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October 2, 2023
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New York City Permits For Film & TV Production Fell Sharply In May Amid WGA Strike

The number of filming permits issued by New York City fell sharply in May from previous months, and from the year earlier amid a WGA strike and uncertainty over contracts for other guilds.

Some 549 permits were issued for 188 projects last month, according to data from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. That was down from 662 permits for 187 projects in April, and 679 permits for 135 projects in March across the five boroughs. A year ago, in May of 2022, MOME issued 801 shooting permits for 227 projects.

In a 2021 economic impact report, MOME said filmed entertainment supported about 185,000 jobs, $18 billion in wages and nearly $82 billion in total economic output in 2019. That was pre-Covid, the industry has been clawing its way out.

Talks with the WGA have been stalled since writers went on strike in early May. SAG-AFTRA is negotiating. The DGA signed a deal with the AMPTP and has sent it out for members to ratify.

As the writers’ strike took hold, MOME held a live webinar on May 19 for impacted workers, with reps from the city’s unemployment insurance, small business and freelancers’ hub fielding questions. The event had over 1,000 views and the office is planning two more this month, one focusing on resources for individuals, the other for businesses. 

Ironically, the latest New York State budget under Gov. Kathy Hochul just sweetened tax incentives to attract production, passing on May 3, the day after the WGA went on strike.

Last week, more than 50 Democratic members of the New York State legislature, reminded the AMPTP that companies it represents are the beneficiaries of “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits” every year and called on the studios to return to the bargaining table with the WGA.

“You can’t account for timing,” MOME Commissioner Anne del Castillo told Deadline. With production in the city almost back to pre-Covid levels, the tax incentives would have tipped it over. She said MOME, which in past years has been viewed mostly as a permitting agency, is striving to be a resource for the community.

TV was hit first and hardest by the WGA strike. But indie films, which NYC is known for, have found it tough going too, and especially hard to get the completion bonds they need for financing in months and weeks leading up to the June 30 expiration of the DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts. A number, it’s not clear how many, have fallen away or pushed out production to the fall or early next year. The number of June shooting permits issued by NYC, which will be available in early July, are likely show an even greater drop-off.

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