New Jersey has always been an inspiring location for filmmakers: “Garden State,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and Kevin Smith’s entire oeuvre are some of the better-known movies set here. But it hasn’t been a filmmaking powerhouse since the days of Thomas Edison.
Edison, after inventing many tools of the filmmaking trade, set about commercializing his inventions by setting up the first movie studio in the country. Unfortunately for New Jersey’s economy, Edison was a bit overzealous in protecting his invention for an early movie camera and other devices, going so far as to send hired goons to threaten competitors and copycats in the filmmaking business. The other players in the fledgling industry fled to Hollywood, as far as it could get from Edison without leaving the country.
Now the state’s economic development agency is trying to lure some of that business back with a tax credit. Film and television production companies can now apply for tax credits through the New Jersey Film Tax Credit Program. As part of the Garden State Film and Digital Jobs Act signed by Governor Phil Murphy in 2018, the program is designed to spur economic growth and industry development by encouraging production companies to undertake projects in New Jersey.
“From beautiful beaches to bucolic farmland, quaint downtowns, and bustling urban centers, plus proximity to talent, New Jersey has much to offer production companies,” Murphy said. “The state has a long history of arts and culture, and this program will help to bring the film and media industry back to New Jersey, spurring economic activity that will have a ripple effect throughout local communities.”
In July Governor Murphy signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act, which provides tax credits equal to 30 percent of qualified film production expenses, or 35 percent of qualified film production expenses incurred for services performed and tangible personal property purchased through vendors whose primary place of business is located in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, or Salem County. In order to be eligible, 60 percent of the film’s total production expenses (excluding post-production costs) must be incurred for services and goods purchased through vendors authorized to do business in New Jersey, or the qualified film production expense must exceed $1 million per production.
“Film and digital media is one of the growth industries targeted by Governor Murphy’s plan for a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy, and this program will help pave the way for cutting-edge production companies to choose a New Jersey location,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said. “We welcome projects of all sizes, which will create jobs and other economic opportunities for the State’s diverse communities and businesses.”
Sullivan noted that the program was designed to maximize its impact to New Jersey and local communities. This includes a bonus of two percent for applications accompanied by a diversity plan, which would include goals that prioritize the hiring of women and minorities.
In addition, while “reality shows” are generally ineligible, production companies that own, lease, or otherwise occupy a production facility of at least 20,000 square feet in an Urban Enterprise Zone for at least two years — and make a capital investment of at least $3 million in that facility — are eligible.