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Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Innovation Forum Examines Regional Attraction for Filmmaking, Drones

Among the 40 innovators attending the December Forum were

By Press Release

COURT HOUSE – The Cape May County Innovation Forum in December included a panel of experts on “Drones in Filmmaking,” whose message was clear: drones are an integral part of professional filmmaking, and South Jersey is the perfect venue for filming.
According to a release, panelist Steven Gorelick, executive director of the state’s Motion Picture and Television Commission, noted that Thomas Edison pioneered film technology in the early 1900’s at his northern New Jersey labs.
Fort Lee was a filming hub long before Hollywood, Calif. Gorelick stated, but when the industry moved west New Jersey experienced a “50-year lull.”
Tax incentives are bringing filmmakers back. New Jersey recently implemented a film tax incentive program that permits the creative community to work in New Jersey as economically as they can in other states, and drones are a part of the process, Gorelick stated before showing attendees a new commercial partially shot by drone in Newark.
Panelist Collin Pritchard, owner of the local production company Seastone Media, followed with a screening of his documentary “Death of a Thousand Cuts,” including dramatic drone-shot footage of Great Egg Harbor and the Pinelands National Preserve.
“What a drone brings to a small filmmaker is huge,” Pritchard stated. “Drones let me tell the story of preservation in a unique way.” Pritchard said he expects South Jersey to see an influx of filmmakers, given the area’s abundant natural settings and the ease with which flying can be accomplished here.
Gorelick, who had spent the prior evening in Newark with the crew of Director Aaron Sorkin’s “Trial of the Chicago 7,” agreed. “Filmmakers go where they’re welcome and where they can do their best work,” he stated. “Atlantic and Cape May Counties are doing a great job showing their interest.” Nestled between the Philadelphia and New York markets, “this region has excellent geography and the available talent pool is second only to Hollywood,” he stated.
Panelist Lisa Regina, an actress who appeared on The Sopranos and who now works more frequently on the other side of the camera as a producer/director, shot her first short film in Glendora.
She, too, praised South Jersey for its potential shooting locations and attention to drone technology.
“Having a drone really elevates the power of what you can do as an independent filmmaker,” Regina stated, entertaining the forum with anecdotes of her pre-drone use of a large laddered truck for an aerial shot.
Regina has fully integrated drones into her business. “No more trucks or renting costly helicopters,” she reported.
Around 40 UAS innovators attended this month’s Forum. Initiated five years ago by County economic development specialists, the Forums now draw tech innovators from throughout New Jersey and adjoining states.
Forums were originally funded in part by a USDA grant, and now are funded in part by a grant from the USEDA administered by the National Institute of Aerospace.
The panel presentation was followed by a discussion over lunch hosted by the Court House campus of Atlantic Cape Community College.
Attendees included Sherry McCormack, whose film studio Little Rock Films in Ventnor recently completed principal filming of a television pilot set in current day Atlantic City.
The drama follows an injured ex-NBA star “with buried secrets and a love for southern New Jersey,” she said. Noting that Boardwalk Empire was filmed in a state other than New Jersey, McCormack asked: “Why aren’t we using our talents and diversity here?” She cited the college and area technical high schools as good sources of training.
Cape May County Technical High School Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hudanich, a long-time member of the Innovation forum, readily agreed.
“It’s an important time for educators,” she stated. “In areas like this we must take a wholistic approach, finding a way to accommodate the convergence of creative story-telling, filmmaking, and technology.”
College Aviation Studies Director Tim Cwik and Professor Jim Taggart spoke about their aviation offerings, and local Dean Maria Kellett – who holds an undergraduate degree in Film & Television – assured attendees she will work to establish an integrated offering in the college’s curriculum.
Freeholder Will Morey, who welcomed panelists and attendees, cited the county’s optimism about multiple commercial uses of drones here.
“We’re an ideal location for filming,” he stated of the use under discussion, “and the technology is affording unprecedented opportunities to production companies.”
Ultimately this will lead to more jobs for county residents, Morey noted.
Gorelick encouraged UAS operators to register on the state commission’s website in a Production Services Directory used by filmmakers looking for film crew members.

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