Murphy touts revitalized film tax credit program

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

In a quiet suburban area of Cresskill are signs pointing to the set of NBC Universal’s show “The Enemy Within.” It’s the first production to begin filming in the state since the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act was renewed in July.

Warner Brother’s movie, ‘The Joker,’ is also currently filming in Jersey City and Newark. Storefronts and venues like the Paramount Theater are getting a Gotham makeover.

“Welcome to New Jersey, where film production is back and doing well,” said Matt Corman, executive producer of ‘The Enemy Within.’

From 2006 to 2016, a beginner $10 million-a-year tax credit program was in place, but industry officials say money eventually ran out. When it came time to renew the program, former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it saying it was an “… expensive bill that offers a dubious return for the state in the form of jobs and economic impact.”

“We haven’t had an economic incentive of that kind and our neighboring states all have them,” said Steve Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission.

Gorelick says now with the new $75 million a year program — which is set to last five years — dozens and dozens of companies are reaching out.

“A company here working in North Jersey would get a 30 percent tax credit for all their qualified New Jersey expenses. If they’re in South Jersey, in certain counties, you can get up to 35 percent. So that’s the program. It’s a very attractive program to the industry,” Gorelick said.

The governor says that means an economic boost for the state. He pointed to ‘The Enemy Within’ as an example, explaining the production is expected to spend over $50 million and bring in 300 jobs to New Jersey.

“The cast and crew will be catered by local restaurants, visit local stores, supporting small businesses right here in this community. And finally, I believe when people see us on their TV screens at home or in the movies, it will encourage them to want to come to see us for themselves,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

But critics of the tax incentive program say the benefits won’t outweigh the costs. While the Office of Legislative Services says it can’t predict how much revenue the tax incentives will generate, it does believe they it will have a negative fiscal net impact. It estimated it could cost the state up to $425 million all in all.

When the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, looked at the Massachusetts tax credit program, it found the bulk of the economic benefits go to non-residents, and most of the jobs created are only part-time.

“It’s not just bringing film and television projects, they’re kind of the hook, and what we’re doing is bringing bricks and mortar businesses. Yesterday I had a meeting with a visual effects company that wants to move to the state. We’ve been talking to studio developers who may want to come here, equipment houses, prop houses, that sort of thing. Those are permanent businesses, permanent jobs, so it’s all about that as well,” Gorelick said.

Earlier this month Jam Room Communications announced the opening of an audio and voice production studio in Howell.