While reading a piece yesterday in the LA Times about New York’s recent surge in television production, I was reminded again why this city is so resilient. Pilots jumped from just three in 2010 to a record 22 this year, with just as many shows heading into production for next season. A 30% film tax credit, even better than California’s, is the primary cause, but a PA training program for low-income New York residents is also making the city a haven for steady production.

Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, a nonprofit that helps jobless and working poor New Yorkers get back on their feet, developed its “Made in NY” Production Assistant Training Program in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB). Spike Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, was also an early investor, as was the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the city’s Small Business Services office. Since 2006, more than 150 have graduated from the free four-week program, which includes 160 hours of classroom and on-site training at top studios and vendors. The number of productions they’ve touched? 800 and counting.

Each year BWI typically receives more than 1,000 applications and accepts less than 80 trainees, all of whom must be at least 21 years old, unemployed and out of school. The program also has its own film festival, now in its fourth year, to nurture the fuller creative potential of its alumni beyond the entry-level grind of set lockups and endless errands. City rental houses like Eastern Effects, Wits End and Gotham Sound donated equipment to this year’s festival in February.

While many of the program’s graduates segue easily into local commercial production and into PA or grip jobs for NYC Media, the city’s official television network, others, like East Harlem’s Teena Marie Delerme-Lugo (above, left) have gone on to work on a variety of projects, including indie films, music videos and popular cable shows.

The program’s reach is long and includes a two-year, post-grad assistance program that gives “Made in NY” PAs job counseling, placement advice and continued help just making industry connections. But by that point, many don’t need it. In a post on the MOFTB web site, 2007 graduate Antonio Green (above, right) admits, “The best thing I learned during the training was how to network.”

If you’re in production in New York this summer, don’t forget about this valuable PA resource. Contact program director Katy Finch at 718-237-2017 x 172 or account manager Nancy Goldman at 718-237-2017 x 162. And if you need someone really fast, you can even call their production cell phone at 718-757-5816.