“The ultimate goal is that Jersey City will be number one in the state,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in October 2013 on the subject of hosting film and TV shoots. At the time, Jersey City ranked seventh. “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.”
This week, just over one year later, Fulop announced the launch of FilmJC.org, a website for filmmakers.
“The website literally is a one-stop-shop navigation tool for anybody who’s looking to do a film production in Jersey City,” he says. “What happens in most cities is that the production company is tasked with running from office to office and trying to piece together a very tough permitting process.”
FilmJC.org features streamlined, online permits, as well as a location library and a resource center.
“It’s been an obstacle navigating the [permit] process, as is the case in most New Jersey municipalities,” says Fulop. “So recognizing that, ultimately, this is a big driver of jobs and, ultimately, in economic impact as people spend money, it’s a good place to invest money.” The price tag for the website so far is $2,600. A representative for the administration says the investment will be recouped after 10 minor film permits, or five major ones, are submitted.
Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission, says the city’s efforts have been fruitful. “This is an administration that came to us before we came to them … to discuss wanting to increase production in the city and asking what could be done to accomplish that,” he says. “Filmmakers go where they’re wanted.” Gorelick says the city administration’s changes in policy send “a powerful message” to the film industry.
According to Gorelick, Jersey City offers a variety of elements filmmakers look for when scouting locations. He says aesthetics are considered to see if they’re in line with the script, adding that the city offers “modern, old [and] urban” locations. City and community cooperation is key as well, “particularly if it’s a complex project requiring special effects,” he says.
Finally, some productions search for locations within a certain proximity of New York City. “If you film within 25 miles of New York City, you don’t have to pay transportation time to the crew,” Gorelick says, “so that’s sometimes a consideration as well.”
The website is a work in progress, but Fulop aide Domenick Bauer estimates that the city has hosted 1.5 times as many film productions compared to this time last year due to its policy changes. Final numbers will be released by the New Jersey Commission on Motion Picture & Television next year.
“It’s a difficult enough proposition to make a movie, so you mitigate that by working in a location where there’s flexibility and support,” explains Gorelick of filmmakers.
“Cities like L.A. and New York are some of the few that have done what we’re doing now,” says Fulop, “so it’s good company for us to be in.”