The number of television series produced in New York City is going through the roof. They now contribute $8.7 billion to the local New York economy, an increase of 21 percent in the past four years.
The Steiner Studios lot in Brooklyn is the largest film and TV production complex on the East Coast. Forty-nine television and cable series are produced in New York, most of them on Steiner’s 16 sound stages. CBS’ Blue Bloods and Madam Secretary, Fox’s Empire, and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire are just a few of the programs that have been and continue to be produced at Steiner Studios.
The television and film business is a significant part of New York’s economy.
“It means jobs," says Acting Commissioner with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Luis Castro. "Good middle class, well-paying jobs for New Yorkers." One estimate puts the number of direct and indirect jobs at about 85,000.
"This city is just home to a rich and diverse array of talent,” Castro said.
And not all of the talent is New York's people.
“If you look around the city there are iconic locations you can’t get anywhere else. Whether you are talking about Times Square, you’re talking about Central Park, you’re talking about the Financial District. These are [places] that are unique to New York City and that draw people here.”
Doug Steiner started Steiner Studios 11 years ago using city and state tax credits. He negotiated a long-term lease from the city for part of what was the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, created by Thomas Jefferson in the 1800s.
Steiner Studios currently occupies 28,000 square meters and is expanding to an additional 28,000 square meters of land for the construction of additional production stages.
“We’re in the golden age of television nationally,” Steiner told VOA. “Everyone wants to be the next HBO. The greatest talent is being attracted to TV right now, rather than film.”
One reason for that is a wealth of opportunity. From Amazon to Netflix, "there’s just a gazillion outlets to view," he said.
And Steiner has a goal. He wants New York to supplant Los Angeles as the center "of all things media."
“I think this business is New York’s to lose," he added.
There is so much demand for television and film specialists in New York that Steiner Studios has a school on its own lot. Part of the city university system, the Barry Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema is the first film program on a working lot and the first public graduate school of cinema in New York.
Well-respected Hollywood director Jonathan Wacks is the mastermind behind Feirstein. Wacks says the atmosphere is right for his students.
“This is a way for students to be in a place where films are being made, where professionals are working, where the whole atmosphere is really about movie-making,” he said.
“I’m not having to whip them at all,” says director Sarah Cawley about this first-year class of 70. “I’m having to guide them and to train them to professional procedures but they’re already bringing a lot of enthusiasm to the task.”
The City of New York contributed about $7 million for this state-of-the-art graduate program, including considerable scholarship money. Half of the students are women. In this first class, about 45 percent are from under-represented backgrounds. It is a truly diverse student body.
One scholarship recipient dreams of being a cinematographer. Ryan Emanuel told VOA, "The reason I came here to Feirstein is to get a very well-rounded education on how to work, both in independent productions and also studio productions.”
And, chances are good, because school is right on the studio lot, he’ll be getting internship opportunities that will further develop his skills and enhance his career.