Sparta Independent Article

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Posted: Saturday, February 05, 2011


Group looks to attract more film and TV crews to town, By Fran Hardy
Sparta — There’s no business like show business and a group of Sparta citizens wants to bring more of that business to town.
They want to spread the word that Sparta has a wealth of varied architectural styles and scenic spots that can be prime locations for almost any type of film or TV show.
Resident Duffy Brennan is spearheading an effort to organize a Sparta Film Commission which can help bring more film and TV production companies to town.
In his capacity as a realtor in Sparta, he has often been called over the last few years to assist producers or location scouts in finding a certain kind of building, home, road, or scenic spot in the area for a particular scene in a film or TV show.
He helped find locations for several Discovery Channel programs, such as the one filmed on Oct. 20 at the Plaza Barber Shop.
Brennan believes a local film commission could provide a central source of information for producers and location scouts, helping them find just the right spot for a certain scene, or assisting with applying for any permits that may be necessary, the rental or procuring of additional equipment or supplies needed while in town, or the hire of additional personnel or crew from the area.
When production companies wonder, “Who ya gonna call?” Brennan hopes the Sparta Film Commission will be the answer.
Other notable film and TV shoots that have occurred in Sparta include soap opera “The Guiding Light’s” final episode, which was shot at the Lake Mohawk Country club and on the shores of Lake Mohawk last year, and the 1997 film “In and Out” with Joan Cusak, Kevin Kline, and Tom Selleck, which was filmed at the Homestead restaurant.
Joining Brennan in this effort so far is Erika Lupo, owner and director of the Acting A Part Theater, and Sam Kitchen, a professional actor with numerous TV and film credits.
The group believes that by publicizing what Sparta has to offer and showing that it can provide a cooperative atmosphere with red-tape free locations in which to work, it can attract more film companies to shoot scenes in and around town.
This can bring both revenue and positive exposure to Sparta, making it a win - win for all.
Brennan, who is a member of the township council’s Economic Development Committee, brought the matter before the committee this week. He wants to help get the organization going, but then plans to play only a secondary role.
The members discussed the possibility of organizing a film commission as a branch or sub-committee of the Economic Development Committee.
Mayor Scott Seelagy said after the meeting that initially he has a very favorable reaction to the idea. He said, “The potential benefits to the town are tangible.”
He asked Brennan to provide more information such as, how many volunteers would be needed, what is the group’s mission statement, and what potential costs would be associated with the group’s function and the services they would provide?
Seelagy said the idea has a lot of promise and that it is definitely on track to be placed on a council agenda in the near future.
However, he said, for now they are in an information-gathering stage.
He said he first wants to discuss the pros and cons with the committee after it receives more information and assesses the costs before bringing the idea to the council.
New Jersey has a state Motion Picture and Television Commission. On its Web site it states the commission is “staffed by industry professionals,” and that it “enjoys the full support of the Governor’s Office and state and local governments.”
Since 1978, hundreds of films and television programs have been shot in New Jersey, making it the fifth busiest state for film production in the nation.
The state film commission says the interest in filming in New Jersey is at an all-time high for many reasons, including the state’s diverse scenery and its proximity to New York.
They tout professional support and red carpet treatment in their pitch to production companies considering New Jersey for their locations.
It is this kind of open door with welcoming arms that the proposed Sparta Film Commission would like to offer as well: A hassle-free work environment with a variety of accessible aids and amenities.
Executive Director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission Steven Gorelick said he is willing to help and advise the Sparta group in any way he can. He suggested they compile photos and information about the town that he can include on the state’s Web site.
He said he maintains a vast, digitized data base with thousands of photos of locations around the state from which he can offer suggestions when producers call with location needs.
Gorelick also said he would be willing to come to Sparta and take a tour of what the town has to offer.
He explained it would be helpful for Sparta to work a bit harder to promote itself than other towns closer to the city because it falls outside the 25 mile zone.
Union production companies pay their employees more to travel over 25 miles outside of Manhattan.
Brennan and his group want to prove Sparta is worth those few extra miles. If they have their way, the phrase, “lights, camera, action,” could become very familiar around town.