Register now !    Login  
Main Menu
Who's Online
53 user(s) are online (41 user(s) are browsing Message Forum)

Members: 0
Guests: 53


Browsing this Thread:   1 Anonymous Users

North Jersey profits from role as film location
Home away from home
Home away from home

Hide User information
2004/9/15 19:03
Last Login :
2020/8/25 18:25
Registered Users
Posts: 9098
North Jersey profits from role as film location

The Record -- Feb 25 -- DUNSTAN PRIAL

On a recent bitter cold morning, as the sun emerged over a frozen apple orchard somewhere near Kingston along the New York Thruway, longtime Alpine resident Jerry McSpirit was behind the wheel of a 1983 Mercedes 380SL.

Talking into his cellphone, McSpirit assured the voice at the other end that the Mercedes, powder blue and in mint condition, would reach Stamford, N.Y., deep in the Catskill Mountains, by 9 a.m.

Hanging up, he turned to his passenger. "They're nervous 'cuz this is the hero car," he said.

Hero car?

"Yeah, the one used by the star," he explained.

The Mercedes was being used in a scene for an upcoming HBO movie about heiress Doris Duke starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes.

For 30 years, McSpirit has provided period cars and specialty vehicles -- police cars, taxis, buses -- for movies being shot in the area.

He is one of dozens of North Jersey business owners who derive all or part of their living from the state's vibrant film industry.

In 2005, film production crews spent $86 million in New Jersey on 937 projects, which included a record 92 feature films, according to the New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission. Those figures have essentially doubled during the past decade.

Recent feature films shot in North Jersey include Academy Award winner Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center," which brought crews to Carlstadt, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Glen Rock and Lyndhurst; parts of Tony Award winner Julie Taymor's new movie "Across the Universe," a musical set in the 1960s, shot in Moonachie and South Hackensack; and a comedy called "Be Kind Rewind," starring Danny Glover, Mia Farrow and Jack Black, which got help from 300 Passaic residents who were used as extras during filming there last fall.

Given North Jersey's proximity to New York, its varied landscapes -- farmland, industrial sites and waterfront property -- all within a relatively tight radius, and its skilled labor force, the growth trend is expected to continue.

"It's got to be one of the most filmed areas in the country," said Steven Gorelick, the state film commission's associate director.

Bergen a big draw

Bergen County, in particular, is attractive to filmmakers because county and municipal leaders have embraced the industry, Gorelick said.

Because it's difficult for film crews to avoid disrupting a community by shutting down streets and blocking auto and foot traffic for days -- even weeks -- on end, community leaders need to be on board to keep relations between the crews and locals on good terms.

In Bergen County, community leaders go out of their way to mediate between the two, Gorelick said.

"They're very organized in handling the needs of film production," he said. "They have a system in place. We don't have to start from scratch."

Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney said his enthusiasm for the industry extends beyond the obvious financial impact.

"There's a cachet to having a film made in Bergen County. There's a prestige that goes with being in noteworthy films. It creates a positive feeling for the community, particularly when it shows the community in a positive light," he said.

For local businesses, having a movie crew settle in for any length of time "can mean a few hundred dollars, or it can mean tens of thousands of dollars," said the film commission's Gorelick.

Consider that one film alone, "A Perfect Murder," a 1998 thriller starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow that was filmed on an elaborate soundstage constructed in the Jersey City Armory, generated $5.4 million for the local community, according to a report filed with the state film commission by Warner Bros.

Those millions are spread out over a broad array of services.

For instance, McSpirit rents most of his cars for about $400 per day. Specialty vehicles are more expensive, and he charges more for a shoot outside the New York metro area. He gets an extra $100 if he drives the car during a scene.

His cars and other vehicles have appeared in scores of movies, including such Oscar winners as "The Godfather" and "A Beautiful Mind."

Business owners who work regularly with film crews say flexibility and patience are the keys to getting return business.

"It's hurry up and wait all the time," said Denise Florio, event coordinator for 877-Caterer, a gourmet food services company in South Hackensack that has provided meals for dozens of mostly low-budget independent films.

Because most film crews are always trying to save money, their plans can change at any time, Florio explained. Thus, companies seeking business from them have to be able to adapt to those ever-shifting schedules, and if that means fielding a phone call at 4 a.m. seeking a breakfast buffet in a few hours, so be it, she said.

Word of mouth

"It can be very time-consuming, and patience is definitely a virtue. But it's well worth it," she said.

Crew members move from film to film, Florio noted. Impress a crew on a small independent film this year, and one of the assistants on that film may be working on a bigger film with a bigger budget a year from now. And that person might recommend your business to the producer of the bigger movie.

"Over time, people move up in the business, and if they take you with them, it's a fabulous thing," she said.

And no advertisement is more effective than word of mouth, she said, especially in an insular world such as the film industry.

Val Mazzucca, chief pilot for TLI Helicopter Charters in Ridgefield Park, deals with the other end of the industry spectrum -- stars and studio executives who can afford to pay a minimum fee of $2,100, say, from Teterboro Airport to a heliport near their hotel in Manhattan, or from Manhattan to a film location in New Jersey.

Tom Cruise was a passenger while filming Steven Spielberg's 2005 blockbuster "War of the Worlds" in Newark and Bayonne.

Mazzucca differs from other North Jersey business owners vying for film-related jobs in that he doesn't need the work. The helicopter he pilots is owned by a wealthy businessman who uses it for his personal travel, he said. But to offset maintenance costs, Mazzucca pilots charter flights, frequently for movie stars filming in the area.

"Most of them are regular people," he said.

"In my case, I think they sort of look up to me because as the pilot I hold their life in my hands."

Generators may not be as glamorous as fancy cars or helicopter rides with superstars, but few movies shot on location can do without them.

Rudox Engine & Equipment Co. in Carlstadt has provided generators for such big-budget productions as "The Wiz" and "Carlito's Way."

"It's not our most profitable area -- probably less than 5 percent of our overall business -- but we're one of the old-time players in the field," said Rudox sales manager William Cook.

Film production is a specialty field, Cook observed, one that requires unique technology to meet its unique demands.

One way Rudox meets those demands is by providing specialty generators that run quietly, so they don't interfere with the filming process.

Diversity of services and a high level of professionalism appear to be two of the qualities found in North Jersey companies that keep filmmakers coming back here, even as the competition for their business gets tougher both in the U.S. and abroad.

No one can afford to stand on past laurels, said the film commission's Gorelick; there's too much at stake.

"The bottom line is all the money that's being spent here," he said.

"That's what we're all about."

* * *

Making a killing

To evoke the opulence of a penthouse apartment in midtown Manhattan for the film "A Perfect Murder," the Hollywood movie studio Warner Bros. built an elaborate replica on a soundstage inside the Jersey City Armory. The 1998 movie, a thriller starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, fared well at the box office, grossing $68 million in the United States. Jersey City also fared well, with local businesses getting most of the $5.4 million Warner Bros. spent during 90 days of shooting there. Expenses included:

# $2.8 million to hire local carpenters, electricians and construction workers

# $392,000 on hardware and lumber supplies

# $113,000 on catering, bakery goods and other food services

# $77,000 for local extras

# $41,000 for administrative personnel and supplies

# $30,000 for local security guards

# $27,000 for off-duty police officers

Source: Warner Bros.
* * *

Film industry economic impact in N.J.
Year # of projects Revenues
1980 112 $8.5 million
1985 276 $16.8 million
1990 421 $26.2 million
1995 518 $40.9 million
2000 664 $69.7 million
2005 937 $85.5 million

Source: N.J. Motion Picture & Television Commission
* * *

Getting involved

North Jersey companies seeking to obtain business from the film industry are advised to add their names and company information to the production services directory on the New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission Web site at The commission can be reached at or 973-648-6279.

Posted on: 2007/2/25 15:22

[Advanced Search]



Remember me

Lost Password?

Register now!

LicenseInformation | AboutUs | PrivacyPolicy | Faq | Contact

JERSEY CITY LIST - News & Reviews - Jersey City, NJ - Copyright 2004 - 2017