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TV Shows and Films Set in NJ Can Spell Big Payday for Tourism Industry

Welcoming the Film Industry

Gorelick says more than 100 reality shows shoot in New Jersey each year, and his staff of five doesn’t discriminate. Their job, he says, is not to “act as arbiters of taste” or fight with municipalities like Hoboken or Berkeley Township that have balked at granting permits to productions like “Snooki and JWoww” that they feared would be disruptive. Instead, he’s charged with scouting municipalities that will go out of their way to accommodate film crews. For example, both Newark and Jersey City have allowed shoots in City Hall and have been flexible when production companies couldn’t provide much advance notice or when they’ve run over schedule.

Still, he faces financial limitations given the fact that the commission’s modest budget has stayed flat under the state department’s Business Action Center and is likely to remain so, although there’s a contemplated transition into the NJ Sports & Exposition Authority. He also lacks the ability to offer much in the way of state-funded economic incentives because two years ago Trenton lawmakers failed to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of the Garden State Film and Digital Media Job Act, which would have added $40 million in additional annual tax credits to the $10 million program.

The current economic incentive program, which sunsets in fiscal 2015, offers a 20 percent tax credit to crews producing feature-length films, documentaries, or TV projects intended for national release. Despite the fact that New Jersey is relatively unusual in that its credits apply to both “above-the-line” payments to primary personnel like actors, producers, and screenwriters and to “below-the-line” expenditures for equipment rentals, catering, and stipends to remaining cast and crew, surrounding states offer as much as 30 percent for either above- or below-the-line expenses.

Though Gorelick says it’s cheaper to shoot in New Jersey than New York and that filmmakers could save money here by applying state tax credits to almost all production costs, New York -- and by extension, Brooklyn -- is pushing its way toward dominance in the national run to win lucrative film and TV contracts. As a beneficiary of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, Brooklyn can offer qualified film and TV crews a fully refundable 30 percent tax credit for below-the-line expenses along with a relatively new 35 percent post-production credit and free co-marketing opportunities with New York City’s Made in NY film and TV office.

This year, with the help of the state’s annual $420 million budget for film and TV incentives, New York City has grabbed “The Tonight Show” from its 40-year home in Los Angeles and has lured “America’s Got Talent” to its shores from across the Hudson River in Newark. And in the closing credits of Boardwalk Empire, producers thank exactly two entities: New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development and Made in NY.

Tara Nurin is a freelance journalist based on the Camden waterfront. Since leaving a ten-year career as a TV news reporter in 2005, she’s worked as a national columnist, city editor, features reporter, publicity director and documentary producer. The award-winning reporter has lived all over the world and is fluent in Spanish and French.

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