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LI business based at Stony Brook drops out of Start-Up NY

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett star in "Carol."

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett star in "Carol." Credit: The Weinstein Co. / Wilson Webb

A small business that helped produce the Oscar-nominated film “Carol” has dropped out of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s program of tax-free zones on college campuses for startups, officials said Thursday.

Killer Content Inc. had an office for about nine months last year in Stony Brook University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology building.

The company had planned to employ three people and invest $575,000 in the first year, according to its application for the Start-Up NY program.

Killer Content is the fourth Start-Up NY participant locally to withdraw from the 2-year-old program. Long Island still has 22 participants, the second most after Buffalo. The largest local contingent is at Stony Brook.

Killer Content CEO Adrienne Becker called Start-Up NY “a great program for the right company” but said the program’s required spending on technology “became impossible for the company to fulfill.”

She said Thursday, “The focus of the Start-Up NY program is first and foremost on technology, and Killer’s focus is first and foremost on creating content. At some point, it became clear that the program just wasn’t the right fit for us.”

Becker added: “We did not receive tax-free benefits.”

Start-Up NY participants do not pay state and local taxes for up to 10 years. Their employees don’t have to pay state income taxes for as long as 10 years.

A Killer Content division, Killer Films, was one of the producers of “Carol,” the 2015 film that starred Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as lovers in 1950s New York City. The actresses were both nominated for Oscars.

Killer Films was started in 1995 by Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler. They have taught in Stony Brook’s graduate film program in Southampton and Manhattan.

In 2014, the pair merged their Manhattan-based Killer Films with Becker’s Glass Elevator Media of Los Angeles to form Killer Content. On Thursday, Becker said the company would “absolutely continue” its involvement with Stony Brook’s filmmaking program.

Killer Content employed three people in New York State in July 2014 and hoped to add another 18 within five years, according to its Start-Up NY application obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law. The company also planned to spend $1.5 million on its Stony Brook office over five years.

In the application, Becker said the Start-Up NY program would give Killer Content access to Stony Brook engineers, creative writers and digital filmmakers. “As Stanford [University] seeded a disruption in technology companies, we believe we can be a partner to Stony Brook to disrupt the business and art of digital content.”

Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said Thursday, “As Killer Content moves in a different direction, we wish them the best, and continue in our efforts to engage companies in Start Up NY.”

Fourteen businesses, out of 186 that Cuomo has publicly identified as participating in Start-Up NY, have withdrawn from the program, according to Empire State Development, the state agency that runs Start-Up NY.

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