Partnership with city's communications unit

The city of Newark, N.J., has opened the Newark Office of Film and Television (NOFT), a new entity designed to help to production companies with logistical assistance, site searches and identifying locations for film shoots. The office is also charged with provide aid in obtaining goods and services needed for production, and assistance in accessing studios and filming locations.

The creation of the office was announced by Newark mayor Cory A. Booker, along with deputy mayor Stefan Pryor, Newark Office of Communications director Anne Torres, and Lyneir Richardson, CEO of Brick City Development Corp., the agency charged with promoting business and economic growth in New Jersey’s largest city.

In addition to promoting production, NOFT plans to develop an education and internship program for Newark youth, providing opportunities for high school students through training in media, camera operation, scriptwriting and other skills. Professional filmmakers and TV talent – along with guest directors, producers, writers, and other industry execs – will explain their work and share their experiences with students to prepare them for film, TV and media careers.

Working in conjunction with the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, the new office will also assist filmmakers and TV producers seeking to apply for state incentive programs.

“Newark has been a hub for television and film productions for decades, ranging from commercials to ‘Presumed Innocent’ and ‘War of the Worlds,’” Booker said. “Creating this office will help us continue to leverage Newark as a world-class location for TV and film production.”

“With numerous physical assets and a superior cost structure to surrounding competing markets, Newark has untapped potential in the film production industry,” said Pryor. NOFT will be located in offices of Brick City Development Corp.

Newark has several studios available for editing and production rental, and will soon add a new complex, the Ironbound Studios, to the city’s roster of film facilities. When complete, Ironbound Studios will boast 77,000 square feet of studio space, including a 38,000-foot soundstage.

Three other stages will be capable of hosting productions for commercials, TV programming, talk shows, new media, and live-action branded-entertainment projects.

According to the city, Ironbound Studios will offer rates that are significantly lower than comparable studios in New York City – which is just across the Hudson river – and will provide an alternate location only 20 minutes from Manhattan.

The city added that all labor used in the construction of the Ironbound Studios was hired from Newark or the greater Newark area. NOFT expects the facility to open in late 2011.

“Newark has tremendous architecture, a rich history in the arts, and a city government that is committed to working with the film and television industries create significant programming here.” said O’Brien Kelley, who serves as director of the Newark Office of Film and Television – and who began his film career in 2004 when Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe asked him to executive-produce a script they had commissioned called “Beautiful Ohio.” He’s now working as associate producer for actor/writer Emma Thompson on a Victorian period piece called “Effie.”

The film permit process involves the City of Newark’s Office of Communications, the police department and the law department. Permit requests and approvals are coordinated by City of Newark’s film and permit manager Brenda Jones, who began her film career with Columbia Pictures as a production assistant. She went on to work with New York area PBS outlet WNET/13, producing local programming for 13 years, before joining the City of Newark in 1998. She also serves as an independent producer on educational documentaries.

“The Newark Office of Film and Television will not only serve as an economic catalyst, but as an engine for propelling Newark to the top of Hollywood’s A-list for film production,” said Torres.

The City of Newark has a long history within the film industry. In 2005, Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood was the set for Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” starring Tom Cruise. In 2008, Cadillac Records, with actor Adrien Brody and recording star Beyoncé Knowles, used downtown Newark as its backdrop. Additionally, in 2009, rapper Eminem produced a video for his song “Not Afraid” in Downtown Newark; it subsequently won Best Hip-Hop Video at the MTV Music Awards. HBO Mini-Series “The Sopranos” also filmed episodes in Newark.

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