By Madeline Orton
“The Sopranos.” “Garden State.” “Cake Boss.” Film and TV projects bring more than just attention to New Jersey. They bring an influx of cash. But with hundreds of municipalities in the state and several film-friendly states in the region, courting film companies is work. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop believes he’s found a way to make his city stand out from the crowd.
“We’ve had a very cumbersome process in place — a lot of paperwork, a lot of city agencies, a lot of roadblocks, a lot of costs,” explained Fulop. “So we’re trying to streamline that in order to attract more people doing productions here. … The ultimate goal is that Jersey City will be number one in the state.”
Now seventh in the state, behind cities like Newark and Montclair, Fulop has introduced an ordinance that would make the city more inviting for filmmakers.
The proposed Jersey City Film Ordinance establishes one point of contact for film permitting and consolidates the number of steps required to receive various permits. It also includes the development of a website featuring a library of locations available for filming.
New Jersey has long been a popular destination for film productions. Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, sees many reasons for the state’s allure.
“In terms of New Jersey, we have a lot of advantages because we have a great talent pool,” said Gorelick. “We’re a small state, very compact, but we have a lot of different types of terrains. … And generally speaking, our cities and towns are very approachable, and they enjoy having motion picture and television work.”
The State Film Tax Credit, which is set to sunset in 2015, also helps draw production companies to New Jersey.
“Our program allows for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to issue $10 million of tax credits a year,” said Gorelick. “So a production company comes to the state … and they can get a 20 percent tax credit on whatever they spend. They have to spend it here in the state, of course.”
The most recent reports show production companies brought $84 million into the state in 2011, including money spent on area lodging, catering and equipment rentals. But some residents don’t welcome the added congestion filming brings.
“Sometimes it can be a nuisance and people have expressed that,” Fulop acknowledged. “We’re going to try to make people aware early on to mitigate that, but it’s been pretty positive feedback.”
Fulop hopes the economic boost for Jersey City will make occasional inconveniences worthwhile.
“The increased revenue helps every single resident here ultimately from a budget standpoint,” he said. “I feel comfortable in saying that if we look back a year from now, that we’ll have made progress just because of basic policy changes and a culture change.”
To reach number one will mean an investment of $7,000, but seeing Jersey City on the silver screen will be priceless.