Start spreading the news, they're filming today. The TV networks want to be a part of it, New York, New York!
An unusually high number of new primetime dramas will be filmed in the Big Apple next season, as tax incentives and other perks attract studios and networks looking to save money while giving shows a more authentic New York backdrop.
At CBS, the shift to the East Coast is quite pronounced: All four of the network's new hour-long series will be shot in New York. That includes J.J. Abrams' suspenseful Person of Interest (starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson), the Poppy Montgomery mystery Unforgettable, the quirky medical drama A Gifted Man and the midseason rookie cop drama The 2-2, from Robert DeNiro's production company.
A series like Unforgettable could have been shot anywhere, but wound up being set in New York because of economics. (The 2-2, on the other hand, is specifically set in DeNiro's beloved Manhattan, while A Gifted Man is there at the behest of star Patrick Wilson.) CBS TV Studios, which produces most of those shows, is capitalizing on its established presence in New York, where the company already produces Blue Bloods and The Good Wife (in which the city doubles for Chicago).
Besides the CBS shows, ABC's 1960s-set Pan Am will also shoot in New York; ditto NBC's Broadway-themed musical Smash. "We've never been busier," says Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. "And we're quite proud. We haven't seen numbers like this ever. Episodic TV employs a lot of people for a long period of time."
That's good news for New York, which has aggressively pursued film and TV production, offering a 30% tax credit to series shot inside the state. New York is also benefiting from the expected expiration of once-generous financial breaks in spots like Michigan, as well as a weak dollar in Canada — at one time the go-to spot for productions on a budget.
"New York is offering great incentives," says one studio executive. "And it's varied as far as what you can shoot and what you can replicate on camera. Plus it offers a fantastic acting community and plenty of crews to handle these shows."
Of next year's 24 new dramas on the broadcast networks, only eight will be filmed in Los Angeles, compared to the six in New York. Things aren't dire for L.A.: most sitcoms are still produced in Hollywood, and the rise in cable drama has offset some of those broadcast losses.
But to the thousands working in Los Angeles's production community, runaway series are a big concern. "TV is critically important to us," says Film L.A. president Paul Audley. "And drama is truly where the big money is. We'd like to see more done here in L.A."
California was slow to offer any sort of tax breaks to producers, as state politicians long assumed that Hollywood would opt to stay, well, in Hollywood. But when money talks, the studios have been more than willing to walk. The state recently enacted a controversial $100 million credit to lure back series and films that had left California. L.A. also now makes all of its facilities, including its historic City Hall, free for filming.
Among those shows taking advantage of the money: ABC's Body of Proof, which will relocate this season to Los Angeles from Rhode Island. The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation was set to hold a press conference on Tuesday morning, June 28, to tout the Body of Proof move and release a study highlighting the impact of the tax credit.
According to that organization, Body of Proof is expected to spend more than $43 million and create at least 200 jobs in the coming year. Still, "New York offers four times the amount of money that California does," Audley says. "California is going to have to address that sooner or later."
Networks also frequently shoot pilots out of state to keep costs down, but return to L.A. because of actor demands. In one case, the pilot to The CW's Ringer was filmed in New York, but star Sarah Michelle Gellar required the series to be based in Los Angeles.
Besides New York, productions are decamping for Vancouver (where the CW's The Secret Circle and ABC's Once Upon a Time will be based), Miami (ABC's Charlie's Angels), Chicago (NBC's The Playboy Club), Portland (NBC's Grimm) and even Australia (Fox's Terra Nova).
Then there's Hawaii, where ABC has managed to keep a steady stream of business, from Lost and last season's Off the Map to next midseason's Amazon-set thriller The River. Like Off the Map, The River's pilot was shot in Puerto Rico, but cast demands moved the show to Hawaii.
"Our experience filming on Oahu has proven that it can double for the Amazon environment we created for the pilot," says ABC Studios creative and production executive vice president Barry Jossen, who happens to hail from the state. "Hawaii is magical."