreed that in order to encourage film companies to shoot here, the Hudson Valley would need to offer an enticing tax incentive. “We worked with local legislators and other people who cared about this issue, like the Hudson Valley Film Commission, and we got the tax incentive. That was very important. That was the first thing we focused on, because honestly, that is what’s going to lure productions here,” explains Davenport.
Our region is the perfect location for film and TV production. “There’s already a crew base up here. There is a lot of local talent who lives here. Writers, producers, actors, you name it,” says Davenport. Our close proximity to New York City also means that our area is poised to absorb the “overflow” coming from the city. “There are over 500 shows in production in the United States. New York City is at capacity. They have to turn people away, and that business typically goes to other states or other countries.”
Masterson and Davenport realized that an increased demand for movie and television production would result in more jobs, a crucial step in reinforcing our local economy. “People need well-paying jobs to stay where they live. The great thing about film, and predominately television, is it creates thousands of jobs,” says Davenport. “These are well-paying, middle-skilled jobs that have room for advancement. We can create sound work for people up here.”
But how does one “break in” to the movie and television industry? Stockade Works’ flagship program is its Boot Camp, which trains people for jobs in the field. “Our Boot Camp not only takes everyone through “Set 101”—what it means to be on set, what things are called, and what the chain of command is—it also gives them a lot of hands-on experiential learning to succeed during their first day on set,” says Davenport.
Stockade Works’ most recent Boot Camp was conducted in partnership with HBO. “Mary Stuart had been in conversation with HBO about bringing production to the Hudson Valley and working with Stockade Works.” When HBO decided to bring the limited series, “I Know This Much Is True” starring Mark Ruffalo, to the area, Davenport and Masterson saw an opportunity for collaboration. Boot Camp trainees were placed in paid positions on the production—a win-win for both HBO and Stockade Works.
“Our training programs are really unique because upon graduation, we offer job placement services as well as mentorship throughout the duration of their job,” says Davenport. “Upon graduation, we then start our job referrals. In this case of “I Know This Much Is True,” not only were people referred to HBO but to other incoming productions.”
Inclusivity is also a big part of Stockade’s mission. “It’s not a surprise that there are many, many white men working in film and television. It tends to be a word-of-mouth, referral industry. There are also other barriers to entry, whether it be unions or prohibitive working hours. We’re looking to remove all the barriers through our commitment to inclusion in our training programs and our job referrals. All you need is that first opportunity. Once you’re in the pipeline, people start referring you. We see a future with people from many different backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or age. We train people who are in their 60s looking for a career change. We train military vets looking for a career as well,” Davenport says. “Access and inclusion is really at the heart of what we do.”
Next year, Stockade Works will open The Metro, its new training facility in Kingston. In addition to trainings, the facility will provide opportunities for the surrounding community to learn about opportunities within the industry. “We are very excited to create a media and technology hub where people can learn more and see what’s going on,” says Davenport. “Not everyone knows what jobs are available in film and television. We’ll have the ability to have screenings where we feature different departments speaking about what they did on a particular film, or host a make your own music video day.”
Stockade is presently in talks with RUPCO—the project’s developer—regarding the community engagement component of the project. According to Davenport, ensuring that the facility serves the needs of the area residents is an important piece of the puzzle. “Our goal is to have a hub that is open to the community,” Davenport says.
A wonderful accident brought Beth Davenport and Mary Stuart Masterson together. Through Stockade Works, their community-focused efforts to bring film and television to the region is creating new economic and artistic opportunities in the Hudson Valley.