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From the Star Ledger

May 6, 2003

Pantoliano leads industry crew pitching movie loan bill

By Joe Donohue
Star Ledger Staff

With two cast members from "The Sopranos" applying a little political muscle at the Statehouse yesterday, an Assembly committee approved a bill that would allow the state to dole out loans of up to $1/5 million to independent filmmakers who agree to shoot most of their projects in New Jersey.

Actors Joe Pantoliano and Al Sapienza headlined a cast of actors, film industry insiders and union leaders who pitched the bill before the Assembly Regulated and Independent Authority loans to producers who a Jersey backdrop.

"I think the state has a chance to be very competitive with an Industry that wants to save money," said Pantoliano, a Hoboken native who portrayed the volatile Ralphie Cifaretto on "The Sopranos" and has made over 80 films and television appearances.
Under the loan guarantee program, the state EDA would back loans up to $1.5 million per project, with no more than $10 million in total loans outstanding at any one time. New loans would be offered as old ones are paid off. The EDA could end the program after five years if it encountered problems or lack of interest.

Loan recipients will have to shoot more than 70 percent of their projects within the state, and spend at least 50 percent of their budgets here.

New Jersey was the cradle of filmmaking at the start of the 20 th century when the movie camera was invented in Thomas Edison's West Orange laboratory.

While sunny weather and cheap land lured the industry to Hollywood, the state has served as the setting for numerous Oscar winning films including "On the Waterfront". "Annie Hall", Midnight Cowboy" and more recently "A beautiful Mind."

It has also provided the locale for many popular television series, most notably "Ed". "The Sopranos", and "Oz". Last year, 692 films were produced in the state, generating %63 million for the economy, according to the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission.

Sapienza, who played Mikey "Grab Bag" Palmice on "The Sopranos" noted New Jersey's rich movie history in pushing the proposed legislation.

"We invented (films). We made them and we're losing them," he said.

Under the bill, the EDA would become owner of the film if the production team defaults on the loan. But Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, (D-Camden), the bill's sponsor, said he sees little chance of that happening, citing programs in other states. He said the new incentives would boost the economy and help New Jersey compete with other states and countries that are attempting to lure films.



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