‘West Side Story’ finds its rhythm in New Jersey

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Kristie Macosko Krieger, one of Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ producers, says there was no way they managed to shoot the 20th Century Studios remake without the aesthetic backdrop and financial incentives provided by the State of New Jersey. “We looked all around, and Paterson, NJ gave the film a grit and authenticity that I don’t think we could have found anywhere else,” Krieger said. Variety. “They treated us like family, and that felt important since we were making a movie that was special to them and to us.”

When it was announced that the director of ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993) and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998), two-time Oscar winner, would be remaking the classic 1961 film, the team knew the recreation of the 1950s Upper West Side neighborhoods, in which the story takes place, couldn’t be done in the Big Apple. Instead, the team behind the musical transformed a parking lot in Passaic County’s largest city on the Upper West Side.

As productions and studios cut ties with Georgia following the passage of its laws that bar black and brown residents from voting, it cannot be overstated how satisfying it is to watch New Jersey become one of the main destinations for film and television productions. that only add value to the community, as well as to Hollywood’s bottom line.

In 1993, my single mother moved her family to Jersey City to escape gang violence in the South Bronx. Continuing to go to her post office job, she gave her children a fighting chance for a better education and opportunity. We landed at Dixon Mills, an apartment complex that was converted from a pencil factory. It was once home to stars such as Omar Epps (“Higher Learning”) and Oscar nominee Queen Latifah (“Chicago”).

The surrounding areas were also full of diversity, where blacks and Latinos owned brownstones and condominiums. As my home ground, I was exposed to other parts of the state when I attended Marist High School in Bayonne, the same alma mater as ‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin . The school’s population was a mix of nearby towns such as Newark, East Orange, and Union City. However, the state is getting rid of reality TV footage.

In 2009, “Jersey Shore,” MTV’s hit reality series, put the state on the map, but not in the way any government official or resident would have hoped. It came at the end of the term of Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, who would lose his second candidacy to Republican Chris Christie. The aura of “Snookie” and “The Situation” would become synonymous with moans at the mere mention of the Northeast region over the next decade. But in recent years, this is fading.

Filming in New Jersey is morally inviting to local communities, but also provides an attractive incentive through the robustness of film and digital media.
Tax credit program, administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

It wasn’t just about locations and tax breaks. Following Spielberg’s posting of an open casting call via Twitter in January 2018, he found his leading lady Maria in newcomer Rachel Zegler of Clifton, NJ, who was chosen from more than 30,000 applicants. Spielberg also spent some years growing up in Haddon Township.

“New Jersey gave us the best of everything,” Krieger shares. “I’m still going to shoot in New Jersey. I can guarantee it.

In addition to “West Side Story,” other films this year, such as Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised” and Alan Taylor’s Sopranos prequel film, “The Many Saints of Newark,” were shot in Garden State.

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