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Gotham prod’n picks up the pace

Tax credits luring pilots and pix to N.Y.

NEW YORK — Runaway production is making a U-turn for Gotham, coaxed by an aggressive new state and city tax incentive program that’s been in full play only since Jan. 1.

There’s already been a sharp uptick in the number of productions deciding to shoot in Gotham, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Tuesday. He estimated that the new productions will contribute at least $75 million to the city economy, not to mention bolster its soundstages.

Tax incentives are proving a powerful punch for those who want to shoot a TV show or film that’s about New York in New York, according to Bloomberg.

Politico held his press conference at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, where five network TV pilots are being shot — a record for the soundstage.

Silvercup also announced that Hart Sharp Entertainment has decided to use the soundstage for feature film “The Night Listener,” starring Robin Williams.

Both the TV pilots and the pic were initially destined for Canada.

It’s working

“Runaway production has definitely been curbed,” Silvercup Studios prexy Stuart Match Suna said. “Usually, Silvercup receives one or two pilots during pilot season.”

Bloomberg said at least four additional TV pilots are planned for production in the city, but he declined to name them.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is putting the final touches on his much-awaited runaway production legislation. Proposal is expected to offer the same sort of tax incentives implemented in states such as New York and Louisiana (Daily Variety, Feb. 22).

Gotham’s Made in New York Incentive Program, which went into effect Jan. 3, features a 5% tax credit, marketing credits and expanded services for production companies completing 75% of their work in Gotham.

The state’s Empire State Film Production Credit Program, signed into law last fall, offers a 10% tax incentive to feature films and TV shows that do most of their filming on a qualified New York soundstage. Productions are required to spend at least 75% of their facilities-related expenses on a soundstage of 7,000 square feet or larger. If facility costs are less than $3 million, a production must shoot at least 75% of its location days in the state.

Film and TV bring in about $5 billion a year to New York, providing 100,000 jobs. No one in the mayor’s office was willing to predict how much those numbers may ultimately grow as a result of the new incentives.

‘In the game again’

“I think the tax credits are the best thing that the New York industry has seen in 20 years,” said Kaufman Astoria Studios prexy Hal Rosenbluth. “This puts us in the game again. The calls are starting to come in that we were otherwise not getting.”

The pilots set to be shot at Silvercup include “The Bedford Diaries” and “The Prince” for Warner Bros.; “Introducing Lennie Rose” and “Pros & Cons” for Disney/ABC Touchstone Television; and “NY-70” for NBC.

While the mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting estimates that these pilots will pump $15 million into the local economy, Silvercup said this figure actually doubles to $30 million when taking into account the money spent by the crew and cast on hotels, taxis, food, clothing and the like.

Other previously announced films expected to be shot in New York as a result of the tax incentives include Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and GreeneStreet Films’ “Awake,” which originally scouted locations in Dublin and London before deciding on New York City.

Fox Television’s “Jonny Zero,” which bowed last month, was the first TV series to take advantage of the tax breaks. Series stars Franky G., who was on hand for Tuesday’s press confab at Silvercup along with “Zero” co-producer Bart Wenrich and New York City Film, Theater & Broadcasting Commissioner Katherine Oliver.

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