SHUTTER ISLAND, shot in Massachusetts in 2008, opens in theaters nationwide on February 19, 2010.
News & Events
By Christine Legere
June 11, 2009
PLYMOUTH – Plymouth Rock Studios will not get an expected $50 million in state bond money to build the access road to its multimillion-dollar movie studio.
A state spokeswoman said the company’s application was denied because the project will not produce enough in tax revenue to cover the bond payments under the new infrastructure investment incentive program known as I-Cubed.
Plymouth Rock officials, however, plan to forge ahead with private money that has been committed to the project. According to the company’s real estate manager, Bill Wynne, heavy machinery should be digging the road to the studio site on the 240-acre Waverly Golf Course within a month or two. The studio is projected to open in late 2010. “Obviously we were disappointed and frustrated by the news, but we’ll make it work anyway,” Wynne said yesterday. “It’s too bad it took the state 18 months to figure it out.”
In a written statement, Cyndi Roy, communications director for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, said:”Under the I-Cubed program, it must be demonstrated that prospective projects will generate enough net new tax revenue to pay for the bonds that would be issued by the state in connection with the project. Based on the Department of Revenue’s analysis, this project will not meet that requirement.”
Plymouth Rock and the town’s legislative delegation said they were told the state denied the bond money because the film industry might be getting too large a slice of the state-aid pie. “I was told that because of the tax-credit avenues available to film production, the I-Cubed money was not allowed to go to this,” said Plymouth Rock’s chief financial officer, Joe DiLorenzo, who spoke to the state’s undersecretary of administration and finance, Jay Gonzales, yesterday. He said Gonzales promised that state officials would look for other ways to support the project.
State Representative Vinnie deMacedo, Republican of Plymouth, said the secretary of economic development, Gregory Bialecki, told Plymouth’s legislative delegation “to look at the big picture.” “I’m deeply saddened and disappointed,” said Selectman Butch Machado.”I thought this was a great and unique opportunity.”
Christine Legere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Software maker, studio form strategic bond
By DAVID S. COHEN
June 8, 2009
Lucasfilm and software maker GenArts have formed a strategic relationship aimed at improving visual effects production and vidgame graphics. GenArts makes popular visual effects software, including plug-ins for Autodesk’s Inferno and Flame.
Under the agreement, the two companies will share resources for developing software tools. GenArts engineers will work on-site at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco HQ, building tools as needed to meet the demands of the company’s vfx artists and animators.
Lucas Animation and visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic have adopted GenArts plug-ins as part of their standard compositing pipeline.
“GenArts wanted to get feature-film quality into other areas, like games, and that’s what we’re about at ILM,” said Richard Kerris, ILM’s chief technical officer.
ILM’s only other such strategic relationship is with software giant Autodesk. It’s the first such partnership for GenArts.
By Gail McCarthy
June 6, 2009
BOSTON — “Expect the unexpected, and be prepared to laugh.”
Those comments sum up some early reviews from a preview screening of Walt Disney’s “The Proposal” Thursday night at the Tremont Street AMC theater, and to which several Cape Ann residents were invited, including those who worked on or assisted in its filming here last year.
A good chunk of the film was shot in Rockport, where the downtown was transformed into the town of Sitka, Alaska. Large totem poles stood tall in Dock Square and the usual storefronts and street pole banners became signs or symbols from Sitka in April 2008. But parts of the film were shot in Gloucester as well as at a private seaside mansion in Manchester.
The film, which stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, tells the tale of a high-powered publishing executive, played by Bullock, who tries to avoid deportation to Canada because her visa has expired by intimidating her younger assistant, played by Reynolds, to marry her.
“It was a lot funnier than I expected it to be,” said Darin Gibbons, 23, who was invited by a friend. “I don’t know if I would have chosen to go, but after seeing it, the movie was definitely entertaining. It’s a good date movie and it’s not overly sappy. I expected a chick flick, but it was really more of a comedy.”
Matt Webber, also 23, echoed his friend’s thoughts. “I originally went because of all the Rockport scenes. It’s always fun to see that. But it was actually surprisingly funny,” Webber said. “Ryan Reynolds is pretty funny from a guy’s perspective. I enjoyed it overall. It didn’t follow the usual romance movie story line. It had a lot of twists and turns.”
The film also stars Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Malin Akerman and Craig T. Nelson. Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, told the crowd of about 300 that his office is “thrilled at this picture — for a variety of reasons.” He thanked Gov, Deval Patrick and the Legislature for approving tax credits for the movie industry. “None of this would have happened without their support and that’s why pictures keep coming, and this is only the beginning,” he said.
He expressed particular gratitude to the Walt Disney Company, which has shot four major films here since 2006, when the credits went into effect. “The ‘Mouse’ and Massachusetts make a nice marriage,” he said. What makes “The Proposal” of particular interest, he noted, is that it has nothing to do with Massachusetts. “That’s a big deal,” said Paleologos. “When Hollywood looks at a script that’s not set in Boston or doesn’t have a scene from the Fenway or other local spots, and yet it gets filmed here — that’s big.”
“We’re now getting movies set in New York and Alaska,” he noted. “Our reputation for film is getting bigger and better.”
In 2005, one movie at $6 million was filmed in the commonwealth. In 2006, there were two projects at $61 million. In 2008, there were 13 projects at $359 million. And a number of movies are in the works in 2009 — including the Adam Sandler film, “Grown Ups,” which is now being shot in Essex.
Peter Webber, the manager of the Rockport division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, gave the film high marks.
“I really enjoyed the movie,” he said. “In addition to enjoying it as a movie, it was fun seeing all the Rockport scenes. There were just some postcard perfect shots of Rockport Harbor and Bearskin Neck that were quite recognizable.”
Webber noted that Motif No. 1, an iconic Rockport harbor image, was prominent but transformed with a Sitka sign in place of the lobster buoys that adorn its outer wall. Webber and others also noted the snow-capped “special effect” mountain peaks that became the background for the otherwise sea-level town of Rockport.
Ted and Deborah Barnes, owners of Freedom Diving in Gloucester, gave the film two thumbs up. “It is a lot of fun watching it and I got to see the buoy in there that I built for the film,” said Ted Barnes. “It’s interesting to see how it all comes together with the props, and after all the cutting and editing is finally done.” Barnes, a native of Newfoundland, said he related to the feeling of being an immigrant in another country, but of course, in a far different manner. He has built a few props for about a half dozen films since the 1970s.
“I had some serious laughing moments,” said Tobin Arsenault, vice president of the Cape Ann Marina resort, who sat with her buddies who worked on the movie. The film crew rented some boat equipment from the marina. The Boston debut of the film also brought back memories for Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, though she said yesterday she was unable to attend the premiere screening.
She was driving to Rockport last year to speak at the Rockport Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner, having set out from Boston armed with specific driving directions. She followed them exactly, and sensed she was on the right track, right down to making the proper turn toward Dock Square, which is in the center of town. But she confronted an unexpected sign. “I was coming along, thought I was in the right place, and then I came to this sign that said, ‘Welcome to Sitka,'” Walker related. “I thought ‘Sitka’? I thought I was in Rockport. What happened to Rockport?”
Walker, however, was indeed in Rockport; She quickly realized what had happened, and was pleased to see that part of Rockport’s downtown had become a virtual movie set, showing the town was serious about pursuing culture-based economic development.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com
May 27, 2009 — WGBH’s Greater Boston with Emily Rooney takes a closer look at the filming of THE LIGHTKEEPER, directed by Dan Adams on Cape Cod.
Boston Herald, Inside Track
By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
May 22, 2009
WELLFLEET – Richard Dreyfuss plays a woman-hating Cape Codder in his new flick “The Lightkeepers,” and while the Hollywood heavy has nothing against the fairer sex, he says he can sort of relate to the role!
“In the past there were groups of men who called themselves ‘Woman Haters,’ ” Dreyfuss told the Track. “Not because they were gay, but more because they were shy and, you know, women are from another planet.”
Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner, Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) and Tom Wisdom of “300” fame, are on the Outer Cape this week filming scenes for their 1912-set comedy. Dreyfuss and Wisdom play a pair of lighthouse tenders who have sworn off ladies, until a free-spirited Boston society gal (Gummer) and her housekeeper (Danner) rent a nearby cottage for the summer.
The cast and crew have shot scenes at the two lighthouses in Provincetown and currently are filming at Cook’s Camp, a 100-plus-year-old cottage colony overlooking the ocean at LeCount’s Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.
“I was inspired by the short stories of Joseph Lincoln and some Cape Cod folklore that I cobbled together,” said writer-director Dan Adams, who is making a trilogy of Cape films “as a homage to the place where I grew up.”
Adams’ first Cape flick, “The Golden Boys,” was also based on a Joseph Lincoln book, and Danner said that flick is one of the reasons she decided to do “The Lightkeepers.”
“It was such a charming film,” said Gwyneth Paltrow’s mum. “And I love Dan, I loved the project and this is a wonderful role. At my age there aren’t very many romantic, complicated women’s roles. And, of course, it was a chance to work with Richard.”
For his part, Dreyfuss said he liked the role of the crusty ex-sea captain because “I’d never done anything like it.”
But while Dreyfuss has never made a movie on the Cape before, he did do one on the Vineyard – a little thriller called “Jaws.”
“Every once in a while something comes along like that,” he said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Gummer, the spitting image of her legendary mom, plays Ruth, a bohemian Bostonian and suffragette who decides to go back to nature by spending a summer on the Cape.
“I do my finest work in a corset,” joked Gummer, who played John and Abigail Adams’ daughter-in-law Sallie in the HBO miniseries “John Adams.”
Mamie said she’s having a blast with the film – and the great old summer frocks she wears in it.
“I feel like I’m in a painting,” she said. “But I’m drawn to period pieces like this. It’s a chance to time travel.”
File Under: Cape Escape.
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view.bg?articleid=1173974
Actress to star opposite Kevin James in comedy
May 20, 2009
By DAVE MCNARY
Rosario Dawson will star opposite Kevin James in romantic comedy “The Zookeeper,” with Happy Madison producing along with James, Todd Garner, Jeff Sussman and Jennifer Eatz.
Live actioner centers on zoo animals trying to teach the keeper their methods of dating and mating to help him win back the woman of his dreams. Leslie Bibb has also been signed to star.
Frank Coraci is directing from a screenplay by Jay Scherick and David Ronn, Kevin James, Rock Reuben and Nick Bakay. Shooting’s set to start in late summer in Boston with a July 23, 2010, release date.
Project reteams “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” producers James, Sussman and Garner (“Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). MGM won a bidding war last year for the “Zookeeper” spec, paying $2 million against $3 million, while the studio was ramping up a slate of homegrown projects.
Friday, June 5th
Bentley University, Waltham MA
9:00am – 6:30pm
Filmmakers Collaborative is proud to present Making Media Now 2009, a full-day conference for film and media makers of every skill level. Held at Waltham’s Bentley University, Making Media Now 2009 will continue its tradition of providing the New England film and video community with the latest information and workshops around media making. Participants will have access to leading national industry experts, demonstrations of the latest products and services, and the opportunity to network with colleagues from around the region.
Special keynote speaker Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Iraq for Sale, Outfoxed and Rethink Afghanistan), will kick off the event, discussing his innovative methods of marketing and distribution.
Our panels will feature:
• Marketing and Outreach Strategies
• Web 2.0: Engage Your Audience Using the Web
• Creative Funding Case Studies – Models that Work
• Shooting & Post Production with the Red Camera
• Going Global: International Co-productions & Marketing
• Habits of Successful Media Makers
• Tips & Pitfalls for Starting Your Film Business
• Pitch and Trailer Feedback Session
• Sandi Dubowski, filmmaker (Trembling Before G-d and A Jihad for Love)
• Doug Block, filmmaker (51 Birch St., Home Page and The Heck With Hollywood!)
• Jim Jermanok, producer/writer (Agganis, Passionada, Em)
• Karen Laverty, Nova/WGBH
• Andy Carvin, National Public Radio
• Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital
• Sheila Leddy, The Fledgling Fund
• Alyce Myatt, Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media
• Courtney Babin, National Boston
• Stephen Baldwin, National Boston
• John Rule, Rule Broadcast/Boston Camera
• Dan Cronin, National Boston
• Tom Koch, PBS Distribution
• Bestor Cram, Northern Light Productions
• Nancy Porter, filmmaker
• Joel Olicker, co-owner, Powderhouse Productions
• Carol Benintendi, CPA
• Tracy Strain, Co-Owner, The Film Posse, Inc.
• Robert Tedesco, Attorney
• Sandra Forman, Attorney
Making Media Now 2009 will also offer the opportunity for attendees to participate in one-on-one consultations with national media experts on international co-production, funding, story structure, legal issues, and tax credits, among other topics.
Registration is $145. We have a discounted rate of $65 for students with valid IDs.
More information, a full schedule, speakers’ bios, and registration are all available now at www.filmmakerscollab.org
For more information, contact Filmmakers Collaborative – 781-647-1102 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New Haven Register
May 14, 2009
With the state looking at ways to save, film production and infrastructure tax credits have come under attack from both budget cutters and advocacy groups that want the money for human services. However, cutting the tax credits is an extraordinarily bad idea in a state that has lost 58,000 jobs in this recession. Film, television and digital media productions, which are covered by the tax credit, have added 2,000 jobs in the state since the credit went into effect in 2006, says the Connecticut Production Coalition, made up of the state’s media producers.
Even if critics doubt those job numbers, they cannot dispute that the production credit continues to play an important role in attracting new enterprises to the state. This year, NBC Universal decided to shift 150 jobs to Stamford along with production of television shows, including “Maury” and “The Jerry Springer Show.” Stamford is already the home of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and Comcast’s Versus channel.
Attracted by the tax credits, Blue Sky Studios, producer of the “Ice Age” movies, moved in January to Greenwich. Blue Sky employs 300 workers. Construction is expected to start this summer on a $90 million film studio in South Windsor, where there will be more than 100 permanent jobs and as many as 1,500 production jobs. NBC Universal and a production partner this month announced that the TV game show “Deal or No Deal” would move this summer from Los Angeles to the studios of Sonalysts Inc. in Waterford.
High-profile feature films attracted to the state by the tax credits, with stars such as Robert DeNiro, Harrison Ford and Al Pacino, have received most of the publicity. But, the construction of permanent studios for film, television and digital media will have a more lasting economic impact. Unfortunately, talk of limiting or ending the credits will harm efforts to attract more jobs, studios and movies to the state.
The economic impact of the credit deserves careful study. However, it is still too new to fully assess. Studies done this year of similar credits found that for each dollar in waived taxes, New York received $1.90 in tax revenue, and New Mexico, $1.50. What is certain is that the film production and infrastructure credits have created jobs Connecticut cannot afford to lose.
by Rachel Briere
The Lowell Sun
May 12, 2009
The Fighter production team started making the rounds in Lowell. Actor Christian Bale outside of Dicky Eklunds house on Wilder St. talks on his cell phone as he tours movie locations.
LOWELL — Batman returns.
Tuesday morning, actor Christian Bale got into character by shadow boxing Dicky Eklund on the streets of the Highlands section of Lowell. Bale, who recently played Bruce Wayne in the blockbuster the Dark Knight, will portray the fallen Lowell boxer in the feature film The Fighter.
The half-brother and trainer of Lowell’s own “Irish” Micky Ward, played tour guide to Bale, director David O. Russell, HBO documentary High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell producer Rich Farrell and other crew members. The group bobbed and weaved up and down streets in the Highlands making stops at the former Highland Tap and Captain John’s both in Cupples Square, Eklund’s modest brick home on Wilder Street and Ramos Package Store on Branch Street.
They also took pictures outside of a few tenement-style homes on Smith, Westford and Shaw streets. At one point, Eklund, Bale and Russell began pretending to jump rope — a technique many boxers use to build endurance while training.
On Monday, actor Mark Wahlberg was spotted in the lobby of the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Lowell meeting with Eklund and other movie crew members. The group was discussing a half-dozen or so possible locations to film scenes for the Ward biopic. Wahlberg will play Ward in what is said to be his passion project.
The movie will chronicle Ward’s boxing career from the gritty streets of Lowell and rocky relationship with his half-brother and trainer. Eklund was a promising boxer who fought Sugar Ray Leonard, but lost his fight with addiction.
Filming is set to start in Lowell this July and will take several weeks.
For more photos including Christian Bale in Lowell, see Wednesday’s Sun.
Head of state movie office expects busy year in wake of new SAG contract
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
May 08, 2009
BOSTON — After a temporarily lull in major motion picture work, the head of the state’s film office expects a busy year for movie production in Massachusetts now that the Screen Actors Guild board has approved a contract with the major studios.
“When there’s a slowdown, everybody suffers,” said Nick Paleologos, the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “I think everybody’s happy to be back to work.”
Massachusetts was humming with film work in the first six months of 2008 as studios rushed to complete filming before a previous contract with the Screen Actors Guild expired on June 30. The threat of a possible strike prevented many pictures from moving forward after that date.
Paleologos said there were at least eight major motion pictures filmed here in the first six months of 2008, including “Bride Wars,” “The Surrogates,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Ashecliffe.”
However, in the second half of 2008, production was limited to independent flicks – such as Mel Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” – and TV pilots – such as “Bunker Hill” and “War in ’04” – because the union and the major production houses hadn’t reached a contract agreement.
The failure to get a contract became a divisive issue for the Screen Actors Guild. The union’s board narrowly approved a two-year contract last month, and is mailing the ballots to union members this month for a vote.
Paleologos said production companies are moving forward because they realize that the union doesn’t have enough votes to go on strike, even if the contract isn’t ratified.
For example, filming began recently on “The Company Men” – a movie starring Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner – once it became clear the labor issue would be resolved, Paleologos said. The film’s crew has visited numerous Boston-area communities in recent weeks, including Quincy, Framingham and Marblehead.
Paleologos said he hopes the state will see four to six major film projects before July. Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, is planning to return here to shoot “Lake House” following the company’s success with “Mall Cop.”
“There’s already a bunch of projects scouting around for the summer,” Paleologos said. “The end of the SAG (issue) has really removed the only remaining restraint on the production pipeline.”
This state has become a hotbed for film production after the Legislature passed lucrative tax incentives for the industry in late 2005 and sweetened those incentives in 2007. Other states have raced to keep up, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a modest tax incentive bill in February to try to stem the exodus of productions from California.
Jon Chesto may be reached at email@example.com.
By Sarah Shemkus
Cape Cod Times
May 05, 2009
PLYMOUTH — The future of the proposed Plymouth Rock Studios came into sharper focus last night as the town planning board voted unanimously to approve the master plan for the project. The vote was taken with the stipulation that the town and the developers have 40 days to work out the final details of the agreement.
“It’s another milestone we’ve passed as far as the overall design of the 240 acres,” said Bill Wynne, chief executive of Plymouth Rock Real Estate Investments, the real estate management and development arm of the studio.
The developers expect to break ground on the $550 million project this summer, Wynne said. Construction on the actual studio facilities would not begin for several months after the initial site work begins, he said.
“We got about six to eight months of pushing dirt around before we can really start building,” he said.
Following last night’s vote the studio still has a few more procedural steps to complete.
In January, the developers applied for financing from the state’s new Infrastructure Investment Incentive program — generally referred to as I-Cubed — a $250 million initiative designed to encourage public infrastructure improvements that will support private development. Under the program, cost and risk are shared by private developers, municipalities and the state. Plymouth Rock Studios could receive as much $50 million in financing for roadwork, water and sewer improvements.
The studio is waiting for the state to issue a preliminary approval.
Plymouth’s representative town meeting must then authorize selectmen to finalize the agreement.
A town meeting is scheduled for June 1. It is unclear whether the state will issue its decision in time for town meeting to make a decision at that session.
Last October, town meeting approved a package of tax breaks for the studio and the creation of a movie and entertainment zoning district. Last month, the body authorized roadwork necessary for studio construction.
The studio and the board of selectmen have also sign a memorandum of understanding, in which the developers committed to significant infrastructure investment including the construction of sewer lines and traffic mitigation measures.
The proposed studio would include 14 sound stages, office buildings, a hotel, post-production facilities, a 900-seat theater, restaurants, a visitors center and a 10-acre back lot. The studio is to be built on 240 acres of land currently owned and occupied by the Waverly Oaks Golf Club.
If construction proceeds according to schedule, the studio will open for business in 2010.
By Eileen Curran
April 23, 2009
The recent agreement between the Screen Actors’ Guild and the studios have gotten the cameras rolling again locally. On location with writer/director John Wells, and Academy Award winner Ben Affleck on their new collaboration, COMPANY MEN, Eileen Curran also reports that Massachusetts was selected this week as one of the Top Ten Production States in America outside of LA and NY by the Motion Picture Association of America. Click here for the full story.
April 21, 2009
The Motion Picture Association of America today issued an economic impact report ranking Massachusetts among the top ten production states outside of California and NY—and the only New England state to make the list. Here are key sections of the 2009 MPAA report:
Movie, TV industry contributed 2.5 mil U.S. jobs in 2007
By Georg Szalai
The Hollywood Reporter
April 22, 2009
NEW YORK –The movie and TV industry contributed 2.5 million jobs and $41.1 billion in wages to the U.S. economy in 2007, according to an MPAA report. That’s up from more than 1.3 million jobs and $30.2 billion in 2005 as reported by the trade group in its inaugural report a couple of years ago.
In another key finding, there has been a shift of top production states beyond the traditional entertainment powerhouses of California and New York. Illinois, Texas and Florida are among those that have become more important industry hubs, while Nevada, Arizona and Montana are among those that have lost some luster. MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman will present the findings of the entertainment economic impact study today at the start of the second biennial Business of Show Business symposium in Washington. Under the theme “American Creativity at Work,” the MPAA event is designed to showcase Hollywood’s economic contributions and importance.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., journalist and former TV host Nick Clooney and studio reps are expected at the event. In addition to panels and other events, actor Dwayne Johnson will give a luncheon speech. The impact study, most of whose data is for 2007 despite the inclusion of some 2008 figures, shows that more than 285,000 people were employed in the core business of producing, marketing, manufacturing and distributing films and TV shows.
The average salary of employees in the core production-related space came in just below $75,000 for 2007, 75% higher than the average salary nationwide, the MPAA found. For 2005, the average pay of $73,000 was nearly 80% above the U.S. average. Overall, there are more than 115,000 entertainment firms in all 50 U.S. states — and 81% of them employ fewer than 10 people. More than 478,000 work in industry functions in related businesses, such as movie theaters, video rental firms, broadcasters, cable operators and online ventures like Hulu.com and TV.com.
The motion picture and TV industry also supports an additional 1.7 million jobs indirectly, up from nearly 1 million in 2005, at companies doing business with Hollywood players, such as apparel retailers, car rental firms, caterers, dry cleaners, transportation companies and lumber and hardware suppliers.
The industry also boosts the cash in state and federal coffers — a key argument in debates over the value of production tax incentives. Taxes paid by film and TV workers in 2007 and sales taxes on goods and services amounted to $13 billion, up $3 billion from 2005. The study couldn’t quantify such other government revenue as corporate income, property and business license taxes or contributions from indirect employment.
According to the MPAA, 40 states plus the District of Columbia have found production activity so economically beneficial that they have incentive programs to attract and maintain productions. Beyond the traditional entertainment hubs of California and New York, the study listed these as the top 10 production states: Illinois, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Massachusetts. Michigan, Arizona, Connecticut, New Mexico and Utah are “states to watch” based on recent production levels, tax incentives and economic impact of the industry.
The film and TV industry is also “one of the few that consistently generate a positive balance of trade,” according to the MPAA. For 2007, the trade surplus amounted to $13.6 billion, or 10% of the total U.S. private sector trade surplus in services. For 2005, the figures amounted to $9.5 billion and 12%, respectively. U.S. entertainment earned $15 billion in audiovisual services exports in 2007, up 23% from 2006, up more than 50% from 2003 and the highest reading since tracking began in 1992.
Lack Of Movie Studio Tax Credits May Make Mass. A Laughingstock. Again
By Scott Van Voorhis
Banker & Tradesman Columnist
April 20, 2009
States like Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York ate our lunch with gambling, siphoning untold billions of dollars out of the Bay State over the past 15 years.
Now it looks like our neighbors may soon have another laugh at our expense – this time with the growing appetite of Hollywood to produce films in lower-cost locales.
Connecticut and New York in particular have launched aggressive bids to bring in hundreds of millions in new film business and thousands of jobs.
It’s a push that comes with the usual crown of anti-fun-and-everything-else critics here in Massachusetts homing in for the kill as they lobby to block incentives aimed at expanding the state’s growing piece of the film pie.
The antis on Beacon Hill are rallying around new research emanating in part from the Empire State that comes with a rather shocking message indeed. There’s really no use for states like Massachusetts to try to get into the film business – entertainment heavyweights like New York have it all locked up.
The criticism has film industry advocates, having enjoyed solid success attracting film shoots through the lure of state tax credits, looking at further incentives to spur the construction of a full-fledged movie studio. A State House bill that would have kicked off the construction of a major film complex in South Weymouth predictably fizzled last year in the Legislature.
“It’s stupid and so hypocritical,” said state Rep. Brian Wallace, D-South Boston, a longtime legislative champion of the film business. “It’s sour grapes and that is all it is. None of it is true. We are doing it here.”
Not so according to a pair of researchers – a Cornell University professor and a Needham-based employment expert – who recently made a splash with a paper, now under review for publication in an academic journal, that contends it is futile for states like Massachusetts to compete for films against New York and Los Angeles.
The entertainment industry heavyweights simply have an overpowering advantage when it comes to the infrastructure needed to attract and grow the film business, leaving the rest of the country competing for the crumbs.
Yet this argument appears to contradict the thrust of another study put out by the two researchers back in 2006, when they were hired by New York film industry stakeholders to examine the decline – that’s right, decline – of the Empire State’s share of the film and media biz.
The description of the goals of that 2006 study, sponsored by none other than the New York Film, Television and Commercial Initiative, just about says it all:
“There is substantial anecdotal evidence that production is decreasing in New York, with implications for employment of industry professionals and for the position of the city as a media production center. To ensure and build New York’s role in what are now global entertainment and information industries, we need to know why the location of production is changing and to devise a policy agenda that places New York at the center of these industries as a primary location for visual media production.”
Ned Rightor, the Needham-based employment expert and one half of this research team, notes that earlier study was a Cornell University effort in which the industry had no editorial involvement.
The latest study, an academic paper which explores the difficulty other states face going head to head with New York and LA in pursuit of the film business, is not funded by the entertainment industry and reviews years of research by other academics into the effectiveness of film subsidy programs in a range of states, including Massachusetts.
The conclusion, notes Rightor, is not necessarily comforting for New York policy makers either, calling into question all state efforts, including those of the Empire State, to subsidize film production.
While New York has had its challenges, it has entertainment industry infrastructure built up over a century, Rightor contends.
For her part, Susan Christopherson, the Cornell professor, argues Massachusetts would be better off with a more targeted approach, one, that, say, might focus on a niche, like digital media.
That’s good to know.
Take A Look Around
But in my view, you really have to follow the money. And, in this case, the real proof is in the cash other states are pouring into this seemingly futile effort.
Connecticut recently announced plans for millions in tax credits to help get a $65 million studio complex off the ground in South Windsor, as well as a $5 million loan.
It comes atop plans by NBC Universal to build a large television studio at Stamford.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, not to be outdone, is giving would-be studio developers in Norristown a $10 million check. No pesky and complicated tax credits here.
But what about New York, the giant against which other states should not even try to compete?
Funny thing, the supposed king of the film production business is apparently feeling a little worried about all that competition out there: enough for Gov. David Paterson and legislators to agree on a $350 million package of tax credits.
By contrast, the Bay State’s efforts to lure the film industry, which have suddenly become controversial here on Beacon Hill, hardly look lavish.
Nearly 20 major film shoots over the past two years have pumped more than $500 million in the state’s economy. Tax credits, by contrast, amounted to roughly $30 million in 2007.
The success has drawn proposals from would-be studio developers, who want to spend hundreds of millions to build a trio of film complexes that could help make Massachusetts “Hollywood East.”
No matter. State lawmakers, some of whom apparently aren’t feeling the heat of the down economy like the rest of us from their comfortable State House perches, balked at spending another $60 million last year in tax credits to help a proposed $300 million studio complex slated for the old South Weymouth airbase get off the ground.
Now that may change, with Wallace, the Legislature’s resident film buff, noting the House is poised to take up the South Weymouth studio proposal again.
Yet there is also a danger the Bay State will repeat all over again, this time with the film business, years of mistakes made with the casino business.
As Connecticut and other states built up lucrative gambling industries, our Beacon Hill antis blocked attempt after attempt to legalize some form of expanded gambling. Who knows what, if any, factor out-of-state casino interests played in this obstruction campaign, though it has long aroused suspicion among political insiders.
Clearly, when it comes to the film business, New York officials are nervously watching Massachusetts and hoping we decide to throw in the towel.
But beyond the gamesmanship, the real victim here is our own state’s now hard-hit economy.
If Beacon Hill had decided to bet a few dollars on the film business last year, we might at least have a studio project or two underway right now.
It’s not too late, and maybe the Legislature will finally pass that studio incentive package.
Ambitious studio projects could make Massachusetts a center for the film industry
By Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe Columnist
April 19, 2009
This spring, Mark Ridder is coordinating golf outings at Waverly Oaks, the country club he co-owns in Plymouth. But by late next year, the clubhouse will have been transformed into a commissary, and Ridder may be playing a new role trying to lure directors, not duffers, to the $450 million Plymouth Rock Studios complex planned for the site.
Amazingly, Plymouth Rock is just one of four projects that could create 25 or more sound stages in Massachusetts over the next two years, designed for TV, movie, video game, and commercial production. (The state currently has none.) It seems surreal enough to make for a good movie trailer, intoned in the typical basso-profundo voice-over: In a time of economic recession and frozen credit, four brave groups of businesspeople are somehow bucking the odds and moving forward with plans for new studios.
Whether there’s a happy ending to this story remains to be seen. In order to start construction this summer, Plymouth Rock is counting on being the first recipient of a $50 million chunk of funding from the state’s new I-Cubed program, which is intended to support infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.
And if both of the bigger projects, Plymouth Rock and ISG Studios in Weymouth, are built, it remains to be seen whether there will be enough activity to keep them busy.
Movie-making in Massachusetts was jump-started by a tax credit former Governor Mitt Romney signed into law in 2005. It gives production companies a 25 percent tax credit on any spending they do in the state. This month, Kevin Costner and Ben Affleck have been shooting “The Company Men” in Boston, and scouts have reportedly been seeking locations for the sequel to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” (Much of the original was filmed at the Burlington Mall.) In 2009, 13 movies spent a total of $359 million in the state.
But the major constraint to luring more movie dollars to Massachusetts is the lack of sound stages: large indoor spaces where sets can be built. (Sound stages also usually have office space nearby for the production team and postproduction facilities for editing, special effects, and other finishing work.) Today, film crews that need indoor space often wind up using hockey rinks, raw warehouses, and vacant office buildings.
“One of the things that holds us back in New England is the weather,” says Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “To the extent that we’re able to provide the industry with state-of-the-art facilities that can be used year-round, the level of production here would ramp up another notch.”
Plymouth Rock is the most ambitious of the projects: 14 sound stages spread over 240 acres that could employ 1,500 people to build and up to 2,000 people once it is in operation. Chief executive David Kirkpatrick describes it as “the first really 21st century digital studio.” Last year, he committed to donate $25 million to the MIT Media Lab to create a new Center for Future Storytelling. The Media Lab will have a satellite outpost at Plymouth Rock Studios where a half-dozen researchers will explore things like next-generation cameras and digital sets.
Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures, says much of that Media Lab research funding will come from marketing sponsorships he has sold in connection with the studio, though he cannot yet name the sponsors. He’s also a bit opaque about the source of the studio’s construction funding.
Cambridge-based C Change Investments is committed to making “a substantial investment in the tens of millions of dollars” in Plymouth Rock, according to general counsel David D. Brown. But that firm, formed last November, has not yet finished raising an investment pool of its own. Kirkpatrick says he is counting on $50 million in infrastructure funding from the state’s I-Cubed program, along with several hundred million from various pension funds, which he expects to finalize in late June.
The purchase of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club – Kirkpatrick says the price is $16.5 million – also has not yet closed. (Ridder, the co-owner, says he and much of his staff have been offered positions with Plymouth Rock.) Kirkpatrick says construction will start in October. By that time, ISG Boston Studios could also be taking shape in Weymouth, on the site of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The executives behind ISG Boston have run the historic Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood, and were involved with the creation of the TV series “Rome” and “Nash Bridges.” The first phase of the ISG project will include six sound stages on 30 acres.
Allan Kassirer, one of the ISG partners, said that the group was still working on the design and permitting, but that the financing for the first phase of construction was nailed down. It will come from developer LNR Property Corp., which is turning the former Navy base into a planned community called SouthField.
LNR vice president Kevin Chase says that the funding – $100 million in total for phase one and phase two – will come from LNR’s own equity fund and lines of credit.
Two entrepreneurs are planning smaller facilities in South Boston. Billy Mead is in the late phase of getting permits for a 2,500-square-foot sound stage on Dorchester Avenue. Mead, who already owns a movie equipment rental company and several production firms, hopes to add a slightly bigger 4,000-square-foot stage later this year. “We call it Plymouth Pebble, as opposed to Plymouth Rock,” he quips.
He expects the stages will be ideal for making how-to DVDs and shooting commercials and music videos.
And real estate developer Tim Pappas hopes to build two 20,000-square-foot sound stages on land he already owns on Summer Street, just past the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. (Pappas didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.)
Paleologos, the cheerleader-in-chief for the movie industry in Massachusetts, says he doesn’t necessarily expect all of the projects to be built. “But the fact that they’re still pressing ahead in this kind of negative environment only underscores our point that this will be a thriving, growing industry of the future – and that we have a better than average shot of becoming the Northeast’s hub of film, TV, and digital media production,” he says.
It’s a laudable goal. To reach it, we’ll need more than new studios and a tax credit, since other states dangle even richer incentives. What I see as the best way to differentiate Massachusetts over the long term is staking out a strong position at the convergence of film, video games, and digital media.
Scott Kirsner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(April 16, 2009) Plymouth Rock Studios’ popular video blog, THE SERIES, takes a quick look at the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit.