South Jersey joins movie production

Shooting in Burlington

New Jersey, including the southern part of the state, has a growing film industry. Here, a film crew works in the city of Burlington. – South Jersey Film Office Cooperative

The South Jersey Film Offices Cooperative, a partnership between Camden and Gloucester counties, launched in April to build an inventory of wraparound services and resources to attract more productions to the south of the state. “I think it’s time for people to take pride in the place in a way they probably never needed to,” Deputy Director Heather Simmons told NJBIZ. “What we want is for production to have a one-stop shop,” she added. “They don’t have to hunt around for the resources they need. They can just reach out to her one resource and get everything they need.”

Simmons said the office is inviting other Southern counties to join the effort because ultimately everyone benefits. “We understand that when a project is brought to the community, it will bring economic benefits,” she explained. “And in addition to the economic benefit, they bring a kind of pride when they see their town, their region, their state in filmmaking. People get a proud boost from it.”

The Somerset Patriots welcomed members of the New Jersey Film and Television Commission and the newly formed Somerset County Film Commission to Bridgewater's TD Bank Ballpark.

The Somerset Patriots welcomed members of the New Jersey Film and Television Commission and the newly formed Somerset County Film Commission to Bridgewater’s TD Bank Ballpark. – Somerset Patriots

The effort mirrors other areas of the state, such as Hunterdon and Somerset counties. In 2021, the Somerset County Film Commission was formed to help bring the area to the film industry. Just last month, the panel hosted an event with the Somerset Patriots minor league baseball team to encourage filming and showcase the Bridgewater-based ballpark and surrounding area as potential locations for production.

Somerset County Commissioner Director Chanel Robinson said: “Somerset County has incredible talent and resources for the film industry, including beautiful filming locations like the ballparks of today’s great hosts, the Somerset Patriots.”

This initiative reflects how rapidly the film industry is developing here in the Garden State.

“It’s never been better,” Steve Gorelick, executive director of the NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission, told NJBIZ. “It’s historically excellent.”

In 2021, there are 723 projects filmed in New Jersey, generating more than $500 million in economic activity. Given the pandemic-related uncertainty, it was the best year yet for the state’s manufacturing industry. But Gorelick said he wasn’t surprised because things were prevalent before COVID-19 hit.

“We didn’t just rebound,” Gorerick said. “We had one of the busiest years in our history, with $500 million worth of activity, which shows how strong this industry is.”

Gorerick said there was historically a lot of interest in filming in New Jersey. That all changed in 2018 when Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act, he said.

“The motion picture and digital media industries are poised to become a dynamic part of the New Jersey economy, generating high-paying union jobs and a myriad of residual returns to the economy,” Murphy said at the time. rice field. “Signing this act will allow these businesses to take advantage of New Jersey’s unique culture, location, and geography. Many projects are coming out of this great state thanks to the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act. I look forward to the birth of

Gorerick said New Jersey sent a clear message to productions that they welcomed their business and leveled the playing field. “And we were able to get the same economic benefits that we get in the rest of the country,” he said. It’s the center of attention for everyone.”

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This is a trend Moshe Gross sees 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 has a background in commercial real estate, has found that interest in filming in-state often dies before tax credits.

“We started seeing a trend of people coming to see New Jersey for filming, but then they jumped to somewhere in Brooklyn or New York,” Gross told NJBIZ. , we’re not going to be filming here. It was pretty frustrating.”

It was after hearing about tax credits that Gross moved to start the 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 his Apple TV+ hit series “Severance” at Holmdel’s Bell Works.

Gross has noticed an uptick in activity in recent months. “I think the last two months have been a whirlwind of activity like you’ve never seen before,” he said. “There’s a lot going on. It’s been great.”

Gross notes how supportive Gorelick’s office has been, which he feels is a great asset. “They work very well with me and everyone else in the industry,” he said. “Steve Gorelic and the rest of his crew have done an excellent job for the state and I think other states would be envious.”

Simmons also noted how helpful it was for state commissions to work in tandem with her office. I’m here.

“This reflects the level of excitement that everyone wants to get into this business right now,” said Gorelick. “It’s very exciting. The level of collaboration has been amazing.”

Gorelick and Simmons share the goal of filling the void, perfecting the industry and attracting more investment. “Production is what drives the infrastructure creation here, like all the studios popping up all over the place now and the businesses that come to New Jersey,” he says. “This is brick and mortar. This is the foundation of a lasting industry here. It’s all working together. It’s happening amazingly fast.”

“It becomes a sustainable industry,” says Simmons. “Because we can provide those pieces with all the services around them and individuals who can help them through the process.”

In addition to developing ancillary services and cataloging wraparound resources, the South Jersey Film Offices Co-operative is working to help streamline bureaucratic red tape (there is no shortage in New Jersey). ), we have established point persons in each municipality to assist the production by navigating the operation.

“This one-stop-shop concept is about doing just that,” Simmons explains. “Make it meaningful to you. Make it worth the time and money invested here.”

And while it took place in County Burlington, Simmons and her office certainly made headlines when M. Night Shyamalan filmed his next horror film, Knock in the Cabin, in the Tabernacle and Southampton. She says it shows that the word is circulating about different parts of the state.

Waterford Salvage Yard

The state has some unique locations and diverse backgrounds, like this Waterford salvage yard. – South Jersey Film Office Cooperative

“That’s why you always want to find new places because you always want a new look,” explained Gorelick. “Directors and production designers are always looking for something that hasn’t been used before. That’s why it’s spread all over New Jersey.”

Gorerick said more and more works are being seen in small towns, such as those used in Shyamalan films, creating new excitement and buzz in these areas. I’ve never produced before, so I’m super excited,” says Gorelick. “It’s a new experience. And it tends to generate a lot of cooperation because it’s fresh and new.”

“We’re thrilled to see local governments and other counties embrace it and the state working with us to make it possible,” Simmons said.

“We had a great year there,” Gorerick said of South Jersey. There is no question.”

Gross noted that New Jersey offers a lot of flexibility in production, including using office building lobbies. “There are a lot of opportunities to do certain things that you can do in New Jersey that you can’t do in New York City,” Gross said. “That’s what I see.”

“New Jersey has a lot to offer,” Simmons said. “We have urban areas. We have suburbs. We have rural areas. We have river towns. We have beaches. We have warehouses. These are some of the more arduous historic sites that filmmakers are interested in.”

She mentions the closed prison in Gloucester County, which has always attracted such interest.

Another important aspect of building an ecosystem, Simmons said, is to create local economic impact while also working with local talent to continue to develop the talent pool by taking on a variety of roles in front of the camera and behind the scenes. to be accepted into the university of

“Educational institutions aren’t on board, businesses aren’t on board, local governments and counties aren’t on board, states aren’t on board, industry isn’t on board,” Simmons said. . “That’s what it takes for a movie to succeed. And that’s what we’re seeing here. And it’s really exciting to see a new industry start.”

Gorerick said last year was Jersey’s best production year yet, but this year could be even busier.

“It’s being built. It will continue to be built as we have more studios,” Gorelick said. “This allows for some large-scale productions, especially television productions.”

Filming interior scenes at Cherry Hill.

Filming interior scenes at Cherry Hill. – South Jersey Film Office Cooperative

He joked that there are so many projects currently filming, in post-production, or in development that it’s hard to keep track of them all. These include movies such as “Plan B” starring Jon Heder, which was released. “Our Man From Jersey” is currently filming in Jersey City, starring Mark Wahlberg. “Mother’s Instinct,” starring Milburn High School alumni Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, was filmed in Cranford.

On the TV side, the third season of ‘Wu-Tang: An America Saga’ is filming in Kearny, and AMC has announced plans for the upcoming ‘The Walking Dead’ spin-off, ‘Isle of the Death.’

Projects vary in size and scope, span multiple platforms and streaming services, and are backed by a variety of studios and production companies. “It’s becoming a big industry in New Jersey and now employs thousands of people every year,” he said Gorelick. “And that’s increasing as we build more studios and attract more productions. So it’s becoming a vital industry in New Jersey.”

Gorelick, Simmons and Gross agree that the economic impact is the most important factor, but it also applies to states, specific towns and regions where projects are filmed, and even individual properties and buildings. I believe that there is an image advantage.

“It creates a great atmosphere for the property,” Gross said. “It will also create intangible positive buzz that cannot be put on a price tag.”

“In Gloucester County, one of the things we did while building initiatives for recovery was identifying important emerging industries,” Simmons explained. “And we identified the movie as one of them, and the pride of the place was really part of it.”

“This production has all been shown in films and on television around the world, and it’s a big deal in terms of attracting people who want to live here, people who want to work here, companies who want to move here, and people who want to move to New Jersey. is big publicity for New Jersey, take a vacation here,” Gorerich said. “It’s true that people visit and tour the places where movies were shot.”

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