It’s been over 30 years since Annie Hall covered the kitchen in lobsters, and 20 years since George and Elaine didn’t get their soup, but New York’s time is far from over. Fortunately, despite high rents and stiff competition, it’s still a great place for a moviemaker to call home.
In fact, production in New York is on the rise. 2016 saw around 300 film productions in the city; some titles you’ll come across in the next 12 months include the Liam Neeson action-thriller The Commuter, Michael Showalter’s Sundance-premiering The Big Sick, S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Perry Lang’s An Interview with God. New York also strengthened its position as the TV industry’s arguable headquarters: There were 52 episodic series shot during the 2015-16 season (up from 46 series the year before), from Broad City to Difficult People to Mr. Robot.
All told, the production industry contributed $9 billion to the city’s economy in 2016, employing 130,000 workers. Notably, the state offers an excellent tax incentive (a 30 percent refundable state tax credit, with a 35 percent credit for certain post expenses), with potential bonuses for productions shot in NYC itself, and certain areas upstate.
New York is known for its grit, but the ruthless city has put together a selection of standout local services that support the moviemaking industry in innovative ways. One exciting recent initiative, launched in October 2016, is NYC Film Green, a program whereby productions voluntarily engage in sustainable practices including waste reduction, energy conservation and staff education. This groundbreaking government program is the first of its kind in the United States. There’s the Made in NY Writers Room program, a new partnership between the NYC Department of Small Business Services and WGA East, offering writers of diverse backgrounds a six-month fellowship with established local showrunners. Fall 2016 also saw the announcement by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment of a bevy of programs to combat gender inequality in entertainment, such as a $5 million grant fund for female-centered work, a screenwriting contest for female television writers and a report analyzing the gender inequity of directors in the film industry. Together with the established Made in NY program (which features PA training, media training, career panels and free advertising to projects that film the majority of their work in the five boroughs), these initiatives make the message clear: New York City truly values its moviemakers.
Director Adam Leon shot both his features, 2012’s Gimme the Loot and the upcoming Netflix release Tramps, in the city. “You get this incredible production value by just putting a camera in the middle of the city, where people are constantly moving,” he says. “They’re not stopping and looking at the camera—they’re just being in this active place.”
The density of film schools—besides the biggies like NYU and Columbia, there’s the recently opened Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Brooklyn College, the city’s first public graduate school for cinema—means incoming talent and experienced movie crews. Your casting calls are sure to turn up gold, whether it be graduates from Juilliard, Broadway performers (or off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway), or the talent pool from comedy institutions like the Upright Citizens Brigade, the PIT and the Annoyance Theater.
You might have to live in a shoebox in Astoria, but hey, you won’t need a car. And if want to get any kind of food in the world at 3 a.m., you’ll be glad you’re there.