News & Events

Movie industry boom shapes local dreams

By Suzette Standring
For The Patriot Ledger
August 28, 2009

MILTON — Amelia Ali of Milton wore “gangsta” garb – bandannas, white tank top and heavy makeup – as an extra on the set of “The Fighter,” a Mark Wahlberg movie about Micky “Irish” Ward, a pro welterweight who rose from the seamy streets of Lowell to fight Arturo “Thunder” Gatti in a legendary boxing trilogy.

Ali, 24, was cast to be part of a carload of Puerto Ricans in a street scene. “The casting director, Aaron at Boston Casting, saw promise in my ethnically ambiguous face. Apparently I can pass for a Puerto Rican and a gangster!” said Ali, who is of West Indian and Syrian descent.

Moviemaking is a financial windfall to Massachusetts, thanks to legislation that allows film producers to lessen costs through a 25 percent state tax credit and an exemption from state sales tax signed into law in 2007.

As a result, locally produced movie and television business is booming. According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at the end of fiscal year 2008 moviemakers spent $676 million. Direct employment of state residents in film production rose by 537 percent (3,177 new jobs) since 2006.

Ali is one of hundreds of movie extras hired to create “atmosphere.” Her scene in “The Fighter” depicts Lowell as a crime-ridden town in the 1980’s where Micky Ward and Dickie Eklund were popular locals long before the boxer’s rise to fame.

As extras, Ali and friends ride in a beat-up 1975 Ford. At 50 mph, the stunt driver screeches to a halt just as Christian Bale drunkenly staggers in front of the car, leading a posse of friends promoting one of his brother’s fights.

“As Micky and Dickie are rounding a curb, our car rolls up, nearly hits Dickie and he slams his hands on the hood. We pop out of the sides of the car and start screaming to him, “Eh, Dickie!” The day was very humid with a temperature of 95 degrees. The car was so old, it needed to be jumpstarted twice and the windows could not roll down.

“[Director] David O. Russell walked up to the car, realizing how incredibly hot it was, demanded immediately someone get a brick and break the windows,” she said. The movie’s opening scene took fourteen, exhausting takes. For one day’s work, Ali received $120 as a nonunion actress.

“He’s (Bale) a very intense and dedicated actor. I got a firsthand glimpse of how much work goes into a few seconds of on-screen time,” said Ali.

Ali first heard about the casting call from Andrea Johnson, her teacher at Berklee College of Music where Ali is a music business major, songwriter and composer. Ali is no stranger to entertainment. Out of 50 acts, she was chosen to open for Ludicris in 2007 and sang a Mary J. Blige cover song.

“I performed for an arena of over 2,000 people, sharing the stage with Latoya Luckett,” said Ali. For “The Fighter,” Boston Casting was looking for women ages 19-25 to play street toughs. On a whim, she sent a picture of herself taken at a family wedding. She was chosen and asked to show up at the Lowell set at 5 a.m. wearing “gangster-like” clothes.

For many working as extras, it is a chance to meet celebrities and people from varied backgrounds. Ali met an engineer from MIT, as well as local youths from Lowell. She recalled that Christian Bale stayed in drunken character all day. “I was so impressed with his intensity. He even introduced himself to us in character. I introduced myself as ‘Ali, sting like a bee,’ which he vowed to remember and scream out during filming,” she said.

She observed the keen attention to costume details, such as the one hundred pairs of vintage 1980 special edition Reebok sneakers actors and extras wore during the filming. Ali’s parents, owners of Ali’s Roti’s Restaurant in Mattapan and in Boston, are Caribbean immigrants and were dubious about the entertainment field for their daughter. But her love of performing carried her through Milton Academy, Pace University in New York and Berklee. Ali hopes someday to own a publishing and production company and to be a successful songwriter.

The list of movies being made in Massachusetts continues to grow: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “The Proposal,” “Shutter Island” and “The Invention of Lying.” In July, “Furry Vengeance,” starring Brendan Frasier, was filmed at Topsfield Fairgrounds. In October at Franklin Park Zoo, Kevin James will star in “The Zookeeper.” Last year California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly grumbled at the stiff competition by the Bay State for movie dollars.

The local filmmaking boom offers aspiring performers a chance to chase their dreams. For Ali, landing a spot as an extra in her first-ever movie is just another sign that pursuing this field was meant to be.

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Lights, camera — city props supplier has that and more

By Brian Boyd
New Bedford Standard-Times
August 26, 2009

NEW BEDFORD–When a character was electrocuted in a bathtub in a recent “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” episode, viewers probably weren’t focused on the bathroom’s sink, radiator or lights. Still, background props can lend authenticity to a scene and, in this case, the items came from a New Bedford company.

New England Demolition & Salvage, which buys and sells used building materials, has been selling and renting antiques and materials for movie and television productions for the past couple of years. “It’s very exciting,” said Jeanine James, who owns the Cove Street business with her husband, Harry.

Like a successful television series, this business resulted in a spin-off several months ago: a separate prop-rental business. The new venture is called That’s a RAP — short for “rent-a-prop” — and it fills the third-floor of the salvage business with a wide range of bric-a-brac, from a telephone booth and vintage washing machines to children’s bicycles and furniture.

“They like it because it’s one-stop shopping,” said Harry James during a Tuesday tour he gave to city officials. “They used to go all over looking for different stuff to find what they needed, but now they come here, and they can get all of their shopping done in one place.”

That’s a RAP aims to capitalize on the state’s growing movie business, including the new studios planned for Plymouth and South Weymouth.

“What better opportunity to get ahead of the game?” said Norm Smith, a partner with Harry James in the rental company.

New Bedford is a convenient location to serve movie productions in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, Smith said. The James’ film credits list 26 movies or television shows, including the crime drama “Gone Baby Gone,” the comedy “Bride Wars” and the Showtime series “Brotherhood,” which was filmed in Rhode Island.

For example, they sold the materials used to build an old-fashioned train station ticket booth in a movie with Richard Gere called “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story,” Harry James said. The couple had discussed the prospects for a prop rental business. When Showtime canceled “Brotherhood,” the filmmakers offered to sell them props.

Harry James reached out for a partner in a new business and Smith came aboard. The props from “Brotherhood,” including an FBI seal, provided the starting inventory for the new rental-only business, and the company keeps buying more props, according to James and Smith. “You never know what they want,” Smith said.

There is a growing demand for businesses that serve the film industry, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “It’s one of the few areas in a dismal economy where opportunities are expanding,” Paleologos said.

When filmmakers produce films in Massachusetts, they look for local services, he said. “They don’t want to try renting props from California and ship them across the country,” he said.

Anne Marie Lopes, New Bedford’s director of tourism and marketing, said more film location scouts have been visiting the city, and some of them are already aware of Harry and Jeanine James’ business. Even though the scouts might not choose the city, they are raising awareness of the city. “We may not fit the project they’re working on, but they go back with pictures of what we have,” Lopes said.

The James like to look out for their items on the screen, and they are interested in which actors are tied to the productions they assist. “We always want to know who is in the movies,” Jeanine James said. “I love movies.”

Besides the excitement of show business, props give the couple another source of revenue. “We feel it will help us survive,” she said. “It will have an impact on both businesses.” They started their salvage business in 1998 in Wareham and relocated to the city two years ago, moving into a former Berkshire-Hathaway mill building.

Mayor Scott W. Lang held a press conference Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of the business moving to New Bedford. The conference was followed by the tour. “This is the type of business in New Bedford that we spent an awful lot of time attempting to cultivate, which is a destination business for a wide variety of audiences,” Lang said.

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Paramount to open ‘Shutter’ in 2010

Scorsese, DiCaprio pic delayed for economic reasons

August 21, 2009

Moviegoers won’t be going to “Shutter Island” this fall, as Paramount has moved the Martin Scorsese-directed thriller, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, from Oct. 2 to Feb. 19. Citing economic factors, Paramount made the decision Friday morning, only six weeks before the pic would have opened.

Fox Searchlight immediately moved “Whip It,” its Drew Barrymore-helmed roller derby comedy, forward a week into the slot. The only other pics set for wide release Oct. 2 are Disney’s 3D re-releases of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.”

The Feb. 19 slot currently contains a pair of actioners: Lionsgate’s “From Paris With Love” and Screen Gems’ “Takers.”

The studio issued a statement from Paramount Pictures chairman-CEO Brad Grey saying: “Our 2009 slate was greenlit in a very different economic climate and as a result we must remain flexible and willing to recalibrate and adapt to a changing environment.

“This is a situation facing every single studio as we all work through the financial pressures associated with the broader downturn. Like every business, we must make difficult choices to maximize our overall success and to best manage Paramount’s business in a way that serves Viacom and its shareholders, while providing the film with every possible chance to succeed both creatively and financially.

Pundits had put “Shutter” high on the list of possible awards contenders this year, given the Scorsese-DiCaprio pedigree and the fact that it’s based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”). However, the trailers, which have been running for several months, sell it as a thriller, which is not always a genre that gets kudos attention.

Laeta Kalogridis penned the script for the project, a co-production between Phoenix Pictures, Scorsese’s Sikelia and DiCaprio’s Appian Way banners. Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brad Fischer and Scorsese are producing.

“Shutter Island” is set in 1954, with DiCaprio portraying a U.S. Marshal investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.


MFO NOTE: Shutter Island was shot in Massachusetts in 2008. Click here to see the trailer.

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Powderhouse Productions explodes on to the scene

By Aaron Crear

Somerville News
August 21, 2009

Unbeknownst to many residents, one of the most successful television production companies in the country was started, has grown and still remains in the city of Somerville. Powderhouse Productions, whose headquarters is located on Elm Street, is behind some of the most popular shows on TV.

Just of few of the programs on their roster include Mega Engineering aired on Discovery Channel, DOGS 101 aired on Animal Planet, The Works on History Channel and Kids by the Dozen aired on TLC. The company derives its name from a Revolutionary War gunpowder storehouse that is located less than a mile from the corporate offices.

These highly successful series recently earned the company 8 Telly awards, which are annually given out to honor outstanding local, regional, and national cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online film and video. Powderhouse picked up hardware for three projects, DOGS101, The Works and its online video channel, SHOETUBE.TV.

The company was co-founded in 1994 by award winning filmmaker Tug Yourgrau and veteran producer Joel Olicker. Olicker, a Somerville resident at the time decided that he wanted to live and work in the same place. “At that time we were just beginning to see the transformation in Davis Square,” said Olicker. A decade and a half later, the company still remains in the heart of the city. “We love Somerville”, Olicker added.

Over the last 15 years the company has grown from a small production company producing one show at a time, to now producing multiple series continuously. Their reputation for quality productions has helped with expansion and acquiring deals with major networks. It is common practice within the television industry to watch programming across all networks to search for the next hit show.

Powderhouse got its first big break with the show Engineering the Impossible. The single episode production portraying large scale futuristic technological developments eventually lead to the series Mega Engineering on Discovery Channel.

Olicker was quick to credit the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit with their growth and success. The credit entitles companies who shoot at least half of their movie or spend at least half of their production budget in the Commonwealth-are eligible for a tax credit equal to 25 cents for every new dollar of spending they bring to Massachusetts. Since its inception in 2006 “We have tripled our revenue and productions and doubled the size of our staff”, said Olicker.

The company currently has over 110 employees all located in Somerville. With the tremendous success and growth that Powderhouse is having it may eventually require having satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles. Olicker, however remains steadfast in his plans to keep the company local.

Being based in Boston also provides benefits to the specific type of programming that Powderhouse specializes in. With some of the leading scientific institutions in the world based in the Boston it is a hotbed for experts in the scientific areas explored in the award winning productions. Members of area hospitals, universities and companies are routine contributors to the shows.

Powderhouse’s new series Superfetch will debut in October on Animal Planet. The Saturday night series stars Youtube sensation Zak George, an unconventional dog trainer, who coaches dog owners to bond with their pets by attempting hilariously ambitious tricks. Much of the reality shows’ filming took place in and around Somerville.

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Local boy lands part in Grown Ups

Xavier Dillingham follows in dad’s footsteps, works on latest Adam Sandler movie

By Emily Wilcox
GateHouse News Service
August 19, 2009


PLYMOUTH — It can take hours to get that shot.

If you’re lucky.

If you’re not lucky, things go wrong and it could take days.

But, at just 11-years-old, Xavier Dillingham is prepared for the quiet, waiting world of movie making. He’s exchanged banter with David Spade, laughed with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler and eaten the same catered breakfast before heading to wardrobe early Monday morning. This is one boy who will walk away from the summer of 2009 with his eyes wide open about the film industry; the world of make believe is oh-so-real when you’re living it as a child on the set of the upcoming movie Grown Ups.

Xavier Dillingham was prepared for what awaited on the set because he was briefed on the biz by his dad, Roger Dillingham Jr., a Plymouth emergency medical technician-turned-actor/model and set medic. Dillingham stuck his pinky toe into the movie-industry several years ago before opting to immerse himself in it.

Roger Dillingham has bagged minor roles in big movies. You might recognize him in The Game Plan as a member of the paparazzi who The Rock beats on, or as a forensic team member in Madso’s War. Dillingham played a paramedic in The Box and appears in soon-to-be-released movies Edge of Darkness and Valediction as an Amtrak worker and security guard, respectively.

Dillingham worked for years as an EMT in Plymouth and surrounding towns, saving lives and responding to emergencies so intense, he confesses he’s come to forget many patients’ names – he was focused on other things at the time, like their pulse. His side job as a model led Dillingham to venture into auditions that led to his current job as movie actor/set medic on a myriad of films.

This week, Dillingham was working as a medic on the set of the film Furry Vengeance, starring Brendan Fraser and Brook Shields, in Topsfield at the Crane Estate. Meanwhile, his son, Xavier, worked as a photo double for Nadji Jeter on the set of Grown Ups, filming this week in Wareham.

“He had such a blast working with those guys, and he fit right in and was welcomed,” Dillingham said.

A photo double is an actor who literally doubles for another actor who is cast in a film. In this case, the young actor Nadji Jeter needed a photo double who looked like him due to laws that limit the amount of time a child can work on a set. When Jeter is not available, Xavier fills in for him on shots that don’t require the actor’s face.

It’s a fitting first step for Xavier, whose father played a body double for The Rock in The Game Plan in addition to the photographer role.

Set medics like Roger Dillingham are needed if and when an actor or crewmember becomes injured or sick; Dillingham’s wealth of experience as an EMT comes into play here.

And Xavier’s patient demeanor comes into play on the set of Grown Ups.

“There’s a lot of waiting around. If nothing else, patience is a virtue in the industry,” Roger said. “He looks forward every day to the set and is getting a good, positive taste of how the industry can be. He’s looking to see wherever it takes him. I may be able to open a door and guide him through, but he has to perform and do what is asked of him as an actor.”

The rewards are wonderful, he added, if you’re lucky enough to continue bagging roles and medic jobs. Dillingham said he and his son are happy to be able to do work they love and get paid for it. He shakes his head over recent news reports that some state legislators are now questioning the 25 percent tax credit program passed several years ago to entice movie production in Massachusetts.

“It’s new money to the state,” he added. “This is new money and new revenue that we didn’t have before the incentive. The revenue is in excess of $600 million the state has gotten since the tax incentive went into effect.”

Movie production boosts local economies as movie crews rent hotels, eat at restaurants and use local caterers and other businesses, Dillingham said, and that can only be a good thing for the state economy.

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Workers take action to launch film careers

With 2 Mass. studios planned, training programs expand to teach production skills

By Johnny Diaz
Boston Globe
August 19, 2009

DiCaprio Picture
Director Martin Scorsese shot SHUTTER ISLAND which features Mark Ruffalo (left) and Leonardo DiCaprio, in Massachusetts last year. (Andrew Cooper/ Paramount Pictures)

CAMBRIDGE – In the second-floor offices of Future Media Concepts, where framed movie posters line the hallway, students hunch over rows of computers and learn the latest in digital and video editing.

While some students are learning to upload their own videos for personal use, the majority of them are brushing up their skills in the hopes of working in Massachusetts’ flourishing film industry.

“There’s a tremendous amount of positions for people in the film industry in Boston,’’ said Adam Greene, a former student and current instructor at Future Media Concepts, which recently moved into a new 3,000-square-foot facility – double the size of its former site. “You are seeing a lot of Massachusetts residents taking advantage of becoming assets to the film industry.’’

Two proposed studios, tax incentives for in-state productions, and a booming film industry are combining to create more opportunities for local workers who can edit and help in post-production aspects of the film, television, and digital media industries. As a result, local businesses and schools such as Future Media Concepts and Powderhouse Productions in Somerville are expanding their facilities or programs to help folks fill those jobs.

“The more movies we get, the more workers are required, the more infrastructure is needed and, therefore, the more jobs are created,’’ said Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, which estimates $452 million was generated from movies filmed here last year.

Indeed, Massachusetts has seen a wave of films produced locally since 2006, when only two films were made here. In 2007, that number jumped to eight. Last year, there were 13 made-in-Massachusetts movies including “Shutter Island,’’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and “The Surrogates,’’ with Bruce Willis.

Film industry executives attribute part of that growth to the 2006 tax credit for local film productions. The program underwrites a quarter of a movie production company’s costs with the idea that the filmmakers will hire Bay State workers and spur economic growth. However, production companies aren’t required to hire a certain number of Massachusetts workers. And according to a report released last month by the Department of Revenue, Massachusetts only gets 16 cents for every dollar spent on the incentives.

Officials are hoping two proposed film studios will boost the local film industry even more. Plymouth Rock Studios, scheduled to break ground later this year, is billed as a $282 million project with 14 soundstages and plans for as many as 28. Production buildings and back lots are also included in the plans. Another studio is planned for 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station and is estimated to cost $147 million. That facility would be used for movies, television shows, and video game production.

“Most projects that come to Massachusetts don’t want to hire people from out of state because it’s more expensive,’’ said Paleologos.

Even though companies and schools are training local talent, more work may be needed to create a critical mass of workers. One estimate from the Massachusetts Film Commission puts that number at 3,000 to 10,000 workers, if the two film studios were built right away. Meanwhile, membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 481, which represents 400 film technicians in New England, has doubled since 2006.

“We have some workforce that can do the movies and the TV shows,’’ said Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce in Plymouth. “We don’t have enough workforce to do several of them all at the same time, and that’s where we have to do more recruitment and training.’’

That’s where local schools and production companies are stepping up. Last May, the New England Institute of Art launched “College On The Lot,’’ a weekly series of workshops that introduce people to the local film industry and the potential jobs, as well as to courses available at the school. The workshops are held on the lot where Plymouth Rock studios are proposed to be built.

“There’s this great general interest, in what does this all mean because Massachusetts doesn’t have any film studios,’’ said Susan Lane, president of the Brookline-based college. The school expanded the workshops for fall. So far, 200 students have participated.

Back in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Future Media Concepts added five digital media training suites to teach people the latest in post-production and broadcast editing applications such as Apple, Adobe, and Final Cut Pro. “I didn’t have the room to schedule all the classes in our previous location,’’ said Keri Wilson, Boston branch manager of the 11-year-old company. “People are more technology oriented now. They are finding that they need more training.’’

At Somerville’s Powderhouse Productions, executives recently expanded their 5,000-square-foot offices to 14,000 square feet to take on more projects. “I like to refer to the tax credit as Miracle-Gro for our company,’’ said Tug Yourgrau, cofounder of Powderhouse, whose clients include the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC.

Yourgrau said his company has hired four people full time to develop ideas and pitches for TV and film companies. The projects have also helped Yourgrau hire 37 interns from local schools such as Emerson College and Boston University this summer.

“Think of all the colleges and universities who pump out all these kids in television and [they] go to Hollywood and New York to start out,’’ said Yourgrau. “We have given them a reason to stay in state.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at

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Charting the Costs and Benefits of Film Tax Credits in Massachusetts

GDP Chart

CHART 1: This first chart shows that, between 2006 and 2008, the percentage increase in Gross Domestic Product generated by the film tax credit (in yellow) dramatically outpaced the overall percentage increase in Massachusetts GDP (in blue) during that same period.

Film Job Growth 2006-2008

CHARTS 2 and 3: These charts plainly show that while the overall employment rate in Massachusetts (below) was either flat or declining, the number of film industry-related jobs (above) has been steadily increasing.

State Job Growth 2006-2008

Cost vs Economic Impact

CHART 4: Here, we see that DOR’s 2009 measure of local economic benefit (economic output) is more than six times the cost of the credit.

DOR 2009 Cost/Benefit Charts

CHART 5: Finally, for those who feel that DOR’s estimate of local economic output (Chart 4 above) paints too rosy a picture, this last chart clearly demonstrates that—no matter which of DOR’s 2009 measures of local economic impact is used (GDP, New Direct Spending, or Economic Output)—the benefit of the film tax credit to the state’s economy (in green) always far outweighs its cost to taxpayers (in red).

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The fighter

Richie Farrell’s heroin addiction nearly killed him, but he lived to write about it

By Mark Shanahan
Boston Globe
August 18, 2009

LOWELL – Richard Farrell looks uneasy, gripping the steering wheel with both hands as he pulls up to St. Patrick’s Church.

“This street was all dealers,’’ he says, stopping the car in the shadow of the granite steeple. “I scored two [expletive] bags of dope right here before giving the eulogy at my father’s funeral.’’

Farrell is well acquainted with the dark corners of the Mill City, where he was born and, more than once, almost died of an overdose. A former heroin addict, Farrell has put his grim experiences to good use, directing an award-winning documentary, “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell,’’ and writing a gritty new memoir.

The book – whose title, “What’s Left of Us,’’ is tattooed in tiny script on the author’s left bicep – is Farrell’s story of getting straight with other rogues at a dreary state-run detox. It’s already drawn interest from filmmakers attracted to the book’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’’-like quality.

“The thing about Richie Farrell is this – his story isn’t [phony],’’ says screenwriter Scott Silver, a Worcester native whose credits include “8 Mile’’ and “The Fighter,’’ filming now in Lowell. “Richie conveys the rawness of what he went through without romanticizing it.’’

Farrell plays a small role in “The Fighter,’’ which stars Mark Wahlberg as boxer “Irish’’ Micky Ward and Christian Bale as Ward’s half-brother Dicky Eklund. Farrell is a character in the film because Eklund, a recovering addict and onetime boxer, was featured in Farrell’s documentary.

“I had no ambition when I was growing up here, none,’’ says Farrell, driving past his childhood home in the working-class neighborhood known as The Acre. “It’s amazing I’m still here.’’

Life didn’t figure to be easy for Farrell, who barely survived his own birth 52 years ago. He came out feet first and, deprived of oxygen for several minutes, suffered brain damage that weakened the right side of his body.

Farrell’s domineering and abusive father, an English teacher at Lowell High School, was embarrassed by his son’s limp.

“No kid of his was going to be a cripple,’’ says Farrell, who was forced to lift weights, run, and stretch everyday.

The terrifying relationship with his father is the centerpiece of Farrell’s memoir, and it was one of the reasons he became an addict. He tried heroin for the first time the day his dad died in 1984. (He was already hooked on painkillers after a series of knee surgeries.) Three years later, at the age of 31, Farrell and a couple of his junkie friends huddled in an abandoned mill building and tried to kill themselves by overdosing.

“I insert the needle – there’s a little sting – pull back on the plunger, and a dash of red-blue blood snakes up the middle of the clear liquid,’’ Farrell writes. “A direct hit. Nothing left to do.’’

His two cronies later did die under different circumstances, but Farrell, who was married with two children, somehow survived. He was taken first to a hospital and then to a bleak rehab whose madcap patients – they’re called Crazy Mary, Murph, Doc, and Downtown Rolly Brown in the book – are an amusing antidote to Farrell’s agonizing recovery.

“I don’t have to read it because I lived it,’’ says Farrell’s 74-year-old mother, Margaret, a former sixth-grade teacher in Lowell. “I’m just glad Richard was able to get [his story] out. It’ll burn a hole in your gut if you don’t.’’

“What’s Left of Us’’ ends with Farrell finally kicking his heroin habit, but the later chapters of his life are no less compelling.

Starting over in the late 1980s, he studied writing and filmmaking at Middlesex Community College and Emerson College, and then set out to make a documentary about crack users in Lowell. The film, which aired in 1995 on HBO, is an excruciating close-up of three derelicts, including Eklund, whom Farrell had known since childhood.

A former fighter who famously nearly beat Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978, Eklund was by then a full-blown addict shuttling between crack houses and a concrete lock-up. Carrying a video camera, Farrell spent months following Eklund, once arriving just after he’d leapt from a second-floor window to evade police.

“High on Crack Street’’ won a DuPont-Columbia Award but was not well received by city and state officials, who complained that it cast Lowell in a negative light. Scott Harshbarger, then the attorney general, even wrote a letter to HBO asking that the film not be broadcast.

“I was suddenly [expletive] evil,’’ says Farrell. “I was the guy who sold out my city.’’

One person who didn’t object to the documentary was Ed Davis, Lowell’s police chief at the time. Davis, now the police commissioner of Boston, said Farrell’s film was difficult to watch, but factual.

“Everyone was upset because Richie was reporting on something damaging to the city’s reputation,’’ Davis says. “But we need to be honest about addiction and its price. That movie set the stage for us making an argument that Lowell, in particular, needed assistance from the federal government, and we got it.’’

The movie eventually caught the eye of Wahlberg, who had long wanted to play a boxer on the big screen, and was a fan of “Irish’’ Micky Ward and Eklund.

“Certainly, ‘High on Crack Street’ affected me,’’ says Wahlberg, who had seen firsthand the scourge of addiction while growing up in Dorchester. “How could you not be affected, seeing what drugs could do to a person, especially a fighter like Dicky Eklund?’’

At 52, Eklund is clean, at least temporarily. In the spring, he and Ward flew to Los Angeles to help Wahlberg train for “The Fighter,’’ and he works out with Farrell twice a week at the Gold’s Gym in Chelmsford.

“Elbows in! Don’t fly away on me, Richie!’’ Eklund hollers as he leads Farrell around the ring, occasionally showboating with a little shuffle. “Ten more like that, Richie, let’s go!’’

Farrell, who still walks with a noticeable limp, winces with exhaustion as he pursues Eklund. His weak jabs are missing, and Eklund warns Farrell that he’s leaving himself open to a big right hand.
“No one ever hit me harder than my father,’’ Farrell says afterward, “but Dicky’s deadly.’’

Lucky for Farrell, he isn’t fighting to survive anymore. He lives with his new wife and 3-year-old son in Milford, N.H., far from the fetid canals and dilapidated triple-deckers of his youth. He’s already at work on the screenplay for “What’s Left of Us,’’ and promises his next book will pick up where this one leaves off.

“I’m going to write about me forever,’’ he says, “because it’s a [expletive] good story.’’

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WCVB-TV 5: Execs Say Movie Studio Work Starting Soon – Aug 09

Plymouth Rock Studios To Create Thousands Of Jobs
(click here for video story)

WCVB-TV Channel 5
August 14, 2009

BOSTON — The California movie and real estate executives behind Plymouth Rock Studios said they may be about a year behind schedule, but they will soon be announcing a big step toward ground-breaking in the next few weeks.

The studio complex is expected to bring in thousands of construction and permanent jobs to the area.

“Hollywood East” is buzzing about new types of loans that studio heads said they’re lining up to turn a couple years of preparation into construction.

“We’re resilient, we’re committed, and we’ve moved here. We’re staying here. We’re going to get this thing built,” said David Kirkpatrick, of Plymouth Rock Studios,

Studio heads insist losing out on an expected $50 million in infrastructure funding from the state won’t stop them from building 14 sound stages, a back lot, retail village and hotel on the site of a golf course.

“We will review each phase to make sure it’s consistent with the master site plan, look at specifics as they may relate to impacts,” said Planning Board Chairman Marc Garrett.

Tax credits have impacted Massachusetts to the tune of $676 million in new film and television production since 2006. But 13 states paid more in production wages last year. Several of those states, including Michigan and New Mexico, are building new studios.

Plymouth Rock heads said their studio complex will be the biggest, most environmentally sound, and have the most amenities.

“From a technology, green, sustainable perspective, the studio’s going to be unparalleled in the world — nobody else like it,” said Bill Wynne, executive vice president of planning and development..

Executives said to expect an announcement about financing and ground-breaking sometime in the next few weeks.

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Film tax credit means business

By Rep. John Keenan and Rep. Charles Murphy
Letter to Editor
Boston Business Journal

A common misconception about the film tax credit (which appeared most recently in a BBJ editorial) — that film companies are getting a “free ride on taxes” — is completely false.

Before a single tax credit can be lawfully issued in Massachusetts, companies must not only spend their money in our state, but also pay state taxes. These include income taxes, meals taxes, gas taxes, and hotel taxes—just to name a few. These same film companies also pay local taxes and fees.

For example, Adam Sandler’s company is currently shooting a pair of movies in Massachusetts. The first film made a payment of $150,000 to the Town of Essex. The second, contributed more than a quarter million dollars to the financially strapped Franklin Park Zoo. They are just two of the films shooting here this year. We’ve had more than two dozen major films paying taxes and fees in Massachusetts since 2006. And even though many of the stars of those movies live out of state, they are required to pay income taxes to Massachusetts—not only on their big salaries, but also on all residual income they’ll receive for many years to come!

For evidence of the success of the program, one need only look to the most recent report from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. DOR calculated economic output generated by the film tax credit to be $870 million over just the first three years. And the cost to taxpayers for all that economic activity–as of the end of FY 2008? Zero. That’s right. During the first 3 years of the program (according to DOR), the state actually collected $3.6 million dollars more in taxes than we paid out in redeemed credits. Now that’s real economic stimulus!

Rep. John D. Keenan (D-Salem) is House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development. Rep. Charles A. Murphy (D-Burlington) is Chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means.

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HOLLYWOOD EAST TV: on investing in the future – Aug 09

Find more videos like this on Hollywood East TV

Entertainment is an industry of the future, and with the Massachusetts film tax credit already generating over $675 million in direct spending in the state during just the first 3 years of the program, the future is looking pretty bright in the Commonwealth. However, all the economic benefits of the credit will not be fully realized without long term growth of the industry and the job creation it will bring. Plymouth Rock Studios is a $500 million investment in that long term growth and the future of the entertainment business in Massachusetts. Today on The Series, we hear from Nick Paleologos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Film Office, who gives a more detailed explanation of the tax incentive and discusses the economic impact it creates.


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When Hollywood Moved In

New York Times
July 30, 2009

MANCHESTER-By-The-Sea, Mass.– The Hollywood producers who had converged on Diane and Gary Kaneb’s house on the north shore of Boston in snowy February were starting to panic. It was the beginning of April. They were three weeks from the start of filming for Sandra Bullock’s romantic comedy, “The Proposal.”

They needed leaves. Lots of leaves. Leaves all over the big trees on the Kanebs’ lawn, which sweeps down to the harbor. Where were the leaves, asked Nelson Coates, the production designer.

Mrs. Kaneb, who left her career as an investment banker to stay at home with her four children, explained New England winters: They’re really, really long. “I told them, ‘You’re not going to get full foliage until the end of April, beginning of May,’ ” she said as she gave a tour of what is now known in these parts as the Proposal House.

That was too late.

“Hollywood shipped in branches with fake leaves,” Mrs. Kaneb said.

She watched from the second-floor balcony off the master bedroom as some men spent several days attaching the fake leaves to the real trees with twisty ties.

That was just one of the lessons in moviemaking Mrs. Kaneb got when she and her husband turned their house over to Touchstone and Disney Studios for two months in the spring of 2008.

The Kanebs’ early-20th-century cedar shingle and natural stone house, with 9 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, in Manchester, a 40-minute drive north of Boston, was transformed to look as if it was in Sitka, the small town on a remote Alaskan island where a corporate titan played by Ms. Bullock was going to fall in love with the character played by Ryan Reynolds, her office assistant, whose family owned the house.

Mr. Coates had discovered the house after sending a location scout to scour Boston’s rocky shore for the perfect place. The studio was taking advantage of the generous tax credit that the state of Massachusetts has used to draw moviemakers.

“My directions were to find something that had a rustic feel and preferably that had some stone involved,” Mr. Coates said. “The script said it should feel like something out of Alaskan Architectural Digest. I was laughing when I read that. What is Alaskan Architectural Digest?”

He told the scout that it should feel coastal, and most important, have a dock. “The family needed to look like they were isolated from town — like they needed a boat to get there,” Mr. Coates said.

As soon as he saw the house on a scouting trip by fishing boat, he knew it was the right place. “It was the way it was on a slope,” he said. “It looked grand. It looked like the people owned half the town, which they do in the movie. It had this really great presence to it.” And it had a wooden dock.

Mr. Coates took pictures of the house, then started using Photoshop. “I put in mountains from Sitka behind the house,” he said. “I drew in the leaves. I added totem poles and stone. I e-mailed the pictures to the executives at Disney. They’re going, ‘Oh, my God, we had no idea they had mountains like that in Massachusetts.’ ”

“It was hilarious,” Mr. Coates said. “Then I e-mailed them the pictures of what the house really looked like. I was showing how we could make it look like it was way out on an island. They said, ‘O.K., we want to try to get this house.’ ”

An effervescent young location scout made multiple visits to the Kanebs.

“She was so nice,” Mrs. Kaneb said. “But at first we thought, ‘No way.’ ” It was just too much upheaval. Mr. Coates had let them know that their airy, light-colored interior was all wrong for the rough-hewn Alaskan look he was after, so he would have to build his own interior set.

He was honest with the family about the disruption. “You try not to sugar-coat it,” he said. “It does seem like a bomb went off in your house.”

The Kanebs didn’t want to go to the trouble of moving out during the school year. They worried that the movie would distract their children — Julia, 18; Luke, 16; Daniel, 15; and Blair, 13 — from their classes. Wanting to be helpful, they directed the producers to other homeowners. But Mr. Coates remained fixated on the Kaneb house. “I told them: ‘You can be around. You’ll get to watch this being made. You’ll get to be a part of our team.’ ”

Julia Kaneb and her siblings wanted to be on that team. “I was the one who talked them into it,” she said of her parents. “I told them, ‘How can you pass up this opportunity?’ ”

Mrs. Kaneb said: “It was four against two. We did it for our kids.”

And while they did it for the experience, not the money, Mrs. Kaneb said, Disney did compensate them for their trouble. The Kanebs declined to discuss the amount, other than to say it was fair; industry sources say fees can range from $1,000 to $2,000 a day for preparation, to the actual filming, which can range from $1,500 to $3,500 a day.

The movie people began blocking out scenes for filming in mid-March and fell in love with the Kanebs’ antique barn. “They loved the space so much they changed the script,” putting the wedding scene there rather than on the lawn, Mrs. Kaneb said.

The producers did not love the large outdoor pool. “They hated the idea of a pool in Alaska,” Mrs. Kaneb said. “They covered it with a big wooden dance floor.”

She soon learned another lesson in moviemaking: “It takes a village.” Once filming started, in April, more than 100 people — the actors (Ms. Bullock, Mr. Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Betty White, Craig T. Nelson and others), publicists, makeup artists, sound techs, camera crew, lighting specialists, landscapers, stand-ins, a nurse for first aid, producers, set designers, drivers, runners — began arriving at the Kaneb house between 5:30 and 6 every morning.

“I still walked my dog every day, despite having to scoot through the 100-plus folks in our yard,” Mrs. Kaneb said.

Her dog, a Havanese named Mocha, became a favorite of Ms. White’s. Ms. White was a favorite of the Kaneb family.

“Oh, I loved Betty White,” Blair said. “She was holding Mocha between every scene. She would always talk to us. She’d say, ‘Oh, I like those earrings, Blair,’ ‘You look pretty today, Blair.’ ”

Except for Mr. Reynolds, who seemed to be preoccupied between takes with text-messaging Scarlett Johansson — they became engaged during the filming — the actors all went out of their way to reach out.

“Sandra Bullock explained to me how to memorize lines,” Blair said. “It’s a tiring job.”

The crew emptied the refrigerator in the main house, Mrs. Kaneb said, to make room for Ms. Bullock’s spartan stash — tofu and vegetables. For everyone else they set up catering tents, providing three meals and snacks.

“My sons were loving it,” Mrs. Kaneb said. “They couldn’t wait to get home from school and see what there was to eat.”

The producers took over only the first floor of the main house for filming, moving everything into storage except the family’s antique Steinway piano. They bubble-wrapped the Kanebs’ walls and constructed movie walls and, beneath the Kanebs’ ceiling, a separate beamed ceiling from which the cinematographer could attach lights.

As careful as the crew was, Mrs. Kaneb said, there was some damage, from broken light fixtures to a nick in the piano. The movie people either paid to repair every bit of damage or, when necessary, replaced things, Mrs. Kaneb said.

She seemed relaxed about her things. “If you loved your stuff, if you had a lot of antiques, it’s not something you’d want to do,” she said. The second and third floors of the house, where the Kanebs’ bedrooms are, were off limits for filming. So although the family slept in their guesthouse, they were able to keep their personal belongings in the house.

Every morning, Mr. Kaneb said, he would wake up in the guesthouse and walk across the lawn to the main house and work out on the Stairmaster downstairs. Then he would go upstairs to shower and put on his suit. He would walk downstairs, exchange greetings with the movie people and leave for work — he is the chief financial officer of Hood, a national dairy products company.

One day Mr. Kaneb came home, in his usual suit, and carrying a suitcase, to find Ted Danson hanging out on the set. The actor from the television show “Cheers” was visiting his wife, Ms. Steenburgen. The cameras were rolling.

“The producer waved me over to sit down,” Mr. Kaneb said. “Next to me was Ted Danson. At first he was really reserved. Finally, he said, ‘How long are you around for?’ I said to him, ‘I live here.’ ” “Then he was really friendly,” Mr. Kaneb said.

The reason for Mr. Danson’s initial reserve? Mr. Kaneb laughed and said, “Anyone who shows up on a set in a suit is someone from the studio.”

The actual filming lasted three weeks, which translated to about 20 minutes in the movie.

“I expected my kids to have a blast,” Mrs. Kaneb said. What she didn’t expect, she said, was that she would have so much fun, too.

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Movie gives Lowell economy a fighting chance

By Rachel R. Briere
Lowell Sun
July 19, 2009

LOWELL — Show business is big business for local companies. Restaurants, security firms, parking garages, rental outfits and hotels are just some reaping the benefits of Hollywood.

For the next several weeks, film crews, actors and the entourages are in Lowell to shoot scenes for The Fighter. The Paramount Pictures project is set in Lowell and follows the epic rise of “Irish” Micky Ward in the boxing ring. Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg portrays the hometown hero and actor Christian Bale plays opposite Wahlberg as Ward’s half brother and trainer Dicky Eklund.

Actresses Melissa Leo and Amy Adams also star in the movie set to be released in 2011 as the brawling brothers’ mother, Alice Ward, and Ward’s girlfriend, Charlene.

“I can tell you this is an industry that we need to continue working with,” said Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Belanger says early estimates are The Fighter production will pump a little more than $2 million into the local economy. That figure includes the 1,700 hotel rooms reserved, location leases, food, security, signage, office space and construction materials.

“The money is well needed during this economy, with it being in a slump that is. It’s keeping people employed right now,” she said.

Frank Elliott, CEO of National Security, a Lowell firm that was hired to provide security on the set of the film, 35 to 40 additional employees were hired just for this project.

“It puts people to work and gives them opportunity to stay employed,” he explained.

The summer is otherwise a slow period for the 27-year-old security company, as with the Tsongas Arena. The downtown Lowell venue was rented out for three days last week to recreate key boxing matches in Ward’s career.

“It’s definitely making the arena some money,” said General Manager Craig Gates. “I also noticed when the crew has some down time in between takes they are frequenting downtown businesses.”

While filming was taking place inside the downtown concert venue, the Ayotte Garage was filled with cars from extras traveling to Lowell to experience their 15 minutes of fame. The parking facility adjacent to the arena was rented out during a time when there is barely any revenue from parking generated from that particular property. Lowell High School staff and students use the Ayotte Garage as their main parking lot. With school on summer break, it usually sits empty until September.

“It’s great for us,” said Chuck Carney, parking director for the city.

Michael Lenzi, owner of Lenzi’s Catering in Dracut, was tapped by The Fighter production staff to provide tables and staging for the set. As the production moves forward there may be requests for tents and other items he said.

“I think this is tremendously exciting,” said Lenzi, a Lowell city councilor. “It’s a good thing for Massachusetts and Lowell.”

“I’m a big supporter of the tax incentives the state has implemented,” Belanger added. “Because, look at it — it’s working.”

For more on the filming of “The Fighter,” visit:

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Topsfield Fairgrounds playing host to ‘Furry’ cast and crew

By Justin Jervinis
Salem News
July 19, 2009

TOPSFIELD — On a sunny Friday afternoon, actors Ken Jeong, Gerry Bednob, Skyler Samuels and 200 extras had lunch at the Topsfield Fair grounds.

The crew was in town last week shooting “Furry Vengeance,” starring Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields and Dick Van Dyke, at the Hickory Beech subdivision on High Street.

The lunchtime environment was tense as the actors got out of a white Astro minivan and strolled into a big, white tent to eat. Later, two Peter Pan buses full of extras rolled into the parking lot. The extras, many in costume, ate in an adjacent tent.

The movie crew also shot scenes at Beverly Airport last week. The film is about “a developer who is environmentally incorrect and the animals getting revenge on him,” airport manager Robert Mezzetti said last week. Director Roger Kumble’s family comedy is expected to hit theaters next year.

“It’s great. They are very nice people,” said James O’Brien, general manager of the Topsfield Fair. “It’s nice to see the people have more jobs.”

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Investor wants Mass. role in film funding

by Lisa van der Pool
Boston Business Journal
July 17, 2009

Michael Bassick is hardly the only local businessman with the idea of bringing Hollywood filmmaking to Massachusetts. Except the former investment banker wants to bring not only the glittering star-studded shoots to the city, but also the behind-the-scenes funding that drives the industry. “There’s a sexiness to this that investors respond to differently,” said Bassick, 39.

In this economy — with film financing especially difficult — it may not be an easy sell. Bassick is attempting to raise a $100 million fund through his independent feature film investment firm MJB Ventures in Boston. The plan is to invest in films that will be shot in Boston, taking advantage of local talent — and the film tax credit.

Bassick wants to raise $50 million in equity and $50 million in debt. That debt will be secured mainly by the worldwide rights of the films, in the form of contracts that would allow the purchase of certain rights upon a film’s completion, according to Bassick. The life cycle of the fund will be about six years, investing in about 20 films with an average budget of $10 million.

MJB Ventures’ special sauce is that the firm leverages the Massachusetts’ state tax credit (which amounts to 25 cents for every dollar spent in the state) by monetizing those credits before film production starts in order to help finance part of film.

“It’s hard to pick hits,” Bassick said. “So the idea behind the fund is to create a portfolio, like a venture capitalist would. Some singles and doubles and hopefully one or two will be home runs.”

To ensure his chances are good of picking a box office winner, Bassick says he has a quantitative process through which he selects movie projects. The process includes taking a careful look at the script, actors and directors, the genre of the film and the potential value of the film rights.

Bassick is already established as a film financier and producer. In 2006 he started Markedia Worldwide LLC, a film investment and branded entertainment company, which has already committed $10 million across seven film projects since 2006.

Those films include the most recent, “Valediction” starring Eliza Dushku, a thriller that was filmed in locations across Boston last month, including Post Office Square and the InterContinental Hotel. Valediction is Bassick’s first role as a producer.

There’s money to be made if Bassick taps a winner. In 2008, domestic box office numbers hit $9.8 billion, up 1.7 percent over 2007, marking the highest total in history, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Although indie films make far less than studio blockbusters, independent films can score big. Indie flick “Juno,” which opened in 2007, grossed $112 million in 2008, according to the MPAA.

Indeed, many in Hollywood were shocked when Sony pulled the plug days before “Moneyball” was set to start filming last month, despite the fact that Brad Pitt was set to star. According to media reports, the film’s $57 million price tag was too much for an obscure movie.

Bassick says he has the financial chops to make his fund work. Back in 2003, Bassick left his job as a senior banker at FleetBoston to launch Markedia. Then, when the state’s film tax credit began in 2006, Bassick saw a fresh opportunity for investing in independent films.

Given that Massachusetts’ film industry is just now coming into its own, Bassick could be striking at just the right time, said Eran Lobel, president of Boston-based Element Productions Inc., who is on the board of the Massachusetts Production Coalition.

“To get a fund here is exactly what (the local industry) needs,” Lobel said.

“I think it’s great that somebody like Michael is stepping up to try to bring a financial metrics to this industry which is growing here,” said John MacNeil, owner of Waltham-based Moody Street Pictures and one of the founding members of the coalition.

Lisa van der Pool can be reached at

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Louisiana ups credits to 30%

State also to buy back credits at 85%

July 16, 2009

Louisiana is keeping the good times rolling with a 5% hike in its transferable production credit to 30% — upping the ante in the competitive production incentive market.

New to the program is a state buyback of the credits at 85% of their face value — in effect, “the state has created a floor of 85¢ on the dollar,” said Micha Haley, deputy director of the New Orleans Office of Film & Video City, a strategic measure that will substantially increase the amount of the money that filmmakers get when selling the credits. Haley said that not only does the buyback program give Louisiana a huge boost over competing states, but that the entertainment industry has specifically asked for that component.

Before July 1, Louisiana offered a 25% incentive with a local spend of $300,000 plus 10% for local labor; the new law keeps that same ratio: 30% for production with 5% for local labor.

The production tax incentives were backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed the bill July 9 along with several others intended to boost everything from the entertainment industry to sound recording to digital media to hybrid cars.

But it was not all smooth sailing, given that states have been pounded by the recession and are desperate to make budgets work. Haley said that Jindal’s team went over the program’s numbers and was convinced. Indeed, in 2008, the film biz was responsible for an estimated $230 million in direct economic impact on the New Orleans area.

To date in 2009, New Orleans has seen more than $100 million in direct economic impact. “These numbers speak powerfully for themselves,” said Haley. “Our program works, it’s reliable … (and the) turnaround time is as soon as two to three months,” he said.

To attract more long-term investment, the new law also stabilizes the program by making the incentives permanent.

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WBZ-TV 4: Wahlberg Film Brings Boost To Local Businesses – July 09

By Karen Anderson
July 10, 2009

Click on the following excerpt to see the full video story:

In the past year, three movies have been filmed in Lowell. Deb Belanger, of the Greater Merrimack Valley Visitor’s Bureau says the movie “The Invention of Lying” brought in $2 million to businesses in the region. She believes “The Fighter” will bring in between $2 million and $3 million to local businesses.

Eight movies will be filmed here in Massachusetts this summer. That surge follows the creation of Film Production Tax Credits. The Department of Revenue just released a study saying that from 2006 to 2008, movie productions pumped in $510 million to the local economy.

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State has actually doubled its investment in film industry tax credits

by Jon Chesto
Mass. Market
July 9, 2009

The report that the Department of Revenue issued last week shows that for every dollar that goes out to the film and TV industry in tax credits, the state’s general fund gets about 16 cents in tax revenue in return. At first glance, that would seem like a bad investment.

But a closer read of the report shows that the state has actually doubled its investment with these tax credits. The credits were never just about refilling the state coffers. Instead, they were aimed at fostering the development of an industry that had limited traction here before the first set of incentives took effect in January 2006. When big-budget Boston-set movies such as “The Departed” were largely being filmed elsewhere, state lawmakers figured it was time for change.

The DOR report, the most comprehensive evaluation I’ve seen on the tax credits’ economic impact here, takes a balanced approach, pointing out some of the tax credits’ shortcomings as well as the benefits. 
 Production activity generated $16 million worth of tax credits in 2006, $38 million in 2007 and $113 million in 2008 (the tax incentives were sweetened in mid-2007, accounting for much of the increase). That translates into $167 million in tax credits that the state has awarded in the program’s first three years.

What are we getting for that money? Actually, quite a lot. The tax credits helped create the equivalent of as many as 1,800 full-time jobs here in 2008, according to the DOR report, and we’ve seen at least eight feature films arrive with Massachusetts production budgets that exceed $30 million.

The state has essentially doubled that $167 million investment, with local spending on wages, transportation, hotels, set construction and other expenses totaling an estimated $302 million over the three-year period.

The $302 million figure is a conservative estimate that doesn’t include wages for highly-paid actors and others who don’t live in this state (at least half of the wages paid to people on Massachusetts productions goes to California residents). The figure also doesn’t include an estimated $45 million in production work that would likely have been done here anyway, mostly on public TV programs and documentaries.

That represents a strong initial return on the state’s investment, a return that is only likely to grow as the local film crew base expands to keep pace with the numerous productions coming here. While the A-list stars may still hail from California, hopefully we’ll get to the point soon where the bulk of the workers needed to shoot and produce several feature films at once can be found here in Massachusetts. 

The new movie studio complexes planned for Plymouth and Weymouth will certainly help expand the industry’s permanent work force in this state if they come to fruition. Make no mistake: the developers behind those projects wouldn’t even be considering Massachusetts if it wasn’t for our tax credits.

There had been some talk on Beacon Hill about putting a cap of $2 million on the amount that one person’s salary can count toward a production’s tax credits. Such a cap would chase away many of the big budget films that would hire the widest range of local workers, and it would represent a huge setback in this state’s efforts to expand the industry here. Lawmakers quickly shelved that idea.
 As states grapple with huge budget problems, film tax credits have become a popular target in places like New York and Connecticut.

So far the public opposition in the Massachusetts Legislature has been limited largely to one lawmaker, Rep. Steve Damico of Seekonk (and film workers in his district probably would benefit more from Rhode Island’s tax credits than they would from Massachusetts’ credits).
However, it’s possible that state legislative leaders could revisit a salary cap and other limits at some point if this state’s rough budget situation worsens significantly. Hopefully, they’ll at least make those decisions with a full understanding of the positive impact that the film industry’s tax credit program has had on the local economy.

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Still the reel deal

Boston Herald Editorial
July 9, 2009

Massachusetts is lousy with film crews and big stars this summer but leave it to the usual critics to try and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Yes, critics of the state’s film tax credit program are waving a new Department of Revenue report around to argue that the film tax credits, now in their fourth year, are a net drag on the state’s economy.

The study, they note, concludes that for every dollar the state laid out in tax credits over the first three years, it realized only 16 cents in return. And they whine that the benefits are accruing to Hollywood A-listers and out-of-state crew members at the expense of taxpayers.

But the critics ignore the fact that the film credits were designed as much as a stimulus program for the private sector as they were to boost the state treasury. Production companies have to spend big in order to qualify for any credits – and over the last three years that has translated to a whopping $676 million, DOR estimates.

The naysayers cite the finding that only 18 percent of wages eligible for tax credits were paid to Massachusetts residents (a “mere” $63 million) – the rest to out-of-staters. But the report also found that more than 40 percent of the nearly 2,000 new jobs directly tied to the industry were held by Massachusetts residents. And as the report itself suggests, more Bay Staters will lay claim to more jobs as the local film industry matures.

Finally, the report doesn’t estimate the impact of two new planned sound stages, which will generate construction and permanent jobs, nor does it consider the impact of film-related tourism or state savings on, say, unemployment or health care thanks to industry employment.

In a dismal economy, tax incentives like these are an easy target, especially for those who hate to see anyone’s tax burden reduced (never mind Leonardo DiCaprio’s) if it means fewer dollars for the government program du jour. And the cost-benefit analysis must tip heavily in the Bay State’s favor to justify the continuation of these credits.

But this program is in its infancy. The outcry is a bit like writing a bad review without bothering to watch the end of the movie.

Article URL:

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Hollywood or Needhamwood: local company produces ads for tv

By Kathryn Eident
Boston Globe
July 6, 2009

Have you seen advertisements for ABC’s TV show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”? Do you know the opening for the Discovery Channel’s reality show, “Deadliest Catch”? How about the teaser for HBO’s showing of “The Dark Knight”?

While the shows themselves may have been produced in the glitz of Hollywood or the grit of New York City, the ads and promos are homegrown productions.

Viewpoint Creative, a locally-owned advertising agency, has been producing ads for channels like HBO and ABC in Needham for more than 20 years. Tucked away in a non-descript brick building on Second Ave, more than 30 film editors, animators and writers have access to some of the industry’s most high-tech software to film, enhance, and edit their projects. And as a bonus, they get to work some of Hollywood’s biggest names while doing it.

“I like to think of ourselves as this little, undiscovered company in an industrial park in Needham,” David Shilale, Viewpoint’s general manager said. “Ironically—here we are this little company in Needham but our clients are everywhere but Needham.”

Now the company is gearing up for the release of its latest project: a nearly two-minute montage promoting HBO’s Sunday night line up, scheduled to air July 12th.

The montage highlights six other HBO shows, reminding viewers that on Sunday nights, HBO, “will come to you.” The ad takes place in would-be viewers’ homes, and features them interacting with the characters from their favorite HBO shows.

For instance, in one scene, a housewife wonders aloud who finished the last of the orange juice while Bret and Jermaine from “Flight of the Conchords” lean against the counter and nonchalantly deny taking it. In another, a child asks Ari Gold from Entourage if he can schedule a play date and he responds, “I sure can Billy, that’s what I do.”

The effect, achieved with a combination of on-set filming and computer magic, makes it seem as if fictional characters are part of real life. And with the exception of the scenes taken from previously aired shows, the filming, casting and editing all took place in New England.

Viewpoint prides itself on being able to produce ads from concept to final product completely in-house.

“Basically it’s all hands on deck for executing anything in advertising and marketing,” Shilale said. “What separates ourselves from a traditional advertising agency is our being able to go through from the creative to the final product.”

Inside the company’s Needham-based headquarters, brightly painted and decorated rooms are set up for artists and film editors to create the TV, radio and print spots. In this warm atmosphere, they work on Apple computers outfitted with highly-sophisticated programs like Photoshop, editing software like Final Cut Pro and computer enhancing systems like Flame.

“What we really take pride in is our artists because with out them our computers would mean nothing,” Shilale said.

For a project like HBO’s “Stay Home” montage, producers and editors spent five months and thousands of hours on everything from scheduling film shoots to the tedious task of cutting the characters out of their original TV scenes and inserting them into the scenes created for the commercial.

“We wrote 85 scripts and narrowed them down with [HBO],” Shilale said. “We started prepping the project in January.”

In an industry like advertising, technology can make or break what may seem like a promising idea. Twenty-one years ago the company’s founders mortgaged their homes and searched for investors to buy a $200,000 computer for animation, Shilale said.

Now that computer has been repurposed as a side-table and machines with twice the power and half the size whir in the adjacent rooms.

“I think it’s a blessing and a curse,” he said. “It allows us to do things much faster—but therefore our clients want some things more quickly.”

But technology’s advancements—and dinosaurs—aren’t slowing down this company. In addition to pending projects for regular customers like HBO, Viewpoint is taking commissions from New England-based companies like Reebok to spiff up their product lines.

“One thing we do well is the emotional connection with TV shows, and we believe it’s the same with lifestyle brands,” Shilale said.

“We’re fast—we’re nimble,” he added. “Our job is to get a consumer to watch or buy a product.”

Watch for the “Stay Home” montage on HBO starting July 12. To see examples of Viewpoint’s work, visit:

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