New Jersey Incentives, Locations, Crew Lure Big Productions Looking for a Good Break

For his first film since winning the Oscar for 2018’s “Green Book,” Peter Farrelly again ventured into new regions of the country. The 40-day shoot of “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” set between fall 1967 and spring 1968, was split between Thailand and northern New Jersey.

Thailand filled in for Vietnam; bars, churches and other locations in Newark, Paterson, Jersey City and North Bergen were convincing doubles for New York City of the era.

The entire film was to be shot in New Zealand until COVID-19 scuttled those plans. Farrelly heeded the advice of his friend, Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard, who told him “if you’re going to shoot in New York, go to New Jersey. It’s cheaper and you got all the same stuff.”

On top of that, he was able to work in the home state of his producer Andrew Muscato, a documentarian making his narrative feature debut.

Farrelly, who took advantage of Louisiana’s tax credit when shooting “Green Book” — they even used Hammond, La., to replicate the Bronx — had never been to Jersey City. “Manhattan’s only four minutes away, it’s a beautiful view, there’s a million nice restaurants and they’ve got great crews here,” he says. It’s a selling point that the state is pushing hard as it attracts more than a half-billion dollars in film and television-related activity this year.

Farrelly wasn’t alone in making the New Jersey of today resemble the New York of another era. Nearly all of the Hulu series “Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga” was set in Staten Island and Manhattan in the 1990s but northern New Jersey got the role as the production shot in 10 cities and towns, among them Irvington, Montclair and Secaucus.

“We worked hard on them,” says Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission. “They felt they could spread out a little bit more here, and meet the COVID-19 protocols more easily while they’re here on location. And because it was warehouse-based, they also had office space. And they still have that space under lease because they’re contemplating doing a third season.”

“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” and “Wu-Tang Clan” are among scores of productions pushing 2021 film and TV production spending beyond half a billion dollars in the Garden State, a record year following 2018’s $121.4 million (the first year Gov. Phil Murphy reinstated tax credits) and then 2019’s $421 million before COVID-19 largely shut down location and studio shoots.

The state has seen a boom in productions since reinstating its tax credit — now between 30% and 35% — in 2018 during Murphy’s first term in office. He recently won another term.

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