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Somerset County appoints first members to film commission

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Somerset County’s Board of Commissioners took the next step in the creation of its new film commission with the appointments of experienced filmmakers Adam Scherr and Jonathan Kalafer.

In addition to experience in the film industry, both Scherr and Kalafer have deep ties and connections to Somerset County.

 

“The film commission is a vital component of our efforts to bring back the hard-hit tourism and hospitality industries in Somerset County following COVID-19, and we’re delighted to have professionals of the quality of Adam Scherr and Jonathan Kalafer on board,” Commissioner Shanel Y. Robinson, who will serve as the liaison to the film commission, said in a statement released by the county. “They not only know the film industry, but also love Somerset County and know the incredible opportunity our diverse locations and people offer to the industry.”

 

Scherr is the co-founder of Nous Entertainment, a production company focused on creating and selling exciting and meaningful film and story-telling projects for growing marketplace. Scherr has a long history of corporate and journalistic media, and is a filmmaker who produced the award-winning “Forbidden Cuba,” the first U.S. feature film shot in Cuba since 1959.

Scherr has worked with or is developing projects with diverse partners such as Jay Chandrsekhar, Melonie Mayron, Alice Cooper, Helen Hunt and John Leguizamo, according to the statement.

 

Kalafer is a local filmmaker whose credits include directing and producing the award-winning “Once in a Lullaby,” co-producing the theatrically released “The Soprano State,” and producing the Oscar Shortlist documentary “The Diary of Immaculee.”

Kalafer is also the co-owner of the Somerset County Patriots which became the AA Yankee affiliate in 2021 and has been involved in charitable and business efforts in Somerset County for more than two decades, according to the statement.

 

The Somerset County Film Commission will be made up of at least five and as many as seven members appointed by the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners. The commission will be supported by the Somerset County Business Partnership; Somerset County Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development; and the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission.

 

Bringing artistic, documentary, corporate, and other short and feature length productions to Somerset County is a key component of the effort to revitalize the area’s tourism and hospitality sector, according to the statement.

Somerset County saw a 51% decline in tourism industry sales in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, making it one of the hardest hit counties in New Jersey. This year-over-year decline in Somerset County was seen in hospitality, restaurant, transportation, recreation, and other tourism spending which fell from $1.25 billion to $612 million and visitation which dropped 27.8% from 3 million to 2.2 million individuals, according to the statement.

 

In January 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy extended a tax incentive program to bring film, TV and digital productions to New Jersey that allows film productions to apply for savings of 30% on their expenses when filming in Somerset County and other portions of central and northern New Jersey until 2028, according to the statement. A recent study by Cornell University found that for every single job hired to work in film and television production, there are another two jobs created in the economy, a 3:1 effect.

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