Spending on filmed production in New York City has grown a whopping $1.5 billion in the last four years, hitting a total of $8.7 billion on the back of a TV boom that has also helped push the total number of full-time equivalent employments in the filmed production industry to more than 100,000, according to a new study released by the Boston Consulting Group.
That spending represents a rise of more than 20% compared to the most recent previous study, which pegged total spending at $7.2 billion for 2011. The latest report, commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, also noted a rise of 10% in full-time-equivalent work (FTE) opportunities in the city’s entertainment industry, rising to 104,000 from 94,000 in 2011.
Cynthia Lopez, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, counted New York’s unique combination of iconic locations and could-be-anywhere locales, as well as its deep, hardworking talent pool, as among the city’s chief attractions to producers.
“From the crews to the equipment to the sound stages to a track record of having productions shooting at various locations, you have the thing you need right here,” she said. “And when you look at an assistant editor and what their hourly rate is, or you examine a production hierarchy, these are good paying, middle-class jobs. People like makeup artists and costume designers and camera operators, they all earn middle class livings and are instrumental to our local economy.”
An increase in scripted shows, produced by an ever-growing number of networks and digital platforms, has played a major factor in the economic boost to the city, with some 46 series, ranging from “The Good Wife” to “Girls” to “Power,” produced in New York in 2014, compared to the 24 titles logged in 2011. Meanwhile, as eight-to-twelve episode seasons become more and more common, industry workers in New York have become more able to cobble together year-round work.
“The acting pool is extraordinary, and when you have seven to fifteen guest stars per episode, you need that depth,” said “The Good Wife” producer Brooke Kennedy. “The crew pool seems a bit bottomless, too, because the unions are training people as fast as they can. The financial incentives just makes it that much easier.”
Unscripted television has also grown in New York, including the live productions — such as “The Tonight Show,” which began filming in the city in February 2014 — that bring in tourist audiences and the approximately $45 million they spend while they’re in the city.
Compared to TV, film production in the city has proven far more variable, with fluctuations attributable to the vicissitudes of the movie industry as studios consolidate production toward a handful of blockbusters, with fewer mid-budget films. “I think New York’s become more of a TV town than a film town,” noted Doug Steiner, the president of Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios, which has expanded in recent years in part to keep up with TV growth.
More consistent, however, are indie film activity and documentary production, for which New York City serves as a major hub. Film production stats looks promising this year, with 256 films having shot in New York so far in 2015 (vs. the 242 in all of 2014), and a couple of big-money movies, including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2,” on the way.
Underscoring the importance of television to the consistent, ongoing health of New York’s entertainment industry, the report warned that the churn of TV production, with fewer shows surviving as productions proliferate, necessitates that the city make concerted efforts to continue to attract pilots.
Other issues, too, arise from the city’s growing popularity among filmed productions. “I’m always concerned about a shortage of stage space, and for location shooting, we’re trying not to wear out the neighborhoods in the immediate areas around the stages we shoot on,” said Lisa Rawlins, the senior vice president of public affairs at Warner Bros. Entertainment, which shoots TV shows from “Gotham” to “Blindspot” to “The Mysteries of Laura” in New York, as well as films such as the upcoming “Sully.” “We have to pay attention to these neighborhoods and our impact on the people who live and work in them.”
Other challenges on the horizons including the rising costs of living and doing business in the city, not to mention the overall complexity of location shoots in a bustling urban environment.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment aims to prep for the future in part by bolstering the city’s workforce, with initiatives including a fellowship program, innovation grants, a program for TV writers and an assistant editor training and mentorship program, as well as some $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to the Feirstein Film School, the new graduate film institution located on the Steiner Studios lot. Such programs have come in addition to ongoing initiatives including the Made in NY incentives.