The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting doesn’t want to make any money. On their website, the only item that has any sort of cost to it is a NYC Filming Permit, which carries a rather low price of $300 considering the array of features and benefits the city of New York heaps upon filmmakers.
The office’s major selling point is their “Made in NY” incentive program in which film and television productions are given a variety of assistance in various forms. The program offers productions potential exemption from New York City and State tax requirements. It also provides a discount card with an encompassing range of included vendors including hotels, airlines, car rentals and banking services. Additionally, if a production completes %75 of their filming within New York City, the city agency provides free minor marketing exposure, mostly in the form of bus-stop posters and the like.
Not only does the agency provide banking services to New York Film and Television productions, it also offers a concierge service which assists with every conceivable aspect of filming, or as their website states, “expanded service supports the entire production cycle.” The described features include, “story development and tie-ins to NYC agencies, scouting assistance and budget analysis, locations access to premium sites…assistance with global premieres and launches. Basically if you’re willing to shoot in New York City, The Mayor’s Office will do everything necessary to make that happen from – going off of their own list of benefits – financing the piece, writing and casting it through story development support and the ties to NYC agencies, provide discounted living accommodations, and then help launch the film world-wide.
All such services, however, come at a price. In August 2010, New York State passed an item its budget renewing the money allocated to supporting state tax breaks for films. The number decided upon was $2.1 billion dollars over five years, or $420 million a year. This vote closely followed several ongoing film and television productions decision to leave New York City due to uncertainty with New York tax credits. The greatest example of this move was the Fox television show Fringe who moved to Vancouver suddenly after filming their first season in NYC.
While the copy on the Mayor’s Office’s website may sound like it’s begging people to shoot in New York, there are legitimate reasons for such a push. Productions customarily spread money around the Neighborhoods they film in. In 2010, the film Premium Rush with Joseph Gordon-Levitt shot on the Upper West Side and Columbia Pictures donated $7,500 to the neighborhood, which they stated they would used to hire more workers to pick up trash. In an interview with a Manhattan local news source, DNA Info, Gina Liu – a location scout and assistant set manager for Disney, Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures – said Disney gave out $5,000 in donations to neighborhood groups in Chinatown when they filmed Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 2009.
When Premium Rush filmed at Columbia University, the institution did not ask for a donation, but rather requested that the production hire several student filmmakers to work as production assistants. And so while the measurable benefits to location film shoots in New York are minor but better than nothing, the immeasurable benefits – such as city exposure, positive portrayals and the general sense that everything does indeed happen in New York – are great enough that New York continues to apply energy and resources to keep film productions coming to the city.