When Michael Bloomberg became the mayor of New York on Jan. 1, 2002, he took the reins of a city still reeling from the devastating aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks just four months earlier. Having built his eponymously named company into a global giant, he naturally rolled up his sleeves and set out to revitalize the Gotham economy.
High on his list: film and TV production. “Diversifying the city’s economy has always been a top priority for our administration — and the film and television industry has been an important part of our strategy,” he tells Variety.
He tapped former Bloomberg Radio and Television general manager Katherine Oliver as commissioner of the longstanding Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, and under their leadership the office worked to make production in New York more attractive with initiatives such as the Made in NY marketing credits that help to lower costs alongside the state’s tax incentives.
It worked. When Bloomberg entered the office, there were nine primetime skeins shot in New York. Now there are 25.
“The reputation of New York used to be it was always a great place to shoot but it was really expensive,” says Martin Shafer, chair and CEO of Castle Rock Entertainment, which is just about to began production on Marc Lawrence’s latest romantic comedy, an untitled feature starring Hugh Grant. The pic will shoot in locations all over New York state as well as soundstages in the city. “Now the problem is that it’s becoming so popular, things get booked up.”
Leadership also worked overtime to make the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting a more efficient, responsive place for the producers and filmmakers.
“Location shoots, especially in a city the scale of New York, have their complexities, so you always want an engaged mayor’s office,” says Bruce Richmond, exec veep of production at HBO, a network with a long history of Gotham-based skeins (“Sex and the City,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Girls”). “That’s exactly what we’ve seen with Mayor Bloomberg’s team.”
As New York City shows up more and more often on screens big and small, it gets a whole lot of tourism-boosting marketing out of it — not to mention the growth of the city’s entertainment job sector, which by the mayor’s figures have swelled by 30,000 over the past decade to 130,000. And don’t forget the ripple effect for local businesses accompanying the increased business activity.
“That means jobs for New Yorkers — like costume designers, electricians, painters, carpenters, and many other positions — and also more orders for hardware stores, fabric shops, truck rentals, and many other businesses,” says Bloomberg.
Because when the local entertainment industry flourishes, so does Gotham.