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Gov. Phil Murphy promotes New Jersey in Hollywood




Gov. Phil Murphy promotes New Jersey in Hollywood

Governor Phil Murphy has made TV and film a top priority for New Jersey since taking the helm of the Garden State in 2018. This week, Murphy made a swing on the West Coast to talk artificial intelligence with companies in the Bay Area and new business with studios in Hollywood. Murphy’s purposeful courtship has helped spark a boom in construction projects for soundstages and production facilities throughout New Jersey. Here, Murphy discusses the impact of the state’s production tax incentive program and why he sees Georgia as a bigger rival for luring productions than neighboring New York.

You just returned from a trip to the West Coast to promote New Jersey as a growing media and entertainment center. What was your specific mission and how do you feel your conversations have been received?

We have done this every year since we came into power. As governor, film, television and digital have been a priority from day one. And the conversations [with Hollywood] have only gotten better. We’ve adjusted our incentives, which are now as competitive as any in the world. We have known the players personally for many years, many of them doing major projects in New Jersey. All this makes each of our successive missions more successful than before, and this was no exception.

We were selling New Jersey, reaching out to people who were already investing and producing television shows or films in New Jersey. We were very well received. Obviously the incentives are as competitive as any in the world, but we have the soft stuff too. We have values ​​that really matter, whether it’s reproductive freedoms or being No. 1 in raising a family or the climate, you name it. We’re a big pro-union state, including IATSE and Teamsters and SAG-AFTRA and the writers. There’s a lot to like about New Jersey.

What are your specific selling points for doing business in New Jersey versus New York? Are you making a purely economic argument about the cost of living in the Garden State versus Manhattan?

We do. Our pure incentives are 35% plus a 2% to 4% boost for diversity. And while we have $500,000 per person [cap] Bottom line, all of that is unlocked and fueled when you build a studio or rent space from someone who has built studios in New Jersey.

I find that we compete much more with Georgia than with New York. In terms of the big studios and the big, bold strokes we’re pursuing, Georgia is as much on the radar as anywhere right now. It also feels like the stimulus program itself has become political in Georgia. And that is not the case in Jersey and I don’t expect it to be the case.

But tax incentive programs can become controversial if voters feel like they’re a giveaway to Hollywood. Are you confident that New Jersey will get more than a dollar back for every dollar it spends on tax credits for manufacturing activities?

Extremely confident. Let me give you some statistics. The mathematical argument only looks to a limited extent at what the state spends versus what comes back into the treasury. And to me that’s only a fraction of the argument. The argument is really: where has the state advanced in terms of economic activity in New Jersey? Right now, for every dollar we put on the street, we get six to eight dollars back in economic activity. That’s on the high side and will likely increase once major studio partners like Netflix are up and running [with dedicated stages]. So that is a significant impact that is both immediate and broad. And what I like is that it’s local. Are [helping] the restaurant, the dry cleaner, the hotel, the caterer. …The other measure I’ll give you is that the year before we got here, the entire economic activity was in film and television [in the state] consisted mainly of music videos and infomercials. It was something like $65 million. The numbers are not yet available for 2023, but we think they are around $800 million.

Netflix is ​​moving to Fort Monmouth for studio space and Lionsgate is helping develop a studio and retail complex in Newark. Are there any other major soundstage or production infrastructure projects in the works?

You have Cinelease in Jersey City with three sound stages. It looks to me like they are going to expand in Kearny. There’s a studio in the works, the directors of which we’ve met, in West Orange and then there’s a big one that’s widely known called 1888 Studios, which is being formed in Bayonne, New Jersey, right on the Hudson River across from New York City. So those are the ones that are out there, but we’ve had conversations with others that aren’t widely known. There remains strong interest in both making stuff and investing in bricks and mortar. So watch that space as they say.

What are New Jersey’s other economic pillars right now? What are the key drivers of your state’s economy?

We are an innovation economy. The traditional anchors would be the pharmaceutical industry, life sciences, technology and telecom, and increasingly fintech. We’ve had Wall Street’s middle and back office for decades. Financial technology is a given for us, and we will be making a big announcement about it in a few weeks. Cannabis use by adults is high. Sports betting, a cousin of fintech, is big. And increasingly: film, digital television. And we’ve been very public about it taking a deliberate and big gamble on generative artificial intelligence. We announced a major joint venture with Princeton University [in December 2023].

With everything going on, what is the next frontier for New Jersey, in entertainment or other business sectors?

More of the same. I still have more than a year and a half left as governor, and I want to leave the table as best as possible set for the next generation. And I think we’re on the right track for a lot of exciting things. So further development of the projects I mentioned, development of projects that are not yet on the radar screen, but we are planting seeds. Continuing to produce a lot of content in New Jersey. I’ll give you an example: There’s a movie called “Miller by Marriage” that Ed Burns produces, directs, writes and stars while shooting in Morristown. My wife went there. She knows the Burns family from other walks of life. They were delighted and effusive about how they felt about the way they were treated [by state and local officials during filming]. We just hired a new executive director for our Motion Picture and Television Commission, who you may recognize: Jon Crowley, himself a veteran showrunner and producer. In some states, the film commissioner basically says, “Hey, welcome” to whatever the state is, and that’s the last you see them. Jon’s dedication is essentially to provide a high-quality concierge service: scouting, resolving any permitting issues, continuing to grow the Film Ready NJ program in communities. Cleaning brush. if you want.

Gov. Murphy, I have to ask you: There has been speculation about your political future. Do you have the ambition to hold another political office after your governorship?

I have nothing at the moment. But more importantly, I’m a recovering actor, which is probably one of the reasons I love it so much [boosting production in New Jersey]. It is not only good for the economy and employment. I’m a big fan of art. I acted a lot in middle school, high school and college. So I feel like I’m at home in this industry.

So your next goal is clearly the podium?

[Laughs]. I wouldn’t say that either. I have no plans at the moment. If I come across something, I’ll take care of it Variety know about it.