🎥 Many movie and TV shows have resumed production around New Jersey

🎥 Film production will bring over $600 million into New Jersey's economy

🎥 The NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission is preparing towns for future projects

New Jersey is at the center of the action as movie and TV production cranks up with the end of the actors' strike after 118 days.

Members of SAG/AFTRA quickly resumed production as TV networks, and streaming giants like Netflix and the movie studios are under the gun to line up content to salvage the current TV season and finish films in time to release during 2024.

"We had a lot of filmmaking taking place here between January and late May, early June of this year. And then the strikes hit most and then major production were pretty much shut down," Steven Gorelick, executive director of the state Motion Picture & Television Commission told New Jersey 101.5.

Among the major productions that shut down were two Ryan Murphy productions, "American Horror Stories" and "American Sports Story: Gladiator."

Billy Crystal's Apple TV series "Winston" was also stopped. The sets were stored in a sustainable studio in Moonachie until the strike was over.

Gorelick said a few small productions were granted exemptions and were allowed to continue filming during the strike.

"Kevin Smith's movie, 'The 4:30 Movie,' was actually filmed in August and September in the Atlantic Highlands and Long Branch area. And we just finished working on a movie called "Presents" directed by Steven Soderbergh with Lucy Liu, that also worked on a waiver," Gorelick said.

Movies and TV programs filming in New Jersey
Movies and TV programs filming in New Jersey NJ (Motion Picture & Television Commission/Canva)

Economic benefits of film projections

It's not just the actors and crew members who benefit from the end of the strike. Film-making and production work brought $700 million into the state's economy in 2023.

Gorelick said there are many businesses that surprisingly benefit from movie-making in New Jersey.

"Also the local dry cleaners and the local caterers and food stores and stationary supply stores and the hardware and lumber stores. They all profit from filmmaking. It's not just the production," Gorelick said.

It does take some time to get productions up and running again and Goerlick expects the state's movie industry will be at full capacity in 2024. Even with the pause in production, he doesn't expect to see a drop in revenue for the state's economy.

"The first half of 2023 was so busy that we had over $600 million up until June. Up until that period of time, well, for the entire year, actually thus far. So we haven't dropped that much in revenue because I think a lot of action was taking place in the first few months in the year in anticipation of the strikes possibly happening," Gorelick said.

NJ 101.5's Bob O'Brien in the movie "Heart of Gold" filmed in Alpine
NJ 101.5's Bob O'Brien in the movie "Heart of Gold" filmed in Alpine (Bob O'Brien)

Big-name projects

Gorelick said a number of productions have already resumed in New Jersey including "Killing Castro" written by Jose Rivera set in Harlem in the early 1960s when Cuban president Fidel Castro came to visit Malcolm X.  It is filming in Elizabeth, Linden and Newark.

Also back in front of the cameras in Bayhead is "Riff Raff" with Dustin Hoffman, Jennifer Coolidge and Gabrielle Union in Bayonne, Montclair and Plainfield.

"In the Hand of Dante" written and directed by Julian Schnabel with Jason Momoa, Gerard Butler and Johnny Depp is filming in Paterson.

Jim Jarmusch is filming his fourth or fifth movie in New Jersey with the latest, "Father Mother, Sister, Brother" set to film in West Milford at the end of November.


Why film in New Jersey?

Gorelick said the resumption of production is reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions brought production to a halt.

"We were doing great until the pandemic hit. 2019 we were doing excellently and then 2020 the pandemic hit and production was shut down for almost the entire year. We expected that 2021 would be a full recovery and it was that and more," Gorelick said.

The advantages of filming in New Jersey versus New York City are many including what Gorelick calls a "robust" financial incentive program. There's also a large talent pool ready to work without having to bring people in. Then there are all the types of locations New Jersey offers.

"New Jersey geography is quite unique in that you get many different looks and all within a very compact geographic area. So you don't have to travel far. Certainly, movies that are like road films where you have to get many different looks in one project And you can get them just by traveling miles instead of thousands or hundreds of miles," Gorelick said.

During the strike, the commission ran seminars called Film Ready to prepare municipalities and counties to host film shoots.

"We know that there's a tremendous amount of activity that's coming our way, especially with the new studios being built and on location filming, and we want the communities to be ready. It's great to have wonderful locations, but you need to be able to use them," Gorelick said.

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