Long before the first movie was ever filmed in Hollywood, New Jersey was already setting the scene for the emerging film industry. In the late 1880s, famed inventor Thomas Edison and his team were busy perfecting the kinetograph and kinetoscope — precursors to the motion picture camera and projectors used by movie makers today. The world’s firm film production studio — the Black Maria — was built in West Orange on the grounds of Edison’s laboratory.
Today, the state is home to a robust and well-connected film and television industry with abundant talent, low cost and diverse scenery to boot. Motion picture and television production in New Jersey has increased dramatically since the Garden State Film, and Digital Media Jobs Act took effect in 2018. In 2019, film and television production generated more than $400 million for the state economy and created thousands of jobs. Other major motion pictures filmed here recently include The Many Saints of Newark, Army of the Dead, Beauty, and Trial of the Chicago 7, all scheduled to be released later this year and into 2021.
The New Jersey Film & Digital Media Tax Credit program offers eligible production companies a 30-35% transferable tax credit to use on production expenses. To encourage film productions to employ minorities in above-the-line and below-the-line positions, productions that develop and execute an approved diversity and inclusion plan can receive an additional 2% bonus. Additionally, digital media projects can qualify for a 20-25% tax credit under separate eligibility requirements.
New Jersey is home to 21 counties and 565 municipalities, providing an easily accessible and widely varied landscape for filming. New Jersey’s online digital location library offers a content-rich, searchable database of thousands of sites across the state when scouting out the best locations.
Though not a large state, New Jersey has a unique and varied topography. The Northwest part of the state is traversed by low mountain ridges with valleys and rolling hillsides and is dotted with lakes and waterways. Southeast New Jersey is hilly before it reaches the Palisades, stunning natural cliffs that rise 200 to 500 feet above from the Hudson River. The Southern interior of the state is more commonly known as the Pine Barrens and is home to several large cranberry bogs. Whether a film needs sandy shorelines, urban skylines or rural country views, New Jersey is one of the few states that can replicate the look of any other region in the country.
The state’s proximity to New York City and Philadelphia only bolsters its position in the film industry. New Jersey falls within the 25-mile New York Studio Film Zone. As one of the most connected states in the Northeast, moving cast and crew around the region is easy.
With a deep talent pool of skilled artists and craftspeople, New Jersey offers a world-class, expanding production infrastructure. New Jersey has the most film and TV professionals outside of Hollywood — from screenwriters to set designers. The state’s network of vendors assures productions have access to the support services they need to get the job done.
West Side Story (20th Century Fox)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Paramount Pictures)
The Many Saints of Newark (Warner Bros.)
Joker (Warner Bros.)
Army of the Dead (Netflix)
Chemical Hearts (Amazon Studios)
The Enemy Within (NBC)
Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (NBC)
The Plot Against America (HBO)
Little America (Apple TV+)
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.