Officials work to make Connecticut, Westchester County NY premier areas for film industry

Connecticut and neighboring Westchester County, N.Y. have become popular locations for shows and movies to film their iconic scenes. With more demand for new streamable content than ever before and large financial incentives, officials are working to make the areas as film-friendly as possible. 

The Connecticut Office of Film Television and Digital Media aims to engage with every aspect of a production’s needs, including helping them find film locations, being a liaison with permitting authorities to film in a state park, street or highway and finding crew to staff the production. The office also offers tax incentives to productions, based on qualified eligible spending. Around $890 million in tax incentives has been earned in the state, according to Director of Connecticut’s Office of Film, TV & Digital Media George Norfleet.

The Westchester County Film Office serves a similar function to its Connecticut counterpart, offering hands-on support with location ideas, technical site visits and facilitation of the permit process, according to the Westchester County Tourism & Film's website. New York State also offers tax incentives for film productions, Director of Westchester County Tourism & Film Natasha Caputo said. 

Norfleet said filming has a large economic impact on Connecticut, citing that companies like NBC Sports, ESPN and WWE employ thousands of people as well as film companies renting vehicles, equipment and hotel rooms. Around $3.1 billion has been spent in the Connecticut economy due to the film industry, Norfleet said. 

“The economic impact is significant, and that’s the reason why we have those tax incentives to encourage folks to come to the state, spend money and hire folks,” Norfleet said. 

Filming is also a significant revenue generator for Westchester, having an economic impact of around $45.7M, according to the county’s film office. Because of the benefits filming brings to the county, Westchester County Executive George Latimer has made it a priority to facilitate production and instructed the film office to reach out to members of the industry, according to Caputo. 

"When a film, television show, or commercial production shoots on location, that boosts our local economy,” she said. 

There has been a large increase in demand for new content for streaming services due to more people staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Norfleet. Several new movies filmed in Connecticut are set to premiere on streaming services this year including "Mr. Harrigan’s Phone," "The Junkyard Dogs," and "The Good Nurse.

“I think that [the pandemic] had a ripple effect throughout the industry in terms of folks needing to produce content to serve the platforms like Netflix, Disney + etc. that people are utilizing,” Norfleet said. 

Connecticut has gained the reputation of being “the home of the Christmas movie,” Norfleet added. In March of this year, the Hallmark movie "Ghost of Christmas Always" was filmed in Hartford and West Hartford. In the past movies like, "The Family Stone," "The Noel Diary," "Soul Santa" and "A Very Nutty Christmas," have found filming locations in the Nutmeg state. 

“We have probably shot more Christmas movies in the state of Connecticut than any place else, so we’re kind of proud of that,” Norfleet said.

Norfleet added that around two or three large productions are in the early stages of scouting for locations in Connecticut to determine if they want to film in the state.  

Neighboring Westchester County was experiencing a “film boom” before the pandemic and was the biggest county in New York for film production outside of New York City, according to Caputo. Caputo said what might feel like an increase in filming is actually the county returning to its pre-pandemic production levels. “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “FBI: Most Wanted,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “Power Book II: Ghost” were filmed in the county earlier this year within a few weeks of each other.

Lionsgate Films, known for producing movie series like “Saw,” “The Hunger Games” and “Rambo,” opening a location in Yonkers, N.Y. in January of this year, has contributed to making Westchester a premier destination for filming, Caputo stated.  And the spring season is also a popular time for filming because the warmer weather and increased sunlight during the day give companies more time to shoot scenes, according to Norfleet.

Both Connecticut and Westchester also offer a diverse set of landscapes that make them ideal areas for filming. 

“What keeps productions coming back is our hands-on support and the variety of looks we offer — from small-town scenes and rural landscapes to urban and industrial settings, beautiful parks and beaches, hotels and historic destinations,” Caputo said of Westchester County in February.