October 5, 2022

Fantasy…reality: NJ continues to bolster film assets, adding studios and production facilities that could reshape the industry in the state

As he approached a building in a rustic French village, Steven Gorelick described it as stunning. …

It’s amazing where a Hoboken warehouse can take you.

Gorelick, CEO of New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, took part in one of the many recent tours he has taken to film and television studios and production facilities in New Jersey. It was transported using green screens belonging to Cobalt steps in Hoboken.

“It was remarkable to me what their equipment can do,” he said. “You really understand that you can make a movie anywhere, without ever leaving a warehouse.”

Champions of New Jersey’s potential to rival Hollywood — Gorelick and others — have long begun praising the Garden State by listing its varied landscapes: beaches, mountains, farmland and more.

Well, he still has all of that. But the industry wants French villages, apocalyptic cityscapes, or whatever setting a warehouse-turned-studio in New Jersey can transform into.

And that’s not all. The industry wants costumes, props and equipment to go along with the special effects.

That’s what New Jersey added as complementary pieces to other necessary building blocks, such as studios and production facilities, according to Gorelick. Over the past year, he said, New Jersey has added three studio complexes and a host of other industry businesses.

He will always praise the state’s outdoor filming locations. But most film and TV productions can only do so many shots of a beach. Especially when it rains.

“Having the suit is nice, but you definitely have to have the studios,” he said. “If you have a TV series that runs 22 episodes, shot over several months, you need to have sets that you can access at any time.”

There are more studios, more supporting infrastructure already on the way in New Jersey, Gorelick added. Meanwhile, his organization recently reported that overall film production spending in the state exceeded half a billion dollars in a still-pandemic-stricken 2021. That record year is on course to be broken in 2022, Gorelick said.

New Jersey Economic Development Authority executives attribute much of that growth to the movie and television tax credit that Governor Phil Murphy signed into law in 2018 and subsequently expanded. Darryl Isherwood, who serves as head of the film and digital television sector at NJEDA, said that before the decision, sector revenue was around $70 million.

“The (growth since then) has happened without any of those big New Jersey studios, and just a number of smaller and midsize studios,” Isherwood said, adding that the numbers could “easily hit $1 billion.” several years from now, as more and more bigger studios come online.

NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan added that building studios is key to “creating long-term, sustainable jobs in the industry.”

“It’s great when Steven Spielberg films ‘West Side Story’ in Paterson (and Newark),” he said. “We love it. We couldn’t wish for this more. But these types of assignments come and go for technicians working on film, for craft service providers, security guards, lighting technicians, electricians – overwhelmingly union jobs, by the way.

Therefore, if the goal is to have an industry with family careers, as Sullivan described it, more studios will have to be built.

And, to maintain the steady regime of work in the sector that is sought after in the state, there is also a need to put more effort into the workforce development programs.

“That way, when the call goes out, the talent is available,” Sullivan said.

Heads of state are convinced that the resources spent on training the local workforce and business incentives are worth it. They point to the content boom that has been going on for years on traditional mediums and streaming services, which is fueling increased demand for media production every year.

Netflix and Fort Monmouth

After rumors and rumors, netflix officially bid earlier this year for what could become New Jersey’s largest media production facility.

The offer was for a plot at Fort Monmouth, a disused US Army base. While it’s unclear whether the agency reviewing the various bids submitted for the site will select the streaming giant, Steven Gorelick of the New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission said it could be “huge” for the state’s infant industry if that were to happen.

“It was an old army base, and when you decommission a base like this, it has an effect on the economy of an area – with everything based on the presence of this base and the functions that take place there,” he said. . “It’s like building a whole new military base, with the potential for hundreds or thousands of people to work there.”

Details are slim at this time, but the bid reportedly offered to build a mix of sound stages, post-production facilities and filming spaces on the nearly 300-acre plot.

“It’s a Hollywood-sized studio complex — and, really, bigger,” Gorelick said. “So you can imagine how this will affect employment in the area and the surrounding economy.”

“There will be peaks and valleys in the future,” Sullivan said. “But, with the demand for a variety of content around the world, it will be a steady growth driver. We want to make sure we get our fair share — and more — here in New Jersey. »

It is impossible for New Jersey to build too much studio space or invite too many film production companies to meet this demand. As soon as a new studio is built today, Gorelick said, its calendar is filled with projects for at least the rest of the year.

“We had a huge influx of production, with an array of (TV and feature) projects,” Gorelick said. “We have big productions here now, medium and small – all of it.”

If you count TV series and streaming service productions, Gorelick said there are a total of 30 notable projects featuring New Jersey in the credits. This number jumps to over 100 if you factor in content such as music videos and advertisements.

Some of these projects are breathing new life into the facilities, including the more than 40-year-old Meadowlands Arena, which became a filming location for a spin-off series based on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Along with this are the new businesses in the area. One of them is Phiphen Picturesan independent film and television production company which is opening a center in Englewood Cliffs for post-production work in August.

The presence of a facility like this, which another Gorelick visited, is a testament to the companies recognizing that there is plenty of room to grow New Jersey’s movie scene.

And, like these new state-of-the-art facilities, it harbors potential that may not be so evident from the outside.

“When you see the 70,000 square foot stage space of something like Caven Point (per Cinemalease Studios, the largest motion picture studio in the state), the sheer size of these facilities can be overwhelming,” Gorelick said. “To someone on the outside, you might just see it as vast, cavernous, empty spaces – but, to someone in the industry, these buildings are a thing of beauty.”