The film and TV industry in New York State recently received some good news: According To Crain’s New York, the number of hour-long made-for-TV dramas filmed in New York increased by 37 percent this television season. While this is certainly bad news for Hollywood, it may be even worse news for New Jersey. Like New York, the Garden State used to offer a tax credit to film and TV productions that filmed in New Jersey and made specific commitments to local hiring. But the administration of Gov. Christopher Christie has thus far blocked efforts by the legislature to renew the tax credit when it ends next year.
News in 2011 that the tax credit might not be renewed caused several New Jersey-based TV productions, including the NBC drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which was partially filmed in North Bergen, to leave New Jersey for New York.
Still, officials with the state’s film and TV association say New Jersey is holding its own – despite the impending loss of the credit.
Not enough bang for the buck?
The tax credit had been instrumental in attracting several TV productions to Hudson County, including the NBC hospital drama “Mercy,” which was shot in Secaucus, and NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which filmed throughout the county but was primarily shot in a studio in North Bergen. (NBC cancelled “Mercy” shortly after the show’s production crew announced that it would leave its Secaucus-based studio for a studio based in New York. However, it’s likely another NBC show would have used the Secaucus studio had New Jersey’s tax credit program been renewed.)
After the film and television tax credit was suspended, both productions immediately fled to New York, which still offers its own tax incentive program.
New York is among 40 states and Washington, D.C. that offer economic perks to film productions that shoot in their jurisdictions, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Supporters of the credits argue that they produce jobs and support local businesses in the areas where filming takes place.
Actors Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, filmed scenes for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in Ramapo Mountain State Forest.
According to the MPAA, roughly 7,000 jobs were created in New Jersey through film productions in 2008, while state vendors and contractors reaped about $507 million in economic stimulus thanks to the film industry that same year.
Detractors of New Jersey’s film credits question these numbers and believe the state gave away more in credits than it got back in jobs and local spending.
The state legislature in Trenton has tried to keep the tax credit alive. Both the state Senate and Assembly passed bills that would offer 20 percent tax credits to television and film productions that shoot in New Jersey and meet set standards for hiring and local spending. The legislation would offer 22 percent tax credits for productions that film in the state’s Urban Enterprise Zones.
Thus far, these bills have gone nowhere.
New Jersey ‘still desirable’
“New Jersey still has a lot to offer the film and TV production community and it’s our job to market the state as best as we can with the resources we have,” said Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission. “The loss of the tax credit is a loss, but New Jersey is still a desirable place to film.”
Gorelick insists that New Jersey is able to compete with its neighbor next door – despite the loss of the tax credit – because the Garden State offers diverse and varied locations that can fit a broad array of film set needs. This, he said, helps offset the fact that film productions no longer benefit from the tax credit they would receive in New York.
Actors Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, for example, filmed some scenes for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in Ramapo Mountain State Forest with the cooperation of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry.
And the state has also benefitted from reality TV series.
“People may not realize it, but New Jersey is the reality TV capital if the country,” said Gorelick. “Most reality TV shows are filmed here, either in their entirety or in part, or have their post-production done here.”
New Jersey has also been the site of several small, independent film shoots in recent years, Gorelick added, which have helped to bolster the state’s film industry as well.
Several commercials have also been filmed this side of the Hudson River, he added, pointing to a recent Pepsi ad that singer Beyoncé Knowles filmed in Newark.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.