BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Murphy revives the film tax credit. Now what?

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Tom Bentey owns Suburbanite Productions and makes corporate videos and films, like the critically acclaimed “At the Jersey Shore.” Bentey welcomes New Jersey’s new law that gives tax incentives to creators who make TV, film and digital media content in New Jersey.

“It’s a great place to showcase. We have a lot to offer here. There’s so much cultural diversity. There’s so much location diversity. Why not take advantage of it? If it’s implemented the way that it’s been implemented in Georgia and Louisiana it could be a win-win for both content creator like myself and also the great state of New Jersey,” said Bentey.

The Garden State is competing with at least half the country that offers tax breaks, including New York where the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” went to film instead of Asbury Park when former Gov. Chris Christie said cut to New Jersey’s incentives.

This week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act into law. It’s a five-year tax credit program that caps incentives at $75 million a year for film and TV productions and $10 million for digital. It also includes a 30 percent tax credit for TV and film and 20 percent for digital media, and even higher in eight Central and South Jersey counties. To qualify, much of what is made must be bought here or paid to New Jersey workers or companies.

“The film and digital media industry is poised to become a dynamic part of New Jersey’s economy, and that will create good-paying union jobs and countless residual benefits to the economy,” said Murphy.

While there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this new law, the state Office of Legislative Services says for various reasons New Jersey stands to lose $425 million over the 5-year span of these incentives.

“It’s basically a give out to the special interests. Money that could be much better spent, especially on things like education, special education, things like that. The Office of Legislative Services in a financial analysis they said we can’t even quantify it,” said Sen. Joe Pennachio.

But, filmmaker Bentey says he’s seen the tax incentives in action when he went to screen his film in Georgia two years ago.

“They were so amped over at what was going on there in terms of production because they have a great incentive for film makers and the place really was just exploding with content. I think that if we do that here we can definitely see an increase in filmmaking and we can bring jobs and revenue to the state,” Bentey said.

That’s what the New Jersey film industry has been yearning for in a state where it says filmmaking began.