Studio partners to present Jan. 24 awards
By DAVE MCNARY
December 11, 2008
The Producers Guild of America has formed a two-year strategic relationship with Massachusetts-based Plymouth Rock Studios. The alliance will see Plymouth Rock serve as the presenting partner of the PGA Awards on Jan. 24 at the Hollywood Palladium and the inaugural Produced By Conference on June 6-7.
PGA exec director Vance Van Petten noted that the partnership is attractive because the PGA’s membership base has grown on a national level, especially on the East Coast. He also said the production campus that Plymouth Rock is building will be useful for PGA members and the industry at large.
The PGA has more than 3,300 members.
PGA anchors to Plymouth Rock
New England facility will present awards, conference
By Jay A. Fernandez
Dec 11, 2008
The Producers Guild of America has signed a two-year deal with Plymouth Rock Studios to help present the annual PGA Awards and its new Produced by Conference.
The awards show takes place Jan. 24, and the inaugural conference will take place June 6-7.
Designed to increase the profile of the New England entertainment industry, PRS is a nascent Massachusetts-based film and TV studio complex scheduled to open in 2010. With 14 soundstages on a 250-acre campus, it will be the first environmentally friendly, LEED-certified studio complex.
“Plymouth Rock Studios’ David Kirkpatrick and Earl Lestz understand the work our members do in the industry and recognize that content in all mediums begin with the vision of the producer,” PGA executive director Vance Van Petten said. “This new partnership was particularly attractive because our membership base has grown tremendously on a national level, especially on the East Coast.”
November 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — In this place known as America’s hometown, schoolchildren and tourists flock to see Plymouth Rock, a replica of the Mayflower and the place where the Pilgrims and Mashpee Wampanoags Indians shared the first Thanksgiving meal. But the staid and historic image of sometimes Plymouth could soon be tempered by a decidedly modern attraction: a $488 million film and television studio with 14 sound stages, a 10-acre back lot, a theater, a 300-room upscale hotel, a spa and 500,000 square feet of office space. The thought of turning Plymouth into a movie mecca has won the enthusiastic support of many residents, but some don’t like the idea of adding Hollywood to their history.
“We don’t need you; we’ve already got Plymouth Rock,” said Laurien Enos, one of just three of 116 Town Meeting members who voted last month against allowing the developers to build the studio on a golf course here, about 40 miles south of Boston. While Miss Enos and others worry about traffic and Hollywood glamour changing their town, most residents have embraced the studio. More than 1,100 people showed up at a recent jobs fair hosted by the project’s developers.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Renee Stoddard, a waitress at the All-American Diner. “It’s going to bring lots of jobs and more people into Plymouth, and more business for us. It couldn’t be a better time for that. We get plumbers and carpenters in here all the time and they’re saying there’s no work.”
Even though construction isn’t expected to begin until at least April once the final approvals are set – and the studio won’t be ready before late 2010 or early 2011 – developers Plymouth Rock Studios LLC have pre-leased about 60 percent of the office space they’ll need.
Led by David Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures, with Earl Lestz, another former Paramount executive, Plymouth Rock Studios doesn’t have financing. That could prove a major obstacle given the current economy.
But Joseph DiLorenzo, chief financial officer of Plymouth Rock Studios and former chief financial officer of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is confident lenders will come through. He notes that the film industry, though faltering now, has weathered recessions before and that the project offers sound stages where filmmakers can do everything related to production, including editing and scoring. “Now that we know we can build on it, we’ll go raise money,” said Mr. DiLorenzo. “We’ve had letters from HBO, Warner, Paramount and Fox, saying, ‘If you build it, we will come.’”
Big-name producers and directors will come to Massachusetts because it offers filmmakers a sales tax exemption and a 25 percent tax credit for payroll and production expenses, Mr. DiLorenzo said. In addition to a zoning change, Plymouth’s Town Meeting gave the developers a 75 percent break on the studio’s real estate taxes for the first five years. The exemption will decrease gradually over 20 years.
“We want to become the alternative to Hollywood for the film industry,” said Mr. DiLorenzo.
By Thomas Grillo
November 19, 2008
MIT is going Hollywood.
The school’s Media Laboratory has launched the Center for Future Storytelling with a 7-year, $25-million commitment from Plymouth Rock Studios, better known as “Hollywood East” in Plymouth.
“The idea is to create a fusion between technology and the arts for the future,” said David Kirkpatrick, the studio’s chairman. “It will be the first time ever that talented directors and producers will be working with this new technology.”
While the center is not expected to open until 2010, programs will start immediately between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studios. The teams will collaborate to remake how stories are told, from motion pictures to peer-to-peer multimedia sharing.
Research will range from how to merge actors with digital characters to next-generation synthetic performer technologies, such as interactive, robotic or animated characters.
Center research will also focus on ways to revolutionize imaging and display technologies, including developing next-generation cameras and programmable studios and making movie production more versatile and less costly.
Plymouth Rock Studios recently received zoning approval to proceed with plans for a $500 million film and television studio complex slated to open in 2010. The studio promises 14 soundstages and a 10-acre back lot, plus production offices, post-production facilities, a theater and hotel.
Kirkpatrick said he is awaiting word from the state on a $50 million infrastructure bond for road construction and utilities for the project site.
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
New York Times
November 18, 2008
LOS ANGELES — The movie world has been fretting for years about the collapse of stardom. Now there are growing fears that another chunk of film architecture is looking wobbly: the story.
In league with a handful of former Hollywood executives, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory plans to do something about that on Tuesday, with the creation of a new Center for Future Storytelling.
The center is envisioned as a “labette,” a little laboratory, that will examine whether the old way of telling stories — particularly those delivered to the millions on screen, with a beginning, a middle and an end — is in serious trouble.
Its mission is not small. “The idea, as we move forward with 21st-century storytelling, is to try to keep meaning alive,” said David Kirkpatrick, a founder of the new venture.
Once president of the Paramount Pictures motion picture group, Mr. Kirkpatrick last year joined some former colleagues in starting Plymouth Rock Studios, a planned Massachusetts film production center that will provide a home for M.I.T.’s storytelling lab while supporting it with $25 million over seven years.
Arguably, the movies are as entertaining as ever. With a little help from holiday comedies like “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey and “Bedtime Stories” with Adam Sandler, the domestic motion picture box office appears poised to match last year’s gross revenues of $9.7 billion, a record.
But Mr. Kirkpatrick and company are not alone in their belief that Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero.
“I even saw a plasma screen above a urinal,” said Peter Guber, the longtime film producer and former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment who contends that traditional narrative — the kind with unexpected twists and satisfying conclusions — has been drowned out by noise and visual clutter.
A common gripe is that gamelike, open-ended series like “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Spider-Man” have eroded filmmakers’ ability to wrap up their movies in the third act. Another is that a preference for proven, outside stories like the Harry Potter books is killing Hollywood’s appetite for original storytelling.
Mr. Guber, who teaches a course at the University of California, Los Angeles, called “Navigating in a Narrative World,” is singularly devoted to story. Almost 20 years ago Mr. Guber made a colossal hit of Warner Brothers’ “Batman” after joining others in laboring over the story for the better part of a decade.
But in the last few years, Mr. Guber said, big films with relatively small stories have been hurried into production to meet release dates. Meanwhile, hundreds of pictures with classic narratives have been eclipsed by other media — he mentioned “The Duchess,” a period drama that foundered last month as potential viewers were presumably distracted by the noise of a presidential election — or suppressed by louder, less story-driven brethren.
“How do you compete with ‘Transformers’?” asked Mr. Guber.
Ultimately, he blames the audience for the perceived breakdown in narrative quality: in the end, he argued, consumers get what they want. Bobby Farrelly, a prolific writer, and director with his brother Peter of comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” and “Shallow Hal,” concurred.
“If you go off the beaten path, say, give them something bittersweet, they’re going to tell you they’re disappointed,” Mr. Farrelly said. He spoke from his home in Massachusetts, where he is working on the script for a Three Stooges picture, and said he missed complex stories like that of “The Graduate.”
At the Sundance Institute, as it happens, other deep thinkers tend to think that film storytelling is doing just fine.
“Storytelling is flourishing in the world at a level I can’t even begin to understand,” said Ken Brecher, the institute’s executive director. Mr. Brecher spoke last week, as his colleagues continued sorting through 9,000 films — again, a record — that have been submitted for the coming Sundance Film Festival.
The festival, set for Jan. 15 to Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah, will have story as its theme. The idea, Mr. Brecher said, is to identify film stories that have defined the festival during its 25-year run, and figure out what made them tick. (Mr. Brecher said the final choices had not been made and declined to identify candidates.)
If anything, Mr. Brecher added, technology has simply brought mass storytelling, on film or otherwise, to people who once thought Hollywood had cornered the business.
“One of the most exciting things I’ve run into is a storyteller who’s been texting his stories into the urban centers of Kenya,” said Mr. Brecher, an anthropologist by training.
The people at M.I.T., in any case, may figure out whether classic storytellers like Homer, Shakespeare and Spielberg have had their day.
Starting in 2010, a handful of faculty members — “principal investigators,” the university calls them — will join graduate students, undergraduate interns and visitors from the film and book worlds in examining, among other things, how virtual actors and “morphable” projectors (which instantly change the appearance of physical scenes) might affect a storytelling process that has already been considerably democratized by digital delivery.
A possible outcome, they speculate, is that future stories might not stop in Hollywood all. “The business model is definitely being transformed, maybe even blown apart,” said Frank Moss, a former entrepreneur who is now the media lab’s director.
Mr. Kirkpatrick is not completely at ease with that prospect, partly because his Plymouth Rock Studios, a $480 million enterprise, will need scores of old-fashioned, story-based Hollywood productions to fill the 14 soundstages it plans to build.
In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Kirkpatrick said he might take a cue from Al Gore, who used a documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” to heighten concern about global warming. Mr. Kirkpatrick is now considering an alarm-bell documentary of his own, he said.
Its tentative title: “A World Without Story.”
Filmmakers turn to East Boston for hardscrabble look they seek
By Stephanie Ebbert
November 15, 2008
For the latest mob drama set in South Boston, billed as an “Irish Sopranos,” producers of a SpikeTV pilot program knew exactly the look they wanted. Dark and dingy. Hopeless streets. Think “Mystic River” or “Gone Baby Gone.”
But when the locations manager came scouting, he could not find a consistently “dark and dingy” block in Southie anymore. So the film crews will descend on South Boston for just a few days this month and head to East Boston for the bulk of their work.
“They said Eastie looks like Southie,” said state Representative Brian P. Wallace, a South Boston Democrat. “I cracked up. Eastie’s always been 15 years behind us, so that’s no problem.”
It’s a curious conundrum for a neighborhood, to be no longer gritty enough for the Hollywood klieg lights. While it is old news that South Boston has been transformed over the past decade, it is still surprising to many that Hollywood did not get the memo.
“It’s always exciting when a film crew is in town, but it’s been frustrating,” said Donna Brown, executive director of the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation. “People will joke: ‘We actually have all our teeth here.’ ”
Brown is among those who fought the real South Boston war of the past decade, trying to stop families from being priced out by condo conversions. But most of the three-deckers have been swept out of the neighborhood, along with many of the children. Last week, families were shattered to learn of the impending merger of two neighborhood parochial schools; combined enrollment has dropped 34 percent since 2000.
“It was all families and children,” said Joan Coyne, 75, who grew up on F Street and now lives in Dorchester. “Now, it’s all dogs.”
Sixty-one percent of South Boston residents have lived there less than five years, said Wallace, himself a novelist who pitches his work for the big screen. “There’s a drastic change. If they want to get a house that looks like 15 years ago, there’s enough around. But there’s probably not a whole street.”
Still, Southie retains its allure as a cinematic backdrop for desperate poverty, unflinching loyalty, and divided or duplicitous friends or relatives. And how could Hollywood resist? In the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category, it’s hard to beat the neighborhood that birthed the Bulger brothers: one, a powerful state Senate president, another, the head of the mob.
Last year, actor-director Brian Goodman made another Southie crime film staring Mark Ruffalo, Donnie Wahlberg, Ethan Hawke, and Amanda Peet. And shooting is expected to begin nearby on another television pilot – this one, set in Charlestown and launched by TNT – starring Wahlberg and Bridget Moynihan.
The SpikeTV pilot, with a working title of “War in ’04,” is based on the power struggle that ensues after a mob boss flees town under federal indictment. The central character, known as Madso, realizes that he is being set up.
“It would be nice to get a new storyline and have someone positively portray the community and the extraordinary people that live there,” said Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty.
But does it matter? Some residents shrugged when asked about the filming. They like the movies, even if they find themselves unrecognizable on film.
“I don’t think anyone here thinks that the movie industry speaks for them,” said Peter Golemme of Thomas Park. “People do get a kick out of seeing spots they’re familiar with on the screen; I do know that. And people welcome the fact that movies are being made here.”
Sure, they complain about losing parking to crews’ trucks, but Patte Papa, event and film director for the city of Boston, pointed to another boon for the locals. “The residents like it because the residents normally get a piece, either getting their houses paid for to be used or they get to be on site,” she said.
For the SpikeTV pilot, the producers did find a Southie location for the fictional mob boss’s home: a three-story, single-family dwelling on dead-ended Athens Street behind Amrhein’s Restaurant. On the left of the house, a parking lot with a chain-link fence is topped with barbed wire. But on the far corner, possibly unseen by the TV cameras, is a five-story condo building with a fancy brass sign. Around the corner is a massive construction project that will put about 130 apartments where Cardinal Cushing High School once stood.
Many other locations will be shot in East Boston, unless a Southie landmark is mentioned in the screenplay, said Derek Cunningham, locations manager for the Tom Lynch Co., which is coproducing the two-hour pilot with Dana White, a onetime Southie resident.
“We’re going to make this our Southie,” said Cunningham, who was born in Ireland and raised in Belmont. “It’s not in any disrespect to anybody. If it’s not there in Hollywood, we make it.”
The aura that drew the cameras is not gone. On a misty Friday, the neighborhood’s bleak cinematic potential – and some potential actors – reemerged. Two men in track suits crossed Broadway, the young one lean and tense, working his tight jaw, the other gray-haired and straining the seams of his track suit. In the parking lot of Liberty Bell roast beef, two men in thick jackets stood with their car door open, examining another car’s gas tank.
Still, Southie looked too tidy for the big screen today and for Cunningham. Too many homeowners made improvements during the real estate boom.
“Southie is a proud community; it’s a clean community,” he said. “This script was just the opposite. We’re looking for a specific look that does not exist.”
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at email@example.com.
November 11, 2008
“Taking Woodstock,” the Ang Lee motion picture that was filmed in New
Lebanon, New York for three months this late summer and early fall,
is gone, leaving behind good vibes and more tangible benefits.
The film dropped about $8 million into the soft local economy, some of
which found its way into the Berkshires via hotel stays, purchases
from a variety of stores, and the restaurant trade. An effort to
provide additional tax incentives to encourage film companies to do
business in Massachusetts stalled on Beacon Hill earlier this year,
and while it is can be difficult to make a case for incentives at a
time when revenue is declining, tax breaks for filmmaking will make
back that money and more through the stimulus provided for
businesses, as was the case with “Taking Woodstock.”
When the movie is released next year, it will also give welcome publicity to our
neighbor to the west. Government incentives to bring film companies
to the state is money well spent.
by Mark Shanahan & Paysha Rhone
November 10, 2008
Mass. Film Bureau boss Nick Paleologos didn’t make the scene, but the Bay State was still a topic of considerable conversation at the American Film Market in Santa Monica. Budgets being what they are, Paleologos took a pass on the annual event where Tinseltown types converge for eight days of deal-making and screenings. “We thought we’d be better served to stay put and work from here,” said Paleologos. Still, two made-in-Massachusetts films attracted a lot of attention, namely the South Boston-based “What Doesn’t Kill You” and “The Maiden Heist,” starring Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, and William H. Macy. And the benefits of filming in Boston were touted at a sold-out seminar dealing with tax credits. In attendance, we’re told, was Bill Earon, managing director of Coastal Capital Advisors, a Boston private equity and consulting firm that serves the film industry.
Massachusetts tries to lure the film industry east– but will tax incentives pay off?
By BERYL C.D. LIPTON
November 6, 2008
For decades, Hollywood has been the Mecca of the American film industry, while Boston has remained a city with more drizzle than dazzle. Rarely do the two towns’ paths cross, but when they do, the result has taken the form of stars like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon or box office hits like and “The Departed” and “Mystic River.”
“There’s always been—not a love/hate relationship—but a push-and-pull between Hollywood and Boston,” says Paul Sherman, author of the book “Big Screen Boston.” “There are obvious reasons that have made Boston not necessarily one of Hollywood’s favorite locations.”
If Boston’s weather and distance from California weren’t deterrent enough, uncooperative government agencies and unions have also contributed to this rift. After the Massachusetts Film Bureau was dissolved in 2002, it looked as if the Bay State’s major motion picture future was destined to be restricted to films explicitly requiring Boston’s unique Puritanical charm. Then, in 2006, Massachusetts joined other states in offering financial incentives—specifically, a 25 percent tax credit for in-state spending—to film productions. It wasn’t long before Tinseltown had changed its attitude toward New England and, in just two years, the Massachusetts film industry has morphed from a nearly non-existent enterprise into a lucrative revenue generator.
“[Massachusetts] went from one [film] in 2005 to two in 2006 to eight last year, and this year we’re already at ten,” says Nick Paleologos, the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “And what that’s meant in dollars and cents is also a dramatic change.”
But with a national economic recession well underway and a Bostonian tradition of documentaries and independent films rather than blockbuster thrillers and romantic comedies, the question remains: does Massachusetts have what it takes to become a big star in the film industry?
AN INDEPENDENT HISTORY
“Boston has always been a really interesting town for film,” says Ned Hinkle, creative director for the Brattle Theatre, an independent movie theatre in Harvard Square. “It’s gone through phases, but typically, it’s been a really good place to show specialty films and art films and classic films because there is such a broad base of support.”
Boston’s support for documentary and independent filmmaking has occasionally found its influence filtered into the mainstream. Independent filmmaker Jan Egleson shot films in Cambridge during the late 70s and early 80s, and his working-class dramas inspired other local filmmakers, such as Christine Dall and Randall Conrad—a husband-wife duo whose 1981 film “The Dozens” won an award at the U.S. Film and Video Festival, the Sundance Film Festival’s predecessor. Egleson was also an early admirer of Ben Affleck, casting the actor in his 1981 film, “The Dark End of the Street.”
“Fifteen years after that, [Affleck] and Matt Damon write ‘Good Will Hunting,’ which is also a class-conscious Cambridge story,” Sherman explains. “Movies like ‘Good Will Hunting’ sustain Boston as a movie location, and a couple years after that, Clint Eastwood made ‘Mystic River’ and then Martin Scorcese made ‘The Departed’ and then it came full circle when Ben Affleck made ‘Gone Baby Gone.’ It’s a whole chronology that you can follow to today from the late 70s.”
But hometown pride is not enough to sustain an industry, and Massachusetts hopes that Hollywood producers’s devotion to the bottom line will draw more films to the state.
“Producers don’t really have the loyalty to stay in California,” Riverton says. “If it’s cheaper to shoot elsewhere, then they’ll shoot elsewhere.”
When Canada enacted some of the first incentives at the turn of the millennium, the weak Canadian dollar and the tax credits were enough to lure many Hollywood films out of the country altogether. An ensuing uproar within the American film community sparked a move to entice these “runaway productions” to remain in the lower 48, and many states formerly unfamiliar with film production found their way into the industry. Currently, approximately 80% of American states provide some benefit—ranging from sales tax exemptions to tax credits—to films that shoot within their borders.
“The creative is very important,” Riverton says, “but the truth is, a lot of states can be made to look like each other very easily, so unless there is something so integral to the script or the movie that it has to be done in that state, there’s always going to be some cost-benefit analysis.”
The Massachusetts Film Office has been taking such analyses very seriously. The spike in film production spending—an increase from six million dollars in 2005 to nearly 400 million dollars in 2007—has the Office scrambling to meet the needs of film producers, an effort that they believe will be worth the extra attention if the initiative succeeds.
“More than any other time, it’s important not to tamper with those programs that are working,” Paleologos says. “As you look across the landscape, people are being laid off, companies are being closed down, budgets are being cut back. The one area in our economy that is expanding and hiring and succeeding is [film].”
In order to sustain this trend, Paleologos and the Film Office are trying to find ways to develop the workforce of below-the-line film employees that are not generally connected to a film before it starts shooting. The abundance of students studying film at Boston’s many colleges are a renewable resource of future film workers, and the Film Office has organized a “PA Bootcamp” in coordination with area schools.
In addition to a reliable below-the-line workforce, film producers also need studios and soundstages, a request that has left members of the Film Office searching for usable warehouses. Last Monday, the town of Plymouth approved the construction of Plymouth Rock Studios, a $400 million privately-funded studio complex proposed by a group of Hollywood veterans that seeks to fill this need.
“The idea is that if there is a filmmaker that comes out, they’re going to be shooting in Massachusetts, they’re going to be utilizing the facilities that we have available for them,” says Peter Fleury, Executive Director of Operations, Plymouth Rock Studios. “It’s expensive to bring out an entire crew, so we want the talent on the East Coast to be utilized.”
Despite the apparent success of Massachusetts’s incentives, incorrect budget estimations and other indiscretions have caused some other states to lose money in developing their film industries. Not everyone is convinced that Massachusetts can successfully avoid the challenges that others have faced, especially in an industry that has, until two years ago, been relatively nonexistent in the state. While proponents of film incentives argue that movies have continued to fare well despite past economic downturns, history may not be completely reliable as a predictive tool.
“This supposition that the entertainment or film industry is an antidote or goes contra to the economy is incorrect,” says Harold Vogel, who served 17 years as the senior entertainment analyst at Merrill Lynch and is current president of Vogel Capital Management. Vogel believes that the sustained success of the film industry during past economic recessions was largely based on historical circumstances that no longer apply.
“Movie tickets benefited in the early part of the Great Depression because it was a change to a new technology…The movies actually got sound and that attracted a log of people who probably wouldn’t have otherwise gone,” he says. “Back in 1930, there was no television. There was no DVD, no cell phone with webisodes, no iPod…Movies are just one of the things that are out there, and they are not going to resist this downturn. They’re going to suffer just like anything else.”
Just as the success of movies and the flow of films to Massachusetts is an uncertainty, so too is the overall economic impact that they will have on the State. Paleologos believes that a “multiplier effect”—the idea that economic development will stimulate more than just the directly affected industries—may cancel out any money that the state puts into its film efforts.
“Those people who have been critical of the tax credit, they’re not even factoring in things like Plymouth Rock Studios,” Paleologos says. “That’s 400 million dollars of economic activity, which, if it gets going, will cost us nothing. It’s all privately funded. We’re not putting any additional tax incentive to get them to build here.”
But the unreliable, temporary nature of the film industry raises concerns that this type of stimulus may be more effective in a more permanent industry.
“There’s a multiplier effect on anything,” Vogel says. “If you pave a road, there’s a multiplier effect. If you build a house, there’s a multiplier effect…But no one really knows to the last decimal what that multiplier is.”
THE CULTURAL TRICKLE DOWN
While some economists remain unconvinced of the film industry’s economic trickle-down effect, active members of the Boston film scene foresee local film culture only garnering perks from the increased film activity. And the benefits of an existing film support network to an incoming film industry may ultimately prove to be one of the most important factors in a film incentive competition between states.
“Because of the college community and the tradition of supporting the arts, [independent and specialty films] can thrive here where they might not somewhere else,” says Loren King, president of the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Specialty theatres in the Boston area also have a broad base of support, a network that Hinkle attributes to the number of devoted students and film enthusiasts. And while fundraising for non-profits are a concern during the current economic situation, Hinkle remains optimistic, recognizing the importance of such a resource of film buffs, whose donations currently sustain the Brattle.
“That theatre would never exist outside of Harvard Square because it’s got a community to support it,” King says. “It’s built a long tradition of people that…want to see it continue, even in these bad times when a lot of theatres are folding.”
Boston’s taste in film, which she says “tends to run outside of the mainstream,” has allowed many unique festivals to flourish in the area, including the Boston Jewish, Boston Latino, and the Boston Gay and Lesbian Festivals. And although loyalty seems to lie with the local film community, its members believe that a relationship with Hollywood can be mutually beneficial.
“The more film production in general, the better for the community,” Hinkle says.
One of the most important hopes that those involved with film locally hold is the prospect that an influx of mainstream films will create enough new jobs to make it worthwhile for film crew to remain in the area, drawing attention to the special local filmmakers and allowing them to create movies in and about the state and city they love.
“Hopefully, because people don’t have to move to New York to make a living, the film community will get stronger,” Sherman says, “and then someone will emerge who will want to make Boston movies and keep making them here.”
With the combination of financial incentives, scenic beauty, and a supportive group of film enthusiasts, it may not be long before Massachusetts steals the spotlight.
“At the end of the day,” Riverton says, “more and more productions are very seriously considering MA when they’re talking about the top…places to shoot a movie.”
—Staff writer Beryl C.D. Lipton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A look at five places where Hollywood happens outside of California
By Mark Dundas Wood
November 03, 2008
We all acknowledge that Hollywood is as much a state of mind as a place on the map. Now, with various states passing film-production incentive measures and independent moviemakers dwelling in all corners of the country, that sentiment has never seemed truer. Understandably, as The New York Times recently noted, there are critics of these programs — increasingly vocal, especially in light of the world’s current economic mess. Yet other voices continue to support the basic idea of spreading the tinsel among various towns.
In light of today’s production climate, Back Stage recently investigated the health (or lack thereof) of five important moviemaking markets around the country.
New Mexico: Dawn at the Oasis
Casting director Jo Edna Boldin began making forays into New Mexico when the state implemented an attractive film-incentives package — including a 25 percent tax rebate and a loan program offering up to $15 million per project. About three years ago, things became busy enough that she figured she could leave her home in Austin, Texas, to pursue a career in New Mexico full time. She resettled in Taos but set up shop 130 miles away in Albuquerque; Boldin finally sold her Austin home a year ago. “It took me that long to really believe that it was going to continue here,” she says. “And it has.”
In recent years, she has done local casting for such top-drawer productions as 3:10 to Yuma and In the Valley of Elah and location casting for the Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men. Now she has her fingers in the television spinoff of another Oscar winner: Crash (for the Starz network). Small-scale projects have also proliferated in New Mexico, including “vampire/zombie things.” Says Boldin, “It’s the top crust as well as the indie low budget.”
Albuquerque — named No. 2 (after Austin) in MovieMaker magazine’s 2008 list of America’s top movie cities — is the center of the state’s filmmaking boom. However, Boldin services projects statewide. For instance, some new spaghetti Westerns starring Terence Hill are slated to film soon near Santa Fe. Infrastructure is catching up with demand, at least in Albuquerque. “We have a luxurious, big, state-of-the art studio — a real studio with maybe six sound stages — and talks of building a couple more,” Boldin notes.
The talent roster — of actors and crew — has strengthened in the years since Boldin arrived. She searches for performers in an extended geographical area that includes Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Much of the casting for No Country, for instance, was done in Texas.
One might think the Southwest would be too hot for year-round filming, but Boldin says the temperature has stayed relatively mild this year. And it’s a dry desert heat. New York actor Rosa Arredondo fell in love with Albuquerque’s climate and terrain last year, while filming Husband for Hire, a TV movie for the Oxygen network. “For this particular film, I had to straighten my hair, and I have very curly hair,” says Arredondo. “So I was thinking if it’s not dry, this is going to be a nightmare.”
Louisiana: The Other “LA”
“Initially, everything moved up here, after the hurricane,” explains Ryan Glorioso, a casting director in Shreveport, La., who worked in New Orleans before Katrina hit in August 2005. These days, Glorioso notes, a good deal of film and TV work has returned to southeastern Louisiana. But things are certainly still going strong in Shreveport. (It is No. 3 on MovieMaker’s list.) “I’m not a producer,” Glorioso says. “But I think it’s a dream to shoot in Shreveport, with the love that the city has for the film industry here. It’s been very welcoming. There’s no traffic here. It’s very easy to get around. There are beautiful locations.”
This spring Millennium Films broke ground in the city’s Ledbetter Heights neighborhood on the first phase of a full-service studio, which will eventually comprise 20 acres and include three sound stages. “They’ll get a huge incentive from the state for doing that, because they are creating a permanent residence here to make movies,” says Glorioso. (The state tax credit for infrastructure development is 40 percent, 25 percent for film production.)
Among Glorioso’s many recent projects in Shreveport are the Logo series Sordid Lives and the feature Streets of Blood. In the latter, Shreveport stands in for post-Katrina New Orleans. The city boasts a massive water tank (Louisiana Wave Studio), so for Streets, a set was built into the tank to replicate flooded New Orleans.
Relatively few members of the Screen Actors Guild live in Louisiana, which is a right-to-work state, and when the boom began, Shreveport had few experienced film performers. Casting directors depended on local theatre actors, along with absolute beginners. “I’ve seen folks who came out to be extras a few times and decided they were going to chase their dream,” says Glorioso. “I’m seeing them start to get parts — speaking parts — and join SAG, whereas there’s probably some guy sitting in New York or Los Angeles who’s been pounding away for years who’s still looking for that part.”
Nick Gomez was sort of that guy. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, he went back and forth between Los Angeles and New York and at times considered leaving the business altogether. He first went to New Orleans in 2004 at the invitation of his brother, who was being decommissioned from the Navy there. “I dropped off my résumé at the first agency I found in the phone book,” Gomez recalls. “I went and put my headshot and résumé under the door. And before I was around the corner, they called me up and were begging for me to come back in.”
Gomez left the area when Katrina hit but returned in December 2007 and has been working steadily since — and not, he emphasizes, just in “under-fives.” He recently finished a sizable role opposite Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Cage is one star, Gomez reports, who is committed to bringing big-budget projects to storm-recovering southeastern Louisiana.
Florida: Not Exactly Swamped
Moviemaking has always had its ups and downs in Florida. Certainly, the camera loves the quality of Florida light. In the early 1900s, silent films were cranked out in Jacksonville studios — before the action moved west to equally sunny California. Ellen Jacoby (The Truman Show, Parenthood) started 22 years ago as a casting director in Miami Beach, at about the time Miami Vice transformed the area. That series proved a boon: Buildings were refurbished and tourism flourished. “It was L.A., New York, and Miami,” Jacoby says. “Those were the hubs for filming, and we got our fair share.”
In recent years, though, work has fallen off, and the state’s relatively weak incentives program has been eclipsed by those of other states. Then, earlier this year, the Florida legislature slashed the incentives budget for 2008-09 from $25 million to $5 million. “This is probably not going to be a good year for Miami,” Jacoby projects. Actor Antoni Corone, who lives in Hollywood, Fla., describes the state of filmmaking in the state as “a past-tense scenario.”
Ohio-born Corone has been active in the Florida film scene since his early 20s, when he stumbled onto the set of Porky’s 2 at a beach where he was working as a lifeguard. He eventually learned that he would have to branch out geographically to make a living in the business full time. “I had a choice to do what many Floridians have done: to chase [work] from Orlando down to Miami and then even inclusive of the Carolinas and Dallas or to go into a different market altogether.”
The first option proved impossible: “I tried going back and forth to Orlando, which is about a three-hour drive, for a couple auditions for series things. By the time I got out of the car and walked into the audition, I was so surly that I couldn’t even be centered. I said, ‘If I’m going to invest that much time, let me take a plane to New York for something that matters.’” He spends part of the year in each market — calling himself “biclimatic.”
Some of Corone’s biggest film roles (Reservation Road, We Own the Night) have been shot in the Northeast. But he lands roles in Florida also (the upcoming I Love You Phillip Morris). He and his wife have preteen children, and he has no desire to leave Florida entirely.
There are at least two bright spots these days in the otherwise-downbeat Florida film scene. The first is the Miami-based USA Network series Burn Notice (now in Season 2). The second is the burgeoning market in independent filmmaking.
Most indie producers cannot afford Jacoby’s casting services, but if a script has rich characterizations, she sometimes works free of charge, instructing filmmakers to give her fee to actors. “It’s good for actors to be working and practicing, even if it’s not for a lot of money,” she says. “I know that these actors will be even better when they come back to me to read for something else.”
Massachusetts: Bean Town Boom
For years, casting director Angela Peri’s company, Boston Casting, coasted along, depending largely on commercials and industrials to stay afloat. “Every year, the three casting directors in town would vie to do the one or two feature films that came in,” Peri recalls. “They would come to Boston to shoot the foliage, Harvard Square, the rowers on the Charles River — mostly the foliage.”
And then, in 2006, Massachusetts adopted its film-incentives program, featuring a sales tax exemption as well as payroll and production-expense tax credits in the range of 20 to 25 percent. Peri attended a ceremony at which the governor signed the legislation into law: “I turned to the person next to me and said, ‘There goes my life as I know it.’ And I was so right.”
Among the projects that have taken advantage of the new Boston moviemaking climate are Pink Panther 2 (starring Steve Martin), Lonely Maiden (Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken), The Surrogates (Bruce Willis), Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Kevin James), This Side of the Truth (Ricky Gervais), and a remake of The Women that’s a virtual who’s who of female Hollywood. Also, Martin Scorsese shot his upcoming Shutter Island there. “He was living here for 16 weeks,” Peri says. “He was not going to New York every night, you know. He was eating lunch in Taunton, of all places. I don’t even know where Taunton is.”
Peri says industry folk she knows in Los Angeles are relocating to New England to get work, which she finds amusing. Meanwhile, local actors who have struggled for years “in the New York shadow” are finally getting their due, she says. “Even actors I wouldn’t necessarily think of for principal roles I brought in, because they had the right look,” she says. “And then they’d snag the role, and I was so happy for them.”
Actor Roy Souza, a Boston native and a SAG member since 1995, is jubilant about the recent boom. He notes that it is not just high-profile projects that have flocked to Massachusetts but also small-scale indies. He recently completed significant roles in the low-budget We Got the Beat, shot in Worcester, and Lasse Hallström’s Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, starring Richard Gere.
Souza says he believes that when Scorsese and company opted to shoot the interiors for the Boston-set The Departed in New York City, legislators felt compelled to pass the incentives program. Souza says he knew the incentives were paying off when Pink Panther 2 came to Boston. “The story line had nothing at all to do with Boston,” he says, noting that the city stood in for London and Paris.
Massachusetts still has a ways to go in developing its moviemaking infrastructure. There is one soundstage facility in Canton (17 miles south of Boston), says Peri, with plans to build two more, both on the South Shore. Meanwhile, production companies working in Boston create makeshift studios in old warehouses.
For a time, Peri fretted that other states with attractive incentives programs — Michigan, for instance, which recently passed a highly generous package — would steal some of Massachusetts’ thunder. But she thinks Boston’s cosmopolitan character will continue to attract projects. Alluding to Pink Panther 2, she notes, “I don’t think you can make Michigan look like Paris.”
Washington, Oregon: Waking Up and Smelling the Coffee
MovieMaker magazine named Seattle No. 7 and Portland, Ore., No. 8 on its 2008 list of movie cities. Nevertheless, the Pacific Northwesterners Back Stage interviewed tended to rank Portland as the busier of the two.
Casting director Jodi Rothfield opened her Seattle casting office two weeks before starting work on 1993′s Sleepless in Seattle. This may have seemed an auspicious moment for a city boasting a deep acting pool (due largely to its thriving theatre scene). But Canada, meanwhile, began luring U.S. film producers with incentive offers. “Once they set up in Vancouver, we were kind of over in terms of the film market, because Hollywood became ensconced there,” says Rothfield. Eventually, Washington passed its own incentives package, but things in the state remain rather slow. “We’ve done a little bit too late to catch up with the rest of the world,” Rothfield says.
Independent film, however, flourishes in Washington (Rothman calls the state “Indie Land”). And the University of Washington’s actor-training program graduates top-notch actors, many of whom elect to stay in the area to do theatre. Says Rothman, “That’s great for us, because we get to pull them in [for film work].”
In Portland, 145 miles south, local actors benefit from Oregon’s incentives program, which — unlike many other states’ packages — involves a cash rebate (20 percent on goods and services and up to 16.2 percent on wages paid to production personnel). Oregon, like New Mexico, has no sales tax, which intensifies the effect of the rebates.
Lana Veenker has been casting in Portland for nine years. Before she arrived, Oregon had been doing moderately well in attracting projects (including the 1995 UPN television series Nowhere Man). But as with Seattle, much of the work was being siphoned off by British Columbia.
These days things are looking decidedly up. Veenker recently worked on the teen vampire project Twilight and the Stephen Belber feature Management, starring Jennifer Aniston. Veenker says she believes Gov. Ted Kulongoski “gets it” when it comes to the benefits of film production. “A big feature film will come into someplace like Madras, which is on the edge of an Indian reservation,” she says. “They’ll come in and bring Jennifer Aniston and drop a couple million dollars and not leave any mess behind. It’s kind of a good deal.”
Oregon’s cinema culture is also enhanced by the presence of two major filmmakers. Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes call Portland home, and some of Van Sant’s recent films (Elephant, Paranoid Park) have been shot locally.
It remains tough to make a full-time living as a film actor in Oregon. Portland-based Katie O’Grady flies regularly to Los Angeles for auditions. Still, 80 percent of her acting work is Oregon-generated. She appeared in Management, as well as The Auteur from Portland director James Westby (featured at 2008′s Tribeca Film Festival).
O’Grady contends that Portland boasts a world-class crew, flexible enough to move from major studio projects to low-budget indies. For lifestyle reasons, she says, many crew members — like the city’s actors — choose to cobble together a living in the Northwest rather than endure the more harried life of Manhattan or Los Angeles.
By Tamara Race
The Patriot Ledger
October 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH — The town is closer to being the home of Hollywood East now that town meeting voters have approved zoning and tax agreements that will allow construction of a movie and television production studio on Long Pond Road.
The $400 million project includes plans for 14 sound stages, a 10-acre back lot, a theater, a 300-room hotel in a small village center and an education center. It is planned for the site of the 240-acre Waverly Oaks golf course.
Only three town meeting members opposed the zoning bylaw.
No one opposed the 20-year property tax break agreement that starts with a 75 percent reduction in taxes and gradually decreases over the life of the deal.
Nearly 1,000 people attended the meeting, although only town meeting members could vote.
After brief presentations by planning board members and studio officials, town meeting members voted without discussing the proposals.
They overwhelmingly voted to drop a special-permit requirement from the zoning bylaw. That action will speed the permitting process and eliminate the specter of lengthy legal appeals from neighbors.
The move angered town meeting member William Abbott, who supported the studio project but was adamant about preserving the special-permit provision.
“It’s a very dangerous precedent to eliminate the special-permit process and especially without debate,” Abbott said. “Normally the spirit of town meeting is allowing people to speak. I think (studio supporters) were afraid to hear the arguments for the special-permit process.”
Town Moderator Steve Triffletti disagreed, saying town meeting members were educated about the bylaw and the amendment and were prepared to vote.
Town meeting member Pat Adelmann voted against dropping the special permit, but did not oppose the bylaw once it was amended.
“I’m very disappointed the special permit didn’t pass, but I support the studio project,” she said.
The speed of the approvals confounded Plymouth Rock Studios founder David Kirkpatrick, who expected more of the lengthy debate and discussions that have marked months of community and town board meetings.
“I’m new to the town meeting process,” he said. “I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know why there was not all the debate.”
Kirkpatrick credited all the community meetings that laid the groundwork for the vote.
“We took the town’s temperature and committed to build a New England village development of the 21st century instead of bringing in Hollywood,” he said.
In the end, Kirkpatrick said it was the industry itself that may have swayed the vote.
“Everyone loves movies,” he said.
Studio developers still need state environmental permits for road, water and sewer improvements and the Plymouth Planning Board’s site-plan approval for the studio and access road.
Plymouth Rock Studios development director William Wynne hopes to have those permits in hand by next spring and begin construction late next summer.
He will be filing design plans for site plan review early next month.
Studio officials hope to be operating by 2010.
Tamara Race may be reached at email@example.com.
By Tamson W. Burgess
October 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH – It took a couple of years to get the question to Town Meeting but only a few minutes for Town Meeting to answer.
Inside of the town’s storied Memorial Hall Monday evening, only three of the town’s 126 Town Meeting representatives stood in opposition to the new zoning – the Movie and Entertainment Production Overlay District or MEPOD – that clears the way for Plymouth Rock Studios to build a 240-acre movie studio complex on the land now home to Waverly Oaks Golf Club on Long Pond Road.
The question not only passed with flying colors, it did so with a new twist. Precinct 14 Rep. Michael “Buster” Main asked the meeting to amend the MEPOD to include the traffic plans, which were originally excluded from the as-of-right development provisions created by the new zoning.
Had the traffic plans been left out of the bylaw and subject to the special permit process, some feared – and some threatened – those permits would be appealed, delaying construction for years. That delay, many worried, would drive Plymouth Rock Studios, its plans and its potential promise to another more easily developed location in some other town.
After a lengthy and very “Hollywood” series of presentations from PRS, as well as the Planning Board, the School Department, local business and tourism organizations, all singing the praises and promise of the project, it was clear the meeting had already made up its mind.
Following little to no discussion, Precinct 11 Rep. Ken “I Move the Question” Howe did just that, and representatives voted to close debate on the amendment (81-34) almost before those who had anticipated a serious discussion realized that window of opportunity had closed. The amendment passed easily with an even 100 in favor, 14 opposed and two abstentions. And while the crowd, which filled about a third of the seats surrounding the action on the floor and stage of the hall, reeled at the speed of that vote, the next, even more important decision was completed in record time.
With no discussion, Howe rose again and made the motion to close debate on the amended MEPOD article, and his fellow representatives supported his notion unanimously.
Precinct 12 Rep. Bill Abbott challenged Town Moderator Steve Triffletti on the process. But when Triffletti backtracked to ask if there were any representatives who desired to be heard on the question, only three or four stood and the rest of the meeting let them know they’d already heard enough by again voting to close debate.
There was no need for a roll call vote on the main motion. The ayes were loud and strong, followed by a few random nos, clearly meeting the two-third’s support required for a zoning change. So, as the town’s charter allows, Triffletti merely asked those in opposition to stand and be identified for the record.
Precinct 5 Rep. Laurien Enos and Precinct 8 Rep. Ann Marie Flanagan rose side-by-side near the back of the hall, as all eyes moved toward to the front row and Abbott, who hesitated briefly before rising to his feet to make the count three against.
There was silence for a few seconds as the impact of what had happened sank in. Then a single, random set of hands began to clap shyly, but the crowd, as if awakened from a stun, caught the wave and the clapping grew into a roar as the public rose to its feet to offer its representatives a rousing standing ovation.
“The spirit of Town Meeting is normally to allow people to speak, “ Abbott said after the meeting adjourned for the evening. He said the decision to remove the special permit process from this project sets a dangerous precedent, particularly without any discussion.
“I voted no because I believe a special permit should be in that article,” he said. “That’s the process that every developer goes through.” He reiterated that he supported the overall project with the special permit provisions for the traffic component.
Immediately following approval of the MEPOD, representatives voted unanimously to approve a Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) agreement for the project. The agreement will grants PRS a 75 percent break in local property taxes for five years beginning in 2011, then dropping incrementally over the next 20 years.
By Christine Legere
October 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH – Town Meeting easily passed two articles last night that will allow Plymouth Rock Studios to move forward with the construction of a $400 million film studio on a 240-acre golf course, after months of negotiation between local officials and studio executives.
The votes were enough to bring the hundreds of residents who came to watch the deliberations to their feet with raucous cheers and applause.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Plymouth Rock Studios cofounder David Kirkpatrick. “I’m new to the experience of Town Meeting so I was surprised there wasn’t a lot of debate. We were all out there giving each other high-fives.” Kirkpatrick pledged the studio campus will have the feel of a “New England village in the 21st century rather than Hollywood.”
The first article created the zoning necessary for the film operation, and made the studio an “as-of-right use,” which means no special permits are required. That concession will greatly reduce the chance of appeals being filed that could slow construction at the site on the Waverly Oaks golf course.
Town meeting representatives approved a zoning change to allow for a film studio with only three of the 116 present voting against it. An earlier vote approved the removal of a special permit requirement that was in the package, related to traffic and access, with 100 in favor, 14 opposed, and two abstentions.
The Globe had mistakenly reported the main vote on the zoning change vote had passed with 100 in favor and 14 opposed.
The second article afforded the studio a series of exemptions from local real estate taxes over the next 20 years.
The Tax Increment Financing package passed quickly on a voice vote with no debate. The package will give the studio a 75 percent tax break on its real estate taxes for the first five years. That exemption will gradually decrease to 10 percent by the 20th year of the deal.
“We knew it was going to be a good night for us because everyone on both sides had worked so hard,” said Plymouth Rock executive Thom Black. He and Kirkpatrick promised news of “some very big plans” by mid-November.
Studio officials, who will now prepare a formal site plan for Planning Board review, hope to begin construction by the spring.
A study done for the town by a consulting firm estimates the film operation will generate 3,160 full-time jobs and an annual payroll of $168.6 million. The studio is also expected to bolster tourism for the town.
“This isn’t just a great thing for the town. It will be major, from an economic perspective, for the whole region,” said Pasquale Ciamarella, executive director of the Old Colony Planning Council.
Loring Tripp, a former chairman of the Planning Board and a supporter of Plymouth Rock Studios, said, “I think the Town Meeting representatives realized the momentum was there, that the public wanted this.”
Christine Legere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(October 28, 2008 NECN) – People in Plymouth, Massachusetts say they want their town to become Hollywood East. By a nearly unanimous vote Monday night at the Plymouth town meeting, residents approved a plan to build a movie studio at the site of Waverly Oaks golf course. They also supported a series of exemptions from local real estate taxes.
Plymouth Rock Studios says the $400-million project will create thousands of jobs and that they hope to begin construction by the spring.
Click on the link above to see NewsCenter Five’s Lynn Jolicoeur’s October 26th 2008 report that officials in Plymouth will vote on Monday on a proposed $500 million project to construct a movie studio in the town.
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
October 26, 2008
QUINCY — The protagonists of the new science fiction show on Fox recently investigated bizarre deaths in a Worcester office tower, a grimy warehouse in Stoughton and a cozy diner in Milford. All these gruesome scenes that have opened various episodes of “Fringe,” an offbeat hybrid of “The X-Files” and the CSI franchise, should be translating into big bucks for the local film industry. But we’re not seeing any of the production company’s money because the Boston-set series is being shot in Brooklyn.
Massachusetts has enjoyed a renaissance in movie production in the last two years because of aggressive tax incentives that the Legislature created. But this state has gone more than a decade without a full-scale TV series production – despite the fact that it seems like a new show debuts every year that’s set in the Bay State. Sure, a few building exteriors might appear in a David Kelley show such as “The Practice” or “Boston Legal,” but that’s not much help for the area’s economy.
Local industry leaders are crossing their fingers that the dry run could be coming to an end now that two TV pilots are expected to be shooting here by the end of the year. One of them, Spike TV’s two-hour pilot based on an Irish mob, seems definite. The other, a TNT drama known as “Bunker Hill” and starring Donnie Wahlberg and Bridget Moynahan, also looks likely.
Chris O’Donnell, business manager of IATSE Local 481, says the last series that was shot here was the short-lived cop drama “Against the Law” in 1990. Of course, nearly everyone in the local film industry talks with great reverence about the days in the 1980s when “Spencer: For Hire” crews were as common on Boston streets as duck boats are now. O’Donnell isn’t the only person who refers to that series as the “Holy Grail.”
Securing a TV series is important because it creates a steady stream of employment for film workers in the area. Movie productions can come and go in a feast-or-famine style, but anywhere from a dozen to two dozen episodes for a given TV series will be ordered at a time. A series could eventually help ensure there’s a surplus of potential crew staffers on hand and an expanded infrastructure to help when a movie company is considering shooting a film here.
The already-established crew base, sound stages and sets in L.A. and New York are key reasons why most TV shows are shot in those two cities. But there are important exceptions in every TV season. For example, the Showtime series “Brotherhood,” which was originally envisioned for Boston, has wrapped up a third season in Providence, where the city is as important a character as any of the ones played by the actors.
O’Donnell says the tax incentives that many states have put in place – Rhode Island and Massachusetts both offer film companies a 25-percent tax credit on production spending – in recent years make it much more affordable for TV shows to be produced where their scripts actually take place.
Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, says he’s not worried about the growing competition from other states that are trying to outdo Rhode Island and Massachusetts by increasing the size of their own credits. New York recently tripled its film and TV tax credits to 30 percent, and Michigan raised its maximum credit to 42 percent. Paleologos says the current level in Massachusetts is more sustainable than Michigan’s because it properly balances the interests of taxpayers with those of the movie industry.
But he says that construction of a major sound-stage project – like the one that will be considered at Plymouth’s town meeting Monday – could play a crucial role. Such a project, he says, would help prove that this area has the infrastructure to support a TV series, especially during New England’s infamously unpredictable winters.
We shouldn’t get our hopes up just yet. Most pilots don’t get picked up to be full-fledged series, and not all series return to the location where their pilot was filmed. (The pilot for “Fringe,” for example, was shot in Toronto before the series moved to Brooklyn.) But Paleologos says a pilot’s location is often a crucial factor for determining the eventual home of a successful series.
This area has long been a popular setting for TV shows, from blockbusters such as “Cheers” and “St. Elsewhere” to less successful programs like “Boston Common” and “It’s All Relative.” Hopefully, the next time producers come up with a way to portray Boston on the small screen, they’ll also find a way to get it right – by making their stories come to life right here.
Jon Chesto, The Patriot Ledger’s business editor, may be reached at email@example.com