Weinberg-Sarlo Call On Republicans To Support Film Tax Credit

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

News Conference in Fort Lee Links Current Support of Film Production to State’s Place in Motion Picture History

FORT LEE – At the site of one of the largest pre-Hollywood American film studios, Senators Loretta Weinberg and Paul A. Sarlo today called on Governor Christie and Legislative Republicans to support restoring the New Jersey digital media and film tax credit to promote job growth and protect the Garden State’s legacy in the motion picture industry.

The lawmakers were joined by film advocates and industry professionals at a news conference at the historical marker for the site of the former Solax Company, a film studio founded by industry pioneer Alice Guy Blaché, recognized as the first female director and one of the first to develop narrative filmmaking. Ms. Guy Blaché will be posthumously honored tomorrow as the recipient of the Special Directorial Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Directors Guild of America.

“In its infancy, the American motion picture industry was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and trailblazers like Alice Guy Blaché set the foundation for many of the conventions we’ve come to expect from modern-day cinema,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Nearly 100 years after the Solax Company built its production facilities in Fort Lee, we now stand on the verge of severely weakening and undermining our State’s investment in growing New Jersey-based film and television productions. The motion picture industry is a New Jersey institution, and we should not be turning our backs on the legacy of film pioneers like Alice Guy Blaché.”

“In recent years, the New Jersey film industry has devolved into insulting reality TV shows which take pot shots at our State’s perception in pop culture,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “Rather than let Snookie be the face of New Jersey TV and film production, we ought to remember that better role models helped shape more than a century’s worth of films by creating cutting edge masterpieces which paved the way for everybody else. I urge my Governor Chris Christie and my Republican colleagues in the Legislature to honor the contributions of Alice Guy Blaché and stand with us to restore the digital media and film tax credit to its former glory.”

The lawmakers specifically urged Republicans to support S-3056, sponsored by Senators Sarlo and Weinberg, known as the “Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act.” The bill, which was recently approved on a party-line vote in the Senate, would expand existing film, television and digital media tax credit programs, increasing the annual program cap for the film production tax credit from $10 million to $50 million and for the digital media production tax credit from $5 million to $10 million. The Bergen County legislators noted that expanding these programs would create a substantial incentive for film productions to come to New Jersey, creating jobs and other ancillary economic activity.

“The film and digital media tax credit program has had a major impact on our State’s economy,” said Senator Sarlo. “This is a program that generates far more in economic output than we put in. It’s a common sense measure which will grow our economy, put people back to work, and give our State a counter-voice to the stereotypes and generalizations of New Jersey depicted in popular culture and reality television.”

Both legislators said that Governor Christie’s decision to scale back the tax credit when he took office resulted in at least one television program – Law and Order: SVU – relocating to New York, while others, such as HBO’s critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, which stands as a fictionalized version of Atlantic City’s history during the Prohibition Era, chose to shoot instead in Long Island, offsetting higher production costs than New Jersey with New York’s generous tax credit program.

“When it comes to the film industry, the policy decisions of this Governor have resulted in New Jersey losing high-paying jobs to neighboring states,” said Senator Weinberg. “We let the film industry get away from us once before, when the major studios moved to Hollywood, leaving a booming film industry in Fort Lee as a distant memory. Let’s not make that mistake again, and let’s support a competitive film tax credit designed to attract filmmakers to the State.”

The legislators noted that according to economic analysis prepared by Ernst and Young, the film and digital media tax credit is a State program with a proven return of investment. The tax credit, in its first five years would have generated 4,350 new, high-paying jobs, creating more than 311 million dollars in new wages for New Jersey residents and almost a billion dollars in total economic output by production companies relocating to the Garden State.

In addition to highlighting the need to continue investing in the digital media and film tax credit program, the news conference also recognized the work of Alice Guy Blaché, at a time when her contributions to the motion picture industry are being revisited. On October 13, the Directors Guild of America will award her the Special Directorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in New York City. Among her many achievements, Ms. Guy Blaché was one of the first filmmakers to promote the idea of using film as a narrative device, and made more than 100 films using a synchronized sound technique that preceded commercially-viable sound-on-film by decades.

“If New Jersey wants to compete with other states for lucrative film and television productions, we have to have a competitive tax credit program,” said Senator Weinberg. “Given our place in motion picture industry, we ought to try to preserve that legacy and continue to support the thriving entertainment industry. I hope my fellow lawmakers on the opposite side of the aisle can work with us to create a truly competitive tax credit program which encourages more film and TV productions to come to the Garden State.”

“By scaling back New Jersey’s film and digital media tax credit program, we’re making a statement that the achievements of pioneers like Ms. Guy Blaché just don’t matter,” said Senator Sarlo. “The early filmmakers were able to take something which was little more than a scientific curiosity, and turn it into mainstream entertainment. New Jersey was a big part of that, and it seems only right that, more than a century later, we continue to support a thriving film and digital media industry here in the Garden State.”