New Jersey is encouraging more towns to become ‘film ready’
🎬 New Jersey's Film Ready Program is designed to educate towns on the "dos" and "don'ts" when a film company arrives
🎬 Towns must complete a 5-step certification and marketing program to be designated film-ready
🎬So far, only four NJ towns are designated film ready, all of them in Somerset County
New Jersey’s Film Ready Program is ready to launch statewide, assuring production companies that they will receive the maximum cooperation when working in the state.
So, what does it mean to be “film ready?”
Film Ready is a five-step certification and marketing program that prepares towns to deal with film and TV production in an exciting and safe manner, said Steven Gorelick, executive director of The NJ Motion Picture and Television Commission.
When a film company comes to a town, the town will know what to do, how to handle it, and what to expect, he explained.
Towns will also understand what they have to gain when they have film and TV production companies set up shop in a particular community.
What towns are considered film ready?
The pilot program was launched in September 2022 in Somerset County. Four towns including Franklin, Hillsborough, Watchung, and South Bound Brook have completed the five-step certification program and have been designated as film-ready communities. That means they are ready and prepared to cooperate with movie and television producers.
The Film Ready New Jersey program is set to extend statewide this spring.
What is the 5-Step program to become “film ready?”
Step 1: Municipal governments must participate in a one-day workshop where they will receive training and guidance from industry professionals, and learn about the economic impact of hosting on-location filming, ordinances, and permitting. Gorelick said participants will walk away with a toolkit to attract and welcome productions to their community. Workshops will be offered regionally over the course of the year. Each town is invited. The next workshop is scheduled for April and it’s open to towns in Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Passaic, and Union counties.
Step 2: A film-ready liaison must be designated in each town. Someone employed by the municipality or the county should be the liaison, who knows the ins and outs of their community and can assist production companies readily.
Step 3: Adopt a formal permit process, perhaps a local thumb ordinance.
Step 4: Submit photos of your town. 15 photos are the minimum, Gorelick said. Those photos will then go into a database. If your town is considered film-ready, those photos will be labeled “location available in a film-ready community.” Gorelick said lets a production company looking at a location know that they can readily expect cooperation in that community.
Step 5: Submit a list of local resources, or local businesses in a community that can assist production companies with their needs (i.e. restaurants, lodging, supply businesses, etc). The film company can rely on these local businesses for the duration of their stay.
Last year, filmmaking contributed over $650 million to the local economy, Gorelick said. “When a film company comes into your town, they utilize all the local resources, the locations that they rent, the hardware, lumber, stationary supply stores, the gas stations, they hire local people, they hire security and off-duty police. They fully utilize the resources of the town,” Gorelick said.
Also, it’s excellent publicity when your town is seen on motion picture and television screens all over the state, country, and the world. It’s a good way to attract tourism and businesses, he added.
Since the revival and enhancement of New Jersey’s tax credit program, which offers eligible production companies up to 35% transferrable tax credit on qualified film production expenses, plus an additional two or four percent diversity bonus for qualified productions, the state has attracted 175 feature films and TV shows.
Last year alone, 70 feature films and 15 TV series were filmed in the Garden State, Gorelick said.
One of them is the theater right now. It’s called “Knock at the Cabin” that was filmed in the Pine Barrens. Another movie that just opened was “Maybe I Do” with an all-star cast including Emma Roberts, Richard Gere, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon, was filmed in Montclair and Cranford.
Some upcoming projects include a Walking Dead spinoff including The Walking Dead Summit.
Feature films that were made in New Jersey included “West Side Story,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” and “Joker.”
“It’s become a diaspora of filming from north and south and we have a project coming up for Atlantic City, so a lot of exciting things,” Gorelick said.
He said New Jersey has seen a constant flow of filmmaking across every county, increasing demand to prepare more municipalities for an influx of film and TV production.