The work may be coming from Hollywood, but the paychecks are being spent and saved in the Big Apple, argued Cynthia Lopez, the newly appointed commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, on Tuesday at the LIC Summit in Gotham.
“We have to dissuade the misconception that Hollywood is coming to New York to take our jobs,” she said.
From lumberyards to pizza shops to soundstages, the films and television shows that have flocked to New York City’s five boroughs have created a minimum of 130,000 jobs and resulted in $7.1 billion in direct spending for the local economy, Lopez said, citing statistics from a Boston Consulting Group study.
“We have been helping small businesses survive,” she argued.
Lopez was appointed to the film czar post by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April and has been on the job for less than a month. She was previously executive vice president and co-exec producer of PBS documentary series “POV.”
She takes over the post at a time of enormous growth in New York’s film and television business and was joined Tuesday by representatives of various arms of the production business, such as producer Carol Cuddy (“True Detective”), Silvercup Studios CEO Alan Suna, Kaufman Astoria Studios president and CEO Hal Rosenbluth and Eclectic/Encore Props president Suri Bieler.
Appropriately, the event was held at the Museum of the Moving Image, across the street from Kaufman Astoria Studios, home of such New York-shot shows as “Sesame Street” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
From “Sleepless in Seattle’s” finale on the Empire State Building to the shopping trips and boozy brunches that routinely cropped up on “Sex and the City,” the shows and movies that shoot in New York City help enhance its image in the world, the panelists argued. Lopez said she is particularly interested in studying the impact on tourism that productions that shoot here have had, noting the phenomenon of the “Sex and the City” tours that ferry visitors around to the nightclubs and cupcake shops that popped up on the HBO show’s six-season run.
It’s a welcome change from films such as 1981’s “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” which Suna quipped showed New York City as “basically purgatory.”
All the panelists emphasized the infrastructural advantages that the city and its network of grips, gaffers, producers and actors has over other locations, while also acknowledging that many productions are also attracted by the more than $400 million in tax credits and incentives the state doles out annually.
“Our incentive is what’s drawing the amount of work we have,” Cuddy said. “I feel like we’re at capacity.”
When asked if she would push the state to alter the current levels of incentives either upward or downward, Lopez said she is still settling into her job. Her policy for now is to “listen, learn, evaluate before we make any sudden movements.”
Others were more adamant in their defense of the program, with Suna arguing that New York’s program is reasonable when weighed against the programs of states such as Georgia and Louisiana.
“It works, and we just shouldn’t screw it up,” he said.