A Mahwah teen is one of 25 selected by Prudential Financial Inc. for its 2023 Prudential Emerging Visionaries initiative.
As a winner, Mark Leschinsky, 16, will receive a $5,000 award, along with an all-expenses-paid trip with a parent or guardian to the financial services firm’s Newark headquarters for a three-day summit.
The April gathering will offer Emerging Visionaries coaching, skills development and networking opportunities with Prudential employees and other young leaders.
The program – now in its second year – recognizes young people age 14-18 for their fresh takes on how to address financial and societal challenges in their communities. According to Prudential, five of the awards went to projects focused on financial inclusion while 20 deal with societal issues.
The remaining 24 winners hail from Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, New York, Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Hawaii, Minnesota, Kentucky, Georgia, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Washington and Puerto Rico.
“The goals of our Emerging Visionaries program reflect Prudential’s overarching purpose: to make lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world,” said Chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey. “We applaud all of our honorees for their commitment to improving the lives of others and creating inclusive and thriving communities.”
The competition was established to create a more equitable filmmaking community, helping to eliminate and ease barriers – high submission fees and discrimination, among them – that young people often run into when trying to break into the film festival circuit. As a result, SWIF helps to offer a platform for young storytellers from underserved communities.
According to Leschinsky, “A story can’t exist without a storyteller. And to pave the way for a more inclusive, culturally accepting and equitable society, we need to hear more of the perspectives and viewpoints of storytellers from historically marginalized communities, especially youth.”
Emerging Visionaries is a collaboration between Prudential Financial and Ashoka, a leading social impact organization, with support from the Financial Health Network, an authority on financial health and longtime partner of The Prudential Foundation.
Winners were selected based on four main criteria:
The solution is innovative
It will create meaningful impact and can grow beyond the student’s community
It demonstrates a deep understanding of the issue it addresses
The student is passionate about making a change and inspiring others to take action
Since launching, Prudential said the initiative has grown to include more than 8,000 submissions. Applications for this latest round opened last September.
During the summit in Newark, taking place April 22-25, five winners will also have the change to present their ideas in a pitch-off. The grand prize winner of the event will win an additional $10,000 in funding, according to Prudential. The company’s employees will vote to choose the Employees’ Choice Award winner, who will receive an extra $5,000.
The commission says that Franklin, Hillsborough, South Bound Brook and Watchung have completed the multistep training and certification process and are designated as Film Ready Communities that are prepared to work with movie and television producers.
The Film Ready New Jersey program launched as a pilot in Somerset County this past September and is slated to expand statewide this spring. It marks the latest efforts to grow the ecosystem around the Garden State’s booming film and television production industry, allowing counties and towns to get in on the action.
“The State of New Jersey offers many advantages to the film and television industry, and cooperation is foremost among them. We are encouraging our cities and towns to welcome filmmakers with open arms, and enjoy the many important benefits to be attained when production crews come into your community,” said NJMPTVC Executive Director Steve Gorelick. “Partnerships with our municipal governments are vital to the state’s success.”
The NJMPTVC describes Film Ready New Jersey as a five-step certification and marketing program that educates municipalities on the basics of motion picture and television production, enabling them to effectively accommodate on-location filming and market their communities as filming destinations.
The “film-ready” designation provides an elevated platform so that communities can promote themselves as filming destinations to help connect with production professionals and liaisons across the state to create easier, faster and better access to nearby resources and location information.
Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson said that Somerset County is pleased to host the inaugural class of the program.
“Demonstrating the fantastic opportunities our diverse filming locations, local businesses, and proximity to major cities and transportation hubs offer film and television productions,” said Robinson. “I want to thank each of our municipalities who worked so hard to become Film Ready, and the NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission for choosing Somerset County to kick off this project.”
The commission says that municipal governments will be invited to participate in a one-day workshop, which is the first step toward certification, with representatives receiving training and guidance from industry professionals, local mayors and NJMPTVC staff to learn about the economic impact, opportunities and process of bringing film production to their communities. The participants will learn about the necessary steps required to be certified as a Film Ready Community.
The workshop will also feature a fire and police component that is designed to educate and train police and fire chiefs in public safety and motion picture and entertainment safety.
The inaugural class emerged with positive feedback about the certification process:
With farms, parks, rivers and canals, rural and urban areas, and people from all walks of life, Franklin Township is a unique microcosm of the great State of New Jersey. We are so proud to work with the Film Ready New Jersey program in order to showcase this to the world. — Franklin Township Special Projects Manager Saffie Kallon
The Film Ready designation demonstrates to the production industry that New Jersey and its municipalities are enthusiastic about filmmaking and film-ready. ACTION! Watchung is ready and excited to host NJ Film and TV productions with unique locations and unwavering support. — Former Watchung Mayor Keith Balla
We are excited to be participating in the Film Ready Certification process through NJMPTVC. We are proud of the uniqueness of our community from the bustling center of town to our rolling hills and farmland and look forward to being able to share that beyond Hillsborough. — Hillsborough Township Mayor Shawn Lipani
The NJMPTVC says that workshops will be offered on a regional basis, by invitation, beginning in April.
Interested municipalities can register to receive more information here.
The state served as the backdrop for a number of feature films and television productions last year, including “Oppenheimer,” “Inappropriate Behavior,” “Maybe I Do,” “The Walking Dead City,” “Shelter” and many others. In Tuesday’s announcement, the official number of 2022 productions was not released. During his State of the State address, delivered Jan. 10, Murphy had said that those numbers were still being tabulated.
Just to give an idea, 2021 yielded 725 productions, including 68 feature films and 132 television series, which created more than 5,500 jobs. For the number of productions, the 2022 total will almost certainly eclipse last year’s figure.
Murphy’s office did say that productions created more than 8,500 jobs in 2022.
“Following my reinstatement of the Film and Digital Media Tax Credit program and game-changing investments in our rapidly expanding film and television industries, production has exploded in the past four years as more people learn what New Jersey has to offer,” said Murphy. “This huge growth has fueled thousands of jobs for New Jersey residents while providing economic benefit to our towns and cities.”
“People all over the state are experiencing the thrill of having the next box office hit or television series filmed in their community,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “These productions, plus the recent addition of some top-tier studio development projects, will continue to drive economic activity and create many thousands of employment opportunities for New Jerseyans from diverse backgrounds long into the future.”
Tim Sullivan, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) CEO, said that the from the start, the administration’s efforts have not only been focused on increasing production, but also attracting major studios to the Garden State.
“With the flood of interest from major content producers we could millions of square feet of studio space become available in the next three years,” said Sullivan.
The Film & Digital Media Studio Infrastructure Program and the Construction Inflation Fund provide grant funding for real estate development projects in the wake of the pandemic.
Film & Digital Media Studio Infrastructure Program
This initiative provides $9.5 million in funding to governmental entities for infrastructure improvements and sitework in support of the development of a film or digital media studio production facility. It is the latest effort to build out the state’s film and television infrastructure, and comes on the heels of New Jersey’s blockbuster Netflix announcement from last week.
Construction Inflation Fund Pilot Program
This fund will provide $10 million in federal grants for development projects that have experienced increased construction costs and project funding gaps as a result of the pandemic. In a press release, the NJEDA said it is designed to mitigate COVID-19’s impact by offering support for substantial rehabilitation, new construction and development cost associated with each project.
NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said that as the state’s economy rebounds from the pandemic, these type of investments in real estate development are critical to ensure New Jersey’s recovery.
“Through the Film & Digital Media Studio Infrastructure Program and the Construction Inflation Fund Program, the NJEDA will provide almost $20 million to development projects that support New Jersey’s growing film sector, support community vitality, and create jobs,” said Sullivan.
But the Studio Partner designation is another significant step in the state’s efforts to build out its television and film industry infrastructure and ecosystem.
In May, Lionsgate entered a lease agreement with Great Point Studios to become an anchor tenant at its new production facility, which is being constructed in Newark’s South Ward. The $194 million project, located at the former Seth Boyden Housing site, is expected to be completed by 2024. When complete, the facility will include five production stages and a full set of production services on site.
In October, NJEDA opened the application process for facilities that wished to receive this designation and access to a tax credit pool, funded through the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act.
The designation, one of only three under the incentive program, will allow Lionsgate to capture above-the-line wage and salary costs as qualified expenses. Those wages and salaries are typically made to highly paid individuals on a project, such as directors, producers, writers and performers.
According to the NJEDA, the studio partner can apply for tax credits for above-the-line wages and salary expenses up to $15 million, $25 million, $40 million, or $60 million depending on the amount of qualified production expenses involved in the project. Additionally, $100 million of the allocation for film and digital media tax credits is set aside for studio partners.
“This is great news for New Jersey’s flourishing film and television industry,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Lionsgate will be a welcome addition to the film landscape, and we look forward to seeing the ‘Filmed in New Jersey’ logo on Lionsgate films for years to come.”
“This is a wonderful development for the many entertainment industry workers and performers in New Jersey for the state itself,” said Robert Halmi, Great Point Studios co-founder. “It could not have come about without the help of Gov. Phil Murphy, who recognized the importance of this vast project to Newark, the state and the region.”
Murphy described the awarding of this designation to Lionsgate as a major step in the Garden State’s evolution as a film and television destination.
“Bringing studios like Lionsgate to New Jersey will allow us to attract more and larger productions to our state and will create good, high-paying jobs for our residents,” the governor said.
The studio is an expansion of the New Jersey production company Phiphen, a female-led business founded by award-winning producers Molly Connors and Jane Sinisi.
Have you seen these?
Three feature films shot in the Garden State were released on the same day. Find out what they are here.
“We couldn’t be more excited to cut the ribbon and fully launch Phiphen Studios in Englewood Cliffs,” said Connors, COO of Phiphen Studios and CEO and founder of Phiphen. “This has been a labor of love for our team and we’re so happy to welcome the film industry and our community to the studio.”
“We want to establish that New Jersey itself has its own identity to make amazing films and we are so grateful to share this moment with all of you,” said Sinisi, Phiphen Studios CEO. “It is a major milestone for the film community and New Jerseyans, one that should be celebrated.”
“New Jersey is the birthplace of Solax, the first female-led studio built in the early 1900s by the extraordinary movie mogul and filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blache,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “We have now come full circle in welcoming the female-owned company, Phiphen Studios, to the state and we wish them much success.”
The new facility offers 10,000 square feet of post-production and office space, in addition to a 25-seat 4K theater, executive suites, conference rooms, kitchens and outdoor space. It is part of the growing production infrastructure throughout New Jersey, which has included the construction of several major studios over the last few years, including Palisade Stages and 10 Basin Studios in Kearny, Cinelease Studios Caven Point in Jersey City, and Sustainable Studios in Moonachie.
“New Jersey continues to attract the kind of critical infrastructure that can support our burgeoning film and television industry and utilize our skilled workforce,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “We are delighted to add Phiphen Studios to our growing production community and look forward to welcoming the subsequent studios that plan to join us here in the Garden State.”
“Phiphen Studios joins a community of savvy entertainment industry leaders who recognize New Jersey’s clear advantage for film production,” said New Jersey Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) opened applications Oct. 14 for film production facilities that wish to access a tax credit pool as part of the state’s efforts to encourage the development of large, long-term film production facilities in the Garden State.
Lionsgate will be the anchor tenant of a new $125 million, 12-acre film and TV production facility in Newark. Click here to read more.
To be eligible for the Studio Partner designation, the applicant must be a production company that has site control of a production facility for at least 10 years that is at least 250,000 square feet. The site would also need to have to have at least preliminary site plan approval, an executed redevelopment agreement, or an adopted redevelopment plan that contemplates the construction of the production facility.
Following that designation approval, the applicant would need to be able to provide a temporary or permanent certificate of occupancy within 36 months.
There are only three Studio Partner designations, which are being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
To be eligible for the Film-lease Partners designation, production companies must have a Letter of Intent or other site control documentation for a facility of at least 50,000 square feet for a term of at least five years. The applicant must also commit to spending an average of $50 million in qualified film production expenses over the commitment period.
There are no restrictions on the number of companies that can receive that designation.
Full program details with the application can be found here.
New Jersey takes center stage this Friday with three feature films shot in the Garden State all being released on that same day.
In “Bros,” “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” and “Smile,” a number of New Jersey locations will be on full display. These three films are among the dozens of major productions that were recently filmed in the Garden State.
NJBIZ has extensively chronicled the major strides made by the state’s film and television industry.
In addition to the state pride of having landscapes and locations from around New Jersey featured, the projects also bring in a significant amount of economic activity and impact.
“Much of the state’s appeal to the motion picture and television industry derives from our diverse portfolio of filming locations and abundance of film-ready communities,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “We are delighted to see so many cities and towns enjoying the excitement of hosting major productions while realizing the considerable economic impact.”
“Bros“ is Universal Pictures’ new romantic comedy starring Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, filming took place in parts of Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Passaic, and Union counties.
Some featured locations include: Downtown Cranford, White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, Teaneck Cinemas, St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, The Fox and The Falcon, the Newark Art Museum and more. Additional interior scenes were shot at Palisade Stages in Kearny, making it the first project to shoot in the facility since it opened last year.
For the filming of “Bros,” Universal Pictures reported hiring 120 crew members and 1,000 extras, spending over $35 million in New Jersey for labor, goods and services.
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” which can be seen in theaters and on Apple TV+, stars Zac Efron, Russell Crowe and Bill Murray. The film brings 1960s New York City to life in North Bergen: The Brass Rail Pub on 76th Street was transformed into Doc Fiddler’s Pub, while Bergenline Avenue was turned into the Inwood section of Manhattan. Additional filming took place in parts of Paterson and Jersey City.
Skydance Media, the production company behind the project, spent over $8 million in New Jersey, hiring nearly 400 cast and crew members for the film.
“Smile,” which is being released in theaters nationwide, is a fright flick starring Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn and Rob Morgan. The film is the directorial debut of writer/director Parker Finn.
Filming locations included the Arlington Diner in North Arlington, the Halifax at the W Hotel, River Walk Bike Lane and Union Hall in Hoboken, the Union County Jail in Elizabeth, as well as other parts of Newark, Jersey City, Kearny, Montclair and Morristown.
Paramount reported hiring 212 workers for production and spending $17 million in expenditures in the Garden State.
“We are winding up another outstanding year for film and television production in New Jersey,” said Michael Uslan, chairman of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission. “Over 45 major projects have been filmed in the state in 2022, and we expect to report record revenues by year’s end.”
Filmmaker Dave Baram is still working in the Garden State. Last June, NJBIZ chronicled Baram’s journey from more of the business side of the entertainment industry to behind the camera, as he produced and directed a story he waited more than 30 years to tell. “One All the Way” is a documentary about the hot Texas wiener grills he frequented growing up in his native Paterson.
The producer and director recently provided updates on some recent projects, which were filmed around New Jersey.
“One All the Way,” which starred his father, Harry, and two friends, Ron and Larry, followed the trio as they enjoyed the Paterson micro-delicacy – a deep-fried hot dog topped with mustard, onions and a chili-like sauce – while reminiscing about the successes, challenges and promise of the Silk City. (Full disclosure: This writer was also born there.)
“This film is a love letter to all the mom-and-pop diners who created lifelong memories for me,” Baram said last year. “It’s a labor of love. It’s not only an ode to Paterson and the hot Texas wiener grills, but to my dad.”
Baram brought that Paterson flavor around the country as he hit the film festival circuit to share this personal story with the world.
“It was not only awesome, but much different and better than I anticipated,” Baram said about the experience.
He added that the combination of using food as a vehicle to explore the broader issues of aging, isolation and abandoned cities, connected with audiences all over. “There were some universal themes to it that people were really responding to that made it really, really rewarding.”
And the documentary was extraordinarily well-received by audiences, as well as critics and festival organizers, collecting awards and honors in 2021, including the Jury Award for Best Short Film at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Bergen International Film Festival, Best Documentary Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Short Award at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, Best Short Film Jury Award at the Sarasota Film Festival, and Best Documentary Finalist at the USA Film Festival.
Following the festival run, the film was recently made available to stream on Apple TV and Google Play. As word got around about the documentary, Baram said he received emails from around the country from people with Paterson memories who were eager to see it and experience the nostalgia.
“It’s very rewarding to just see the way you’ve been able to impact somebody’s life or kind of bring back or tap into a memory,” Baram explained.
The festival circuit also cast him in the role of Paterson cheerleader for people unfamiliar with the city. “I kind of became a Paterson evangelist to every state that I was visiting,” Baram joked. “I kept saying it’s the most important industrial city in the U.S. that you’ve never heard of. Which is entirely true, by the way.”
Baram previously mentioned a second project in the works, which was originally set to be filmed in New York until he decided to change course.
That film, “Ball and Vase,” follows the story of Ed Coleman, played by Austin Pendleton, a 92-year-old ailing professor, magician and World War II vet, who is widowed and living alone in a small apartment during the holiday season. The film touches on some of those same themes of aging, abandonment and isolation as Coleman has been all but forgotten by his family, until a change of plans leaves him with one last opportunity to reconnect with the world.
Baram said the original vision he had for the character involved living out his final days in the West Village with cobblestone streets and brownstones. A conversation with the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, combined with experience filming “One All the Way” back in his home state of New Jersey, led him to check out Hoboken as a possible filming location.
“So, I went down to Hoboken, and I realized that there’s more of that vibe there than there is even in New York City,” said Baram.
“Ball and Vase” ended up being shot in Hoboken and North Bergen last December during the omicron wave, which Baram described as extremely stressful and one of the most challenging times of his career.
The film premiered last month at the LA Shorts International Film Festival, where it won the Best of the Fest overall award out of more than 400 films with Pendleton capturing Best Actor honors. Earlier this month, “Ball and Vase” took home the Grand Prize RIIFF Director’s Choice Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. And it is being invited to several of the leading festivals around the country.
Baram saw the impact of this film firsthand during a Q&A that followed a screening. A woman started crying and said how she got frustrated with her elderly mother. “And this really reminded her of how much we sometimes take for granted the [Eds Pendleton’s character] in our lives,” Baram recounted.
Others said they were immediately planning to text their grandfather, mother or other loved ones.
“For me, one of the most rewarding things about doing any of this stuff, when you’re on the verge of a heart attack and wondering if it’s ever really worth it at the end of the day, is when you see it just have an unintended, in some cases, impact on people and maybe move them in some way,” Baram explained.
After a more consolidated festival run, Baram expects “Ball and Vase” to land on one of the streaming services during the holiday season.
Baram also noted that he was able to sneak a bit of an Easter egg into the film, which connects the two recent projects. The trio who starred in “One All the Way” make a cameo in a “Ball and Vase” bar scene, which was shot at Moran’s Pub in Hoboken.
As for what’s on the horizon beside promoting and introducing the world to “Ball and Vase,” Baram hopes to produce a feature film in 2023. He has a project in the works that is set in the late 1970s and early 1980s in desert communities, but is hoping to once again work New Jersey into the equation.
Baram said he plans to get out and see if there is a way to set the project in the Pinelands and rewrite it with more of a rural New Jersey feel. That would reflect a growing trend in New Jersey, with non-urban parts of the state, especially in South Jersey, getting in on the Garden State production boom.
“I’m committed to trying to do as much in Jersey as possible,” said Baram. “We’re going to figure out if we can rewrite it and then have it as a Jersey production, which would be fun.”
The South Jersey Film Office Cooperative, a partnership between Camden and Gloucester counties, launched in April to help build out an inventory of wraparound services and resources to attract more productions to the southern part of the state. “I think this is the time when people need to have pride of place in a way that maybe we haven’t needed before,” Deputy Director Heather Simmons told NJBIZ. “What we want is for productions to have a one-stop shop,” she added. “They don’t have to hunt around for the resources that they need. They can contact one resource and get everything they need.”
Simmons said that the office is inviting the other southern counties to be a part of the effort because, in the end, everyone will benefit. “We understand that as projects come to the region, they bring with them an economic benefit,” she explained. “And in addition to an economic benefit, they bring kind of a source of pride when you see your town, your region, your state in a film production. People get a prideful boost out of that.”
The effort mirrors others around the state, including in Hunterdon and Somerset counties. In 2021, the Somerset County Film Commission was established to help promote the area to the film industry. Just last month, the panel held an event with the Somerset Patriots Minor League Baseball team to encourage filming and to showcase the Bridgewater-based ballpark and surrounding areas as potential sites for productions.
“We created the Somerset County Film Commission to grow the industry locally,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson. “We have incredible talent and resources for the film industry in Somerset County, including beautiful shooting locations like the ballpark of today’s great hosts, the Somerset Patriots.”
The efforts also reflect just how rapidly the film industry is exploding here in the Garden State.
“Never been better,” Steve Gorelick, NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission executive director, told NJBIZ. “It’s historically good.”
In 2021, there were 723 projects filmed in New Jersey, which produced more than $500 million in economic activity. It marked the best year ever for the state’s production industry, which was even more remarkable given the pandemic-related uncertainties. Gorelick said he was not surprised, though, because things were percolating before COVID-19 hit.
“We not only rebounded,” said Gorelick. “We had the busiest year in our history, half a billion-dollars’ worth of activity, which tells you how strong the industry here is.”
Gorelick said there was historically a lot of interest in filming in New Jersey. But it was not always economical. That all changed in 2018, he said, when Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act, which provides tax credits for production companies filming here.
“The film and digital media industry is poised to become a dynamic part of New Jersey’s economy, one that will create good-paying union jobs and countless residual benefits to the economy,” Murphy said at the time. “By signing this legislation, we are allowing these companies to take advantage of New Jersey’s unique culture, location, and geography. I look forward to seeing the many projects that will come out of our great state thanks to the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act.”
Gorelick said it sent a clear message to productions that New Jersey welcomes their business and thus evened the playing field. “It enabled film companies to be able to shoot here and do so economically and with the same financial advantages that they would get in other areas of the country,” he said. “Given that we have a level playing field now, New Jersey is the apple of everybody’s eye.”
That is the trend that Moshe Gross is seeing from his side of the industry. In 2019, Gross launched Reset Locations, a company that rents commercial buildings in New Jersey for film and television productions. Gross, who’s background is in commercial real estate, had noticed an interest in filming in the state that would often evaporate before the tax credits.
“I started seeing a trend of people coming to look at New Jersey for filming, but then jumping to Brooklyn or to somewhere in New York,” Gross told NJBIZ. “So, they would think about New Jersey but not end up filming over here. It was pretty frustrating.”
It was after Gross heard about the tax credits that he moved to start his company. Just as he was getting off the ground, the pandemic hit. But Gross got a break when he helped facilitate a deal to film the hit Apple TV+ series, “Severance,” at Bell Works in Holmdel.
And Gross has noticed an uptick in activity in recent months. “I would say the past two months have been a whirlwind of activity like I’ve never seen before,” he said. “There’s been a lot going on. It’s been amazing.”
Gross noted how supportive Gorelick’s office has been, which he feels is a huge asset. “They’ve been working very well with me and with everyone else in the industry,” he said. “Steve Gorelick and the rest of the crew have been excellent for the state. I think other states would be jealous.”
Simmons also pointed out how helpful it has been to have the state commission working in concert with her office. Gorelick said such efforts help build out the infrastructure of this emerging industry.
“That reflects the level of excitement that’s taking place when everybody wants to get into the business now,” said Gorelick. “It’s very exciting. The level of collaboration has been remarkable.”
Gorelick and Simmons share the goal of filling in the blanks to complete the industry and attract more investment. “The production is what spurs the creation of infrastructure here, such as all the studios that are now popping up all over the place and businesses that are coming to New Jersey,” said Gorelick. “This is brick-and-mortar. This is the foundation of a permanent industry here. It’s all working together. It’s happening remarkably fast.”
“It becomes a sustainable industry,” said Simmons. “Because we can offer those productions all the services around it and an individual who can help them through the process.”
In addition to developing ancillary services and building an inventory of wraparound resources, the South Jersey Film Office Cooperative is establishing a point person in each municipality to help assist productions with navigating the bureaucratic red tape (which New Jersey has no shortage of) to help streamline the operation.
“This whole one-stop shop concept is really meant to do that,” Simmons explained. “Let’s make it make sense to you. Let’s make it worthwhile for you to invest your time and your money here.”
“That’s why you always want to look for new locations because you always want new looks,” Gorelick explained. “Directors, production designers are always looking for something that hasn’t been used before. And that’s why it’s spread out to all over New Jersey.”
Gorelick said he is seeing more productions in smaller towns, such as the ones used for the Shyamalan film, which is creating new excitement and buzz for these areas. “They’re extremely excited because they haven’t had filmmaking before,” said Gorelick. “It’s a new experience. And that tends to generate a lot of cooperation because it’s something fresh and new.”
“We’re thrilled to see the municipalities and the other counties embracing it, and then the state working with us to help make it possible,” said Simmons.
“We’ve had a tremendous year there,” Gorelick said of South Jersey. “We’re trying to get more and more done in the southern part of the state. South Jersey’s starting to cook. There’s no question.”
Gross pointed out that New Jersey offers a lot of flexibility for productions, such as using the lobby of an office building, that is not always feasible in the city. “There’s a lot of opportunities to do certain things that you can’t do in New York City, but that you could do in New Jersey,” said Gross. “That’s what I’m seeing.”
“New Jersey has a lot to offer,” said Simmons. “We have urban areas. We have suburban. We have rural. We have river towns. We have beaches. We have warehouses. We have transportation, old railroads and things like that. So, some of the grittier historical sites that a lot of film productions are interested in.”
She referenced a shuttered Gloucester County jail that consistently generates such interest.
Another crucial aspect of building the ecosystem, Simmons said, is receiving the embrace of local colleges and universities to continue developing the talent pool, in a number of roles in front of the camera and behind the scenes, while creating more local economic impact.
“If your educational institutions aren’t in. If your businesses aren’t in. If the municipalities and the counties aren’t in. If the state’s not in. Then the industry is not in,” said Simmons. “That’s really what it takes for films to be successful. And that’s what we’re seeing here. And it’s really exciting to watch a new industry start.”
Gorelick said that while last year was Jersey’s best production year ever, this year looks like its possibly even busier.
“It’s building. It’s going to continue to build as we have more studios,” said Gorelick. “That allows some larger productions, especially television productions.”
He joked that there are so many projects that are being filmed now, in post-production, or in development, that it is tough to keep track of them all. Some of those projects include movies, such as “Plan B,” starring Jon Heder, which was filmed in Bordentown, Collingswood and Cherry Hill; “Our Man from Jersey,” filming now in Jersey City, starring Mark Wahlberg; and “Mother’s Instinct,” filmed in Cranford, starring Millburn High School graduate Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain.
On the television side, the third season of “Wu-Tang: An America Saga” is being filmed in Kearny, while AMC is using the old Izod Center as a base of operations for its upcoming “The Walking Dead” spinoff “Isle of the Dead.”
The projects range in size and scope, spanning multiple platforms and streaming services and backed by a variety of studios and production companies. “This is becoming a big industry in New Jersey, employing thousands of people every year now,” said Gorelick. “And it’s just increasing as we build more studios, attract more production. So, it’s becoming an essential industry in New Jersey.”
And while Gorelick, Simmons and Gross agree that the economic impact is the most important piece, they believe there is an image benefit for the state, the particular town or region a project is filmed in, and even for each individual property or building.
“It creates a great vibe for that property,” said Gross. “It will also create a positive buzz that’s that intangible that you can’t put a price tag on.”
“In Gloucester County, when we were in the midst of framing initiatives for recovery, one of the things that we did was to identify our key emerging industries,” Simmons explained. “And we identified film as one of them. And pride of place really was a piece to that.”
“You have all this production appearing on motion picture and television screens throughout the world, and that is a tremendous advertisement for New Jersey in terms of attracting people who want to live here, who want to work here, companies that want to move here and vacation here,” said Gorelick. “We know for a fact people will go visit and tour places where films have been shot.”
For his 15th feature film, M. Night Shyamalan returned to the Garden State to shoot his upcoming apocalyptic horror flick “Knock at the Cabin.”
The film, which just wrapped, was shot mostly on location in Tabernacle and at the Evergreen Daisy Bar in Southampton. Shyamalan previously filmed in New Jersey on two occasions: In 2004, “The Village” was partially filmed in Pedricktown, and in 2021, Shyamalan directed scenes for Season 3 of the Apple TV+ television series “Servant” in Ocean City.
The new film is set to be released by Universal on Feb. 3, 2023. “Knock at the Cabin” stars Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint and Nikki Amuka-Bird, alongside Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff.
“New Jersey’s film tax credit program has been highly successful in attracting marquee productions and A-List directors to the state,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “We are delighted to welcome M. Night Shyamalan back to New Jersey for his latest project.”
Several other high-profile projects are in development around New Jersey including “Armageddon Time,” starring Anthony Hopkins, Oscar Isaac and Anne Hathaway; Netflix’s “The Perfect Find” with Gabrielle Union; “The Kill Room” featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman; NBCUniversal’s “The Best Man,” currently filming in North Jersey; and the upcoming AMC six-part series “Isle of the Dead,” which begins filming this summer.
“The unprecedented amount of production we’ve enjoyed during the last few years has extended to every region of the state,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “South Jersey is hosting a number of studio and independent features this year, filming at many beautiful locations that were never previously used in motion pictures and television programs. We are very excited about that.”
As part of an effort to encourage filming in Somerset County, the Somerset Patriots on Friday welcomed members of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission and the newly created Somerset County Film Commission to TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.
“We created the Somerset County Film Commission to grow the industry locally,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson. “We have incredible talent and resources for the film industry in Somerset County, including beautiful shooting locations like the ballpark of today’s great hosts, the Somerset Patriots.”
The two organizations were hosted by Patriots Co-Chairman Jonathan Kalafer, who serves on the Somerset County Film Commission.
“The New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission spent a memorable evening with the Somerset County Film Commission at beautiful TD Bank Ballpark,” said Gorelick. “It was a wonderful night of watching baseball, and talking about bringing more film and television production to Somerset County, which offers an abundance of amazing locations. In fact, the ballpark is one of them.”
The commissioners were recognized on the field during the pre-game ceremony, where a clip was played from New Jersey native Danny Devito highlighting the Garden State’s connection to the film industry.
“Our state has such a rich connection in the creation of two of the most beloved entertainment and sports industries in the world- film and baseball,” said Kalafer. “Remarkable people from New Jersey had the passion, inventiveness and a true spirit of entrepreneurship to help foster the growth of these multi-billion-dollar a year businesses that bring joy to so many people around the world. It was a special night having everyone together to showcase our beautiful ballpark and community.”
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