News & Events

Ads reap tax credit benefits, too

METRO – Boston
November 12, 2009

Ben Affleck’s new movie isn’t the only production to choose Boston for shooting. Now, some of America’s biggest brands are choosing Boston and Massachusetts to shoot national ad campaigns. With the Bay State offering a generous 25% tax credit on all commercial production budgets, ad agencies and brands are lining up to take advantage.

LA may have the warm weather, but we have the cold cash.

One such big brand is John Hancock, a household name in the financial services industry. Kathy Kiely, President of The Ad Club, sat down on the “Big Orange Couch” with Jim Bacharach of John Hancock:

Tell us about this new advertising campaign.

It’s called the ‘Cursor Campaign,’ and it portrays people having conversations about personal financial concerns. These conversations used to take place in person but now quite often occur electronically via email and IM. We knew the issues being discussed and the medium would resonate well. It launched last year and this fall we’ve extended it – in television, print and online. Our longtime ad agency Hill Holliday created the campaign for us.

Where did you shoot the commercials?

We filmed throughout the Boston area… a South End cafe, a Cambridge office building and a rail yard in Hyde Park.

How did the Massachusetts tax credit help your ad campaign? 

I had heard about the film tax credit, but learned how well it applied to commercials during a presentation by the MA Film Office. The credit got the conversation started. We started thinking about the wide variety of locations available here. The depth and breadth of production talent and resources quickly became clear and the opportunity to support the local economy was the clincher. Applying for the credit was painless and I think that looking ahead we will always think of Massachusetts first for shooting our commercials.

What does a production like this do for the local economy?
You’d be amazed at the number of people who are involved in the production of a 30 second commercial. We hire dozens of people, and there are also the local services that we purchase, such as transportation and supplies. Not to mention all the restaurants, hotels, and tourist destinations that get extra business.

Anything interesting or surprising happen on set? 

We were on location in the South End and passersby began to collect. Behind us an argument broke out. One person was adamant that this was Ben Affleck’s set. The other person argued that this had to be Tom Cruise’s set because it was “so Tom Cruise.” We didn’t want to burst their bubble.

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Hollywood East TV: Studio exec responds to loan setback – Nov 09

November 12, 2009 – Plymouth Rock Studio’s Bill Wynne addresses the news that the agreement with their senior lendor has been terminated.

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State House News Service
November 11, 2009

Senate President Therese Murray said the cancellation of a $550 million loan that leaves the future of a planned movie studio complex in her hometown “disappointing” Wednesday, but sounded a note of optimism that the project would draw new financing.

“There is still wide-ranging support and expectation for this project,” Murray said in a statement, a day after learning that Plymouth Rock Studios had nixed its deal with Prosperity International. Studio officials said they were looking for new financial backers, but said a timetable, which had called for groundbreaking early next year, was uncertain.

“Like any development project, it is a difficult process,” Murray said. “And it is up to the studio now to go out and find other financing. With the possibility of the economy improving, and the project’s ability to generate short-term and long-term jobs, the community remains hopeful that there are other lenders who will see the great value of this project.”


‘Hollywood East’ nixes loan deal

By Greg Turner
Boston Herald
November 11, 2009

Plymouth Rock Studios’ financing script needs a rewrite.

The developer said yesterday that it canceled a $550 million construction loan agreement and will have to find financing elsewhere for its ambitious project.

Plymouth Rock said its lender, Florida-based Prosperity International, failed to meet a Friday deadline for certain paperwork and other guarantees.

“It definitely slows the project down a bit,” said Kevin O’Reilly, a spokesman for the project. “One of the good things is that the principals have been talking to other lenders and they’re hoping that something will materialize.”

The deal with Prosperity International, which could not be reached for comment, was announced Sept. 24.

The developers – a team of film executives from California – envision “Hollywood East” in Plymouth, a 1.3-million-square-foot complex with offices, shops and 14 sound stages for film and TV production.

With state and local regulatory hurdles cleared in recent weeks, the project was moving steadily toward a groundbreaking at the 242-acre Waverly Oaks golf course property within about 90 days.

Now that’s delayed indefinitely.

“We’re definitely not back at square one, but in terms of financing – I don’t want to say we’re starting over, because we have been talking to other lenders,” O’Reilly said, “but this one just wasn’t going to work.”

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Plymouth studios project on hold

Funding collapses as company cuts tie to financial backer

By Thomas Farragher
Boston Globe Staff
November 11, 2009

Just weeks before its scheduled groundbreaking, Plymouth Rock Studios said yesterday that its construction funding has collapsed, raising serious questions about the future of its plan to bring a major film and television production facility to the woods of Plymouth.

The studio, in a surprise announcement, said it was severing ties with a Florida firm that was to finance its $550 million plan to transform 240 acres of what is now the Waverly Oaks Golf Club into “Hollywood East.’’

News of the financial turnabout comes just a week after the Globe began making inquiries about the background of the studio’s would-be financier, Prosperity International LLC, of Orlando, Fla.

Studio officials said they had fully investigated Prosperity and were comfortable that it could fulfill its promise to deliver a half-billion-dollar loan amid treacherous economic times.

“We feel like we were very fortunate, in light of the storms going on in the capital markets, that we were able to land a deal such as the one that we have with Prosperity,’’ Bill Wynne, president of the studio’s real estate arm, said in an interview last week.

But yesterday, the company’s comfort level with Prosperity had evaporated.

“The lender was required to meet a milestone on November 6 and has failed to do so,’’ the studio said in a prepared statement. “Consequently, [the studio] exercised its contractual right to cancel the agreement.’’

The studio said it is now attempting to arrange alternate funding and suggested that the improving economy might enable them to make a better deal.

“With the current economic indicators showing improvement, our decision is in the long-term interest of the project, our shareholders, our strategic partners, and our many other constituents, including the town of Plymouth and the Commonwealth,’’ Wynne said in a prepared statement.

A spokesman for the studio would not elaborate beyond the studio’s statement. He said studio executives would not make themselves available to respond to questions last night.

Before yesterday’s announcement, studio officials said they were weeks away from buying the golf course for about $16.5 million. The deal was set to close in December, about the time they had hoped to begin work on a $50 million access road.

The studio project has raised high hopes on the South Shore, where people have packed studio-sponsored job fairs and officials have projected that more than 2,000 high-income employees would staff the sprawling project of 14 soundstages, a 10-acre back lot, and post-production facilities for movies and television shows.

Studio officials said last week that a broker had recommended Prosperity International and that they had spent months making sure the deal was secure and that the interests of the studio project were fully protected.

Timothy J. Hadley, the studio’s senior vice president for legal affairs, said one of the largest law firms in the country helped the studio with its vetting of Prosperity. “So that gives us a good amount of comfort when you enter into these transactions,’’ Hadley said last week. “[We] made the appropriate changes that you would to shift risks in the product. A lot of comfort comes from that.’’

The Globe’s review of Prosperity found that its track record was thin, at best. In one case, for example, a project it claimed to have developed was, in fact, the work of a separate company.

Michael F. Burgess, Prosperity’s principal, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He did not return e-mails or phone calls. A consultant for the firm said Burgess was traveling in South Africa and was not available.

In a recent interview, he defended his company’s financial capacity and track record and said he fully intended to deliver the construction money for the Plymouth studio.

“We have an executed contact, and it’s on us to deliver,’’ Burgess said.

The studio project has enjoyed wide support in Plymouth, where Town Meeting representatives overwhelming endorsed the project last year, approving a package of tax breaks and an elaborate zoning change. Studio officials were disappointed earlier this year when the state denied the project $50 million in infrastructure funding, but they promised that setback would not derail them.

Thomas Farragher can be reached at

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Film studio executives making progress

State approves impact report

By Christine Legere
Boston Globe
October 31, 2009

PLYMOUTH – After two years of plodding through the permitting process, the team of California film executives who comprise Plymouth Rock Studios have achieved two major milestones in the last few weeks that bring their dream of movie-making in Plymouth much closer to reality.

State Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles notified Plymouth Rock officials yesterday that their exhaustive Environmental Impact Report for the studio project – a required permitting step – has been approved.

“It read like a love letter,’’ said elated Plymouth Rock Studios cofounder David Kirkpatrick, of Bowles’s 30-page notification.

Bowles praised studio officials for incorporating several energy-saving measures in the building plan. The studio will be LEED-certified, keeping its carbon footprint to a minimum.

Bowles also noted “the studio would represent a major step forward for the growing film industry in Massachusetts,’’ and added “the project has the potential to create a major economic engine for the southeast region,’’ generating more than 3,000 jobs.

Just a few weeks ago, the studio group announced it had acquired investors for the $550 million project cost.

“Hopefully, this will be harvest time,’’ Kirkpatrick said.

Within the next few weeks, Plymouth Rock will close on the $16.5 million purchase of the 240-acre Waverly Oaks Golf Course. Work on the studio access road is expected to begin in the next 45 to 90 days.

While Plymouth Rock Studios secured “master’’ site plan approval for the overall project, the Planning Board stipulated it would conduct a more detailed review as building deadlines got closer. That review will be conducted over the winter so construction can begin in earnest in the spring.

The studio complex will consist of 14 soundstages; 10 acres of exterior sets; production and post-production facilities; a hotel; a theater; and an amenity village. The project includes more than 1 million square feet of building space.

In addition, the complex will allow producers to make movies and television shows, from start to finish, right on the property – something never before possible on the East Coast.

Christine Legere can be reached at

Click here for the full text of the ruling from Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.

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Gov. Deval Patrick won’t cut films’ tax credit

By Jay Fitzgerald
Boston Herald
October 28, 2009

The state will keep its new film-industry tax credit even as the Patrick administration eyes tightening other tax laws to raise money for the cash-strapped state.

Greg Bialecki, Gov. Deval Patrick’s secretary of housing and economic development, said the film tax credit is one of many tax exemptions, deductions and incentives that the administration is now eyeing for possible changes as the state grapples with a $600 million budget deficit.

Bialecki said the governor thought it was only fair that the state looks at tightening tax laws while also moving toward major cuts in state spending. He declined to mention which tax laws the administration is now reviewing.

But he indicated eliminating the film tax credit is off the table, though it may face some adjustments. “No, we’re not going to eliminate it,” he said, noting that some have estimated the credit has created thousands of jobs.

Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Bob Deleo yesterday signaled strong support for the film tax credit, despite criticism that it’s costing the state more than $100 million a year.

Murray, speaking at Patrick’s economic summit yesterday in downtown Boston, said the credit has brought scores of movie productions to Massachusetts over the past few years – and it’s on the verge of paying huge dividends if new studios are built here.

DeLeo said the House is currently reviewing the tax credit, which reimburses movie producers with 25 percent of their wages and expenditures while filming in Massachusetts. The Department of Revenue recently reported the state paid out about $113 million in credits last year, based on $452 million in film expenditures here.

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He’s set on Boston

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Boston Globe | NAMES
October 28, 2009

Boston is being a most hospitable host to Hollywood, says Todd Garner, a producer of “Knight & Day’’ and “The Zookeeper.’’ And Garner, who’s been here since May working on the two movies, insists it’s not just tax incentives that attract Tinseltown.

He said the diversity of the Bay State’s geography and architecture afford filmmakers options they wouldn’t have elsewhere. “Boston’s a big city, but within 30 miles, you can shoot urban, suburban, fields, whatever,’’ said Garner, who also produced “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.’’ “For ‘Mall Cop,’ it was eerie how perfectly the Burlington Mall was laid out for us, including the Rainforest Cafe. It had everything we needed.’’

While some pols, including gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, have questioned the wisdom of giving fat rebates to filmmakers, Garner said big-budget movies are undoubtedly good for the local economy. “A lot of people come in and there’s work on a lot of different levels, from hotels and restaurants to dry cleaners to nanny services,’’ he said. Garner told us “The Zookeeper,’’ starring Kevin James and Rosario Dawson, wraps tomorrow while “Knight & Day,’’ featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, is all done Nov. 11.

“I’ve had an amazing time here,’’ he said. “I have a great apartment on Marlborough Street, I love Sonsie and Newbury Street, and we have so much fun at the park. . . . Boston will always be a viable choice for making movies if that’s what the city wants.’’

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Essex still reaping benefits from filming of ‘Grown Ups’

By Jonathan Phelps
Gloucester Daily Times
October 24, 2009 12:08 am


ESSEX — The actors are gone, the production crews are gone and most of the set from Adam Sandler’s upcoming movie “Grown Ups” built at Centennial Grove has been taken down. But the effects of this summer’s local filming are still being felt.

“The town has benefitted greatly from this movie being filmed here,” said Selectman Ray Randall, “and those benefits continue to this day.”

The town of Essex announced this week that Centennial Grove is once again open to the public — with some significant improvements — after being shut down all summer as a result of the high-profile filming that brought Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Salma Hayek to Cape Ann for several weeks, not to mention hundreds of production crew members, movie extras and tourists that came with them.

The production crew built — and now left behind — two new basketball courts at the Grove that were used in the taping; the parking lot has been fixed up, and the local Field of Dreams has been reseeded because of damage caused by production vehicles parking there.

The Centennial Grove improvements were paid for by the film’s production company, Lakefront Productions Inc., and that was on top of the $150,000 the company paid the town under an agreement with selectmen. The movie money went into the town’s general fund, according to Randall.

Beyond the $150,000 the town received from renting the property and the additional improvements done to Centennial Grove, many local officials and business owners say the movie has pumped close to $1 million into the local economy during this recession. Antique stores, restaurants, local builders and saw mills all benefitted from having the production company’s presence in town.

Markham Lumber & Tree Services on Western Avenue was about to lay off one of its three crew members before it landed a contract with Lakefront Productions. The company was hired to provide specialized lumber to help build a boat house and a dock on Chebacco Lake for the set.

“It was a real blessing for us,” said Bob Tyack, who owns Markham Lumber with his son. “This has been a tough time for everyone in the building business, the work allowed us to keep our whole crew on full-time this summer.”

Tyack said Lakefront Productions was very committed to local businesses; he was even called in to work on the movie “ZooKeeper,” another Sandler movie filmed at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and also produced by Lakefront.

Bob Coviello, owner of Main Street Antiques and a member of the Essex Merchants Group, said the company bought $10,000 worth of antiques from his store alone. Coviello said the production crew also visited Howard’s Flying Dragon Antique and the White Elephant Shop, both on Main Street.

“It wasn’t just the frosting on the cake,” Coviello said about the business generated from the movie, “it was the cake.”

Tom Shea’s on Main Street became a hot spot for many of the crew members.

“We had a lot of crew members come in for lunch almost everyday and they would come back later in the evening for a few drinks,” said manager Carol Shepard. “It was fun; they were a good group of people.”

Sandler even came in himself with his wife to watch a Yankees-Red Sox game. “But the Red Sox won that night,” said Shepard; Sandler is a well-known Yankees’ fan.

There were some inconveniences to the town by agreeing to allow the movie production to take over Centennial Grove and the Field of Dreams. Many groups and summer programs had to be relocated, but each group was given $1,000 compensation from the production company to find new facilities. Manchester Essex Little League was given $25,000 for further improvements to the Field of Dreams; the Essex Musical Festival took in $6,000; and the Essex Youth Commission got a $3,000 donation above the $5,000 it originally received to relocate.

“Essex hasn’t been burdened in anyway,” said Randall. “The benefits outweighed the inconvenience of moving all the programs around.”

The Grove cottage is still off limits because the film’s production company has extended its agreement, slated to end Sept. 15, with the town. Lakefront is paying an additional $500 a day to keep the cottage available through at least November in case any scenes need to be reshot.

The cottage will be left with a new kitchen, new bathrooms and new heating and cooling systems.

“They have left the property in better condition then they found it,” Randall said.

Jonathan Phelps can be reached at

Centennial Grove in Essex, except for the cottage, is open to the public again after being closed all summer for filming of the movie “Grown Ups.” The production company renovated the buildings on the property, and installed a basketball court, improved the parking lots and replanted grass, right. Gloucester Daily Times
The production company for “Grown Ups” left the docks they used for filming at Centennial Grove in Essex. Gloucester Daily Times
The production company also improved the parking lots and replanted grass at Centennial Grove. Gloucester Daily Times

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Click here for a full list of upcoming “Knight & Day” road closures.

“Stars of the Hollywood thriller KNIGHT & DAY (Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) are being given room to express themselves as several roads and ramps in Southie and along the Mass Pike are closed.

20th Century Fox is paying $199,000 in location fees to the Pike and Massport to cover the cost of closing the roads and paying staff and police details at the movie shoots, officials said.

Massport collected another $145,000 to cover costs for filming at Hanscom Field, Worcester Regional Airport and at the Tobin Bridge maintenance garage in Chelsea.”

—Boston Herald October 17, 2009


City Council eyes Boston studio

Hearing to address need for movie production stage

By Donna Goodison
Boston Sunday Herald
October 25, 2009

The City Council is stepping up efforts to land a movie production studio in Boston. Councilors Stephen Murphy and Bill Linehan want the city to reap more benefits from the state’s growing movie industry business that’s so far generated an estimated $700 million in spending since state tax incentives took effect in 2006.

They’ve ordered a hearing tomorrow to discuss the merits and feasibility of having a movie studio built within city limits, as plans for studios in Weymouth and Plymouth proceed.

“Just in the past few weeks, we had three or four major films shooting in one section of the city or another,” Murphy said. “We think it would be good to have studio closer to where the filming is going to occur, and we’d like to have something here within the city.”

Those films include the 20th Century Fox thriller “Knight & Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, and Ben Affleck’s “The Town,” starring Affleck and Jon Hamm of AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Boston real estate developer Tim Pappas of Pappas Enterprises Inc. already has been eyeing plans to build movie soundstages in South Boston, reportedly on land off Summer Street past the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

But Pappas, who has a film degree from New York University, declined comment on the project.

“When our plans become public, then we’ll give all the details,” he said.

Murphy believes a South Boston location would work for the film industry and the city’s needs to create jobs.

“There’s plenty of land in that emerging neighborhood over on the waterfront,” he said.

Movies shooting in Greater Boston are now adapting large empty warehouse spaces as temporary soundstages, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“Most of the larger movies that have been shooting in Boston that were looking for soundstage space landed at warehouses in Chelsea and Hyde Park when they were available,” he said.

If a movie studio complex is built in Boston, it wouldn’t necessarily have an adverse impact on those already in the works in Weymouth and Plymouth, according to Paleologos. Just take Los Angeles as an example, he said.

“There’s probably 300 or 400 soundstages all over Los Angeles County,” he said. “In Massachusetts, if all the soundstages proposed actually get built, you’re talking about 25 maybe.”

Plymouth Rock Studios last month said it secured a $550 million construction loan for its proposed $1 billion movie, TV and digital studio campus in Plymouth. Slated for completion in 2012, it will include 14 soundstages and 10 acres of exterior sets.

International Studio Group also plans to build a $147 million, 12-stage movie studio on 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

Movie producers prefer using soundstages close to where their principal photography is taking place, Paleologos said. And while much filming has been taking place in Boston, productions also have been shooting across the state – in Worcester, Gloucester, Rockport, Taunton, Medfield, Deerfield and Northampton.

“They’re all over the place,” Paleologos said. “If you’re shooting on the South Shore, it would be nice to have a soundstage on the South Shore. If you’re shooting in Boston, it would be nice to have some stages there.”

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CGI Studio: Film Credit Change Could Generate Jobs

By Tammy Daniels
October 23, 2009

The state’s film tax credit helped Synthespian Studios nab the CGI work on ‘Surrogates.’ The studio is hoping to extend the credit to attract investors to fund a feature animated film – and jobs for North Adams.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A change in the state’s film tax incentive could bring hundreds of jobs to the city.

That’s the prediction of Synthespian Studios owner Jeff Kleiser, who’s hoping to ramp up production on a full-length animated feature film right here.

“We have a script and completed the very early stages of preproduction,” said Kleiser on Thursday afternoon. The movie would be based on the studio’s Corkscrew Hill ride through Irish myths in Busch Gardens in Virginia. “We’re interested in doing it all in Massachusetts.”

But Kleiser said he could really use a longer-term tax credit to get investors lined up for his $60 million project.

The tax credits were established in 2005 and expanded in 2007 to lure production companies to film in the Bay State. They’ve been a rousing success, bringing in $3.6 million more in revenue than they cost and generating from $500 million to $900 million in ancillary revenue and thousands of jobs, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The number of major films being shot in Massachusetts more than doubled, from 10 films in seven years to 26 in the three years since the credits were enacted.

However, the credits — ranging from sales tax exemptions to payroll deductions, up to $7 million — only apply to films shot in the state within a 12-month period. Synthespian’s “filming” could take 18 months, said Kleiser.

So he was at the Joint Committee on Revenue’s listening-tour stop at Berkshire Community College on Wednesday to laud the program — and to ask for help.

“It’s been very good for us,” he told committee Chairmen Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Jay R. Kaufman, D-Lexington. “Disney came to us to work on the ‘Surrogates’ project because we were in Massachusetts and they were shooting in Massachusetts. We got a $2.5 million contract based on that program.”

Synthespian, previously known as Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co., specializes in groundbreaking computer-generated imagery. In addition to making Bruce Willis look like a 30-year-old android version of himself in “Surrogates,” the company’s worked on such films “Spider-Man” and “X-Men.” At one point, nearly 100 people were working for the studio in North Berkshire.

Downing said on Wednesday that the 12-month time limit may have to do with the Legislature “trying to avoid the cost being beyond what the state could afford.” Kleiser suggested Thursday that it may have more to do with the way live-action films are shot on location and then finished elsewhere.

“We really want to bring people here. That’s perfect for us because we wouldn’t have to go to another state,” he said on Thursday. The company has a larger studio in Los Angeles but Kleiser and wife and partner Diana Walczak have called the area home for years. The film tax credit program has been a factor in keeping them here the last few years, said Kleiser.

Working on the Corkscrew Hill project could generate 250 to 300 jobs for 18 months to two years on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art campus. Kleiser said the company would try to fill its work force locally first before recruiting outside.

“We can certainly look into that especially when you say 250 to 300 jobs,” said Downing. “I’m not kidding,” said Kleiser. “I’m not kidding either,” responded the senator.

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YouTube: Trailer for EDGE OF DARKNESS starring Mel Gibson — Opens Jan 29, 2010

Trailer for THE EDGE OF DARKNESS, made in Massachusetts in 2008, and opening nationwide on January 29, 2010.

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John Hancock signs its name to the state’s film industry tax credits

by Jon Chesto
Patriot Ledger &
October 15, 2009

Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise are relative newcomers to Boston. But they share something in common with longtime Boston institution John Hancock: They’re all involved with film and TV production work in this state because of our 25 percent tax credit.

In Hancock’s case, we’re talking about television commercials. They may not be as glitzy or glamorous as a big-budget action flick like the one being shot in Boston now with Diaz and Cruise. But the TV ads also provide an important boost to the local economy.

Hancock recently decided to shoot its TV commercials here, partly because of the tax credit and partly because the company wants to support other local businesses, according to Jim Bacharach, vice president of brand communications and creative services.

Bacharach told me that Motion Theory, a California production company, recently shot Hancock ads in a South End cafe, a Cambridge office building and a rail yard in Hyde Park. He says the ad featuring the cafe (Metropolis, on Tremont Street) is currently running with two previously shot ads during the Major League Baseball playoffs (yes, the ads continued even after the Sox dropped out) and college football games on national TV.

Bacharach says the ads are not aimed at portraying scenes in Boston in particular (although he says Bostonians will recognize the T car in the ad that was shot in Hyde Park). There are plenty of locales in Massachusetts that can double as a general backdrop for an insurance company ad that could resonate with potential customers in any state.

Unlike most of the companies that participate in the tax credit program, Hancock doesn’t resell its tax credits. Instead, Bacharach says the insurer – a division of Manulife Financial Corp. – claims the full 25 percent credit on all in-state production costs to reduce its own corporate income taxes.

Bacharach says John Hancock plans to continue shooting TV ads here in Massachusetts as long as the production cycle continues during months with favorable weather – proof that even our big financial companies can benefit from the tax credit program that was created nearly four years ago for the film industry.

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House speaker: Jobs from gambling, movies are key to helping state

Outlines his plan to prime the Massachusetts economy

By Nancy Reardon
Quincy Patriot Ledger
October 14, 2009

QUINCY — The answer to the state’s budget woes is job creation through expanding the gambling and film production industries, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Tuesday. Defending the state’s push for gambling and its controversial film tax credit program, DeLeo told The Patriot Ledger editorial board that one of his priorities is job creation.

“The biggest issue we have is providing jobs, jobs and more jobs,” he said.
DeLeo said the most effective strategy for pulling the state out of its fiscal crisis is a long-term approach, but also talked about the need for more immediate budget cuts.

DeLeo said he plans to file legislation to bring resort casinos to the state in 2011. He also noted his longstanding support for slots at racetracks. The Legislature was scheduled to take up the gambling debate this fall but pushed it back. DeLeo said it wasn’t a delay tactic, but done to make sure there’s time to “get it right the first time.”

He also said the film tax credit is a “good investment” for the state.

The state offers filmmakers a tax credit that equals 25 percent of what they spend on production and payroll costs in state. Many film companies sell those credits at a discount to firms and individuals that are based here and can claim the credits against their income taxes.

DeLeo admitted he was skeptical of the program at its inception. But he recalled visiting a TV shoot at the State House earlier this year and learning that most workers on the film crew were from Massachusetts. When asked what else they would be doing, he said many told him they would otherwise be unemployed.

But some watchdog groups point out that the state’s return on investment is very small. And a state Department of Revenue report indicates the film industry only generates 16 cents for every dollar the state forgives in taxes.

All of this comes at a time when the state’s revenues are far below expectations. At the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1, the state’s tax collections were $212 million below expectations, according to the state Department of Revenue’s most recent report. That report looks at sales, income, corporate and motor-vehicle taxes.

As a result of the shortfall, DeLeo said, the 2010 budget could end up as high as $600 million out of balance. Watchdog groups on government spending like the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center say that estimate sounds about right.

And what it means to residents is emergency budget cuts – called 9C cuts – to state services and the local aid that supports municipal budgets. “I wouldn’t be honest to tell them not to be concerned,” DeLeo, a former town selectman, said of local officials. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

With the state’s many support programs under the umbrella of its Health and Human Services Department already spread thin, the House speaker also said municipalities may need to bear the brunt of cuts.

“Every city and town has issues with local aid, Chapter 70 (education funding) and all that,” he said. “But problems with drug abuse and mental illness are out there. There’s only so many places we can cut.”

DeLeo said he won’t support new tax increases that some representatives have pitched to him – including a gas, water and candy tax, and raising the income tax. “I don’t see any appetite at all for further taxation,” he told The Patriot Ledger editorial board as part of a larger discussion of the state’s fiscal crisis.

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Film industry gives local businesses a boost

By Anna Rice
The Huntington News
October 8, 2009

A few years ago, Angela Peri ran Boston Casting in a small, one-room office. She worked mainly on commercials, industrial training videos, some theater and some print advertising. But when Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a 25 percent film tax credit in July 2006, Peri said she knew everything was about to change.

“The day that the governor signed the tax incentive I said to the person next to me, ‘There goes my life as I know it,’” she said. “I had a hallway that I had to make into an office.”

Peri said she has supplied talent to most of the big budget feature films made in Massachusetts over the past three years, and her revenue has increased by about 30 percent. Over the last two years, she worked on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” starring Kevin James, “The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock and more.

She said she is working with some of the movies currently filming in Massachusetts but could not disclose information about them.

Other businesses supplying necessary services to the film industry have also seen growth since the tax credit. In July 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue reported new direct spending on film and television production generated by the film tax credit since 2006 was $676 million. When the “ripple effect” on local businesses and people was factored in, the total economic output was more than $870 million.

“The film tax credit is in place until the year 2022, so I think we can anticipate that Massachusetts, in a very short period of time, will be the Northeast center in the country for film, television and digital media production,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, which assists filmmakers with location scouting, tax credit information, crew referrals, permitting and more.

Paleologos said the film industry has provided new jobs for thousands of Massachusetts residents and utilized the services of many hotels, catering companies, restaurants, makeup artists, hair salons, art galleries, security companies and more.

Movies currently being filmed in the Boston area include “The Zookeeper” starring Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler and James, “The Untitled Wichita Project” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and “The Town” starring Ben Affleck and Blake Lively.

Dave Talamas, owner of Talamas Broadcast Equipment Inc. in Newton, said his business has nearly quadrupled since the tax credit went into effect by supplying two-way radios, monitors, props, and other audio and visual equipment to films.
“We’ve become the go-to people for two-way radios,” Talamas said. “It’s also increased our business in general production because word gets around.”

Maria Lekkakos, owner of M. Lekkakos Salon, Spa and Boutique in Wenham, which specializes in providing spa services to movie productions, said that since June, she has worked regularly with three of the productions filming in Massachusetts. She said she has had the opportunity to work on celebrities like Salma Hayek, Brooke Shields and Maya Rudolph.

“Someone hears about my background and it goes by word of mouth,” Lekkakos said. “And the production will call me and put me on. That makes someone want to come get a facial by me or try me out.”

Lekkakos said she plans to work with future films doing work in Massachusetts as well.
Businesses directly related to films are not the only ones benefiting from their presence. Some local business owners said they have seen a boost in sales after word spreads that they have celebrity clients. 

Megan Wood, owner of Brookline-based Olive Green Apparel, gave Diaz a pair of her mittens while Diaz was filming for “The Untitled Wichita Project”, which is slated to be released in theaters in the summer of 2010, at Gaslight Brasserie in the South End. Wood said she has already seen an increase in online business due to coverage in the Boston Herald’s Inside Track, a section covering celebrity gossip and entertainment.

“We’re definitely hoping for People Magazine or US Weekly to get a shot of her wearing them [the mittens],” Wood said. “It would be great for business.”

Christina Bartkus, owner of Pure Chocolate in Quincy, said her chocolate has been given as gifts at wrap parties and on the sets of “The Zookeeper” and “Grown Ups,” starring Sandler and Hayek. The films provided a boost to her business during an otherwise slow summer season this year, she said.

Bartkus said Steffiana De La Cruz, wife of James, was the one who discovered her shop and decided to use her chocolate as gifts.

“It’s been great because I’m able to hit a demographic that normally people pay thousands and thousands of dollars to hit through public relations firms and gifting lounges,” Bartkus said.

Like Olive Green Apparel, Pure Chocolate’s online business has increased due to coverage in the Boston Herald’s Inside Track, and Bartkus said people have stopped by the store after hearing about her new celebrity following. Members of the cast and crew who live on the west coast have also told her they will continue to place orders online, she said.

“I’m not sure if I would ever have had exposure like this if it was not happening in my own backyard,” Bartkus said.

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Brigham Road in Waltham the scene of Cameron Diaz movie

By Joyce Kelly
Waltham Daily News Tribune
October 07, 2009

Diaz in Waltham on Wichita
Staff photo by Ken McGagh
Cameron Diaz was in Waltham filming “The Untitled Wichita Project” today. The crew was at 11 Brigham Road. The film also stars Tom Cruise, who was not in the city.

WALTHAM — In the blink of an eye, a streak of blonde hair splashed up in the wind as Cameron Diaz was whisked into an unassuming silver Toyota Prius on Brigham Road.

A small crowd lined up on the sidewalk to catch a glimpse of Diaz or Tom Cruise filming a segment of “Untitled Wichita Project’’ on Wednesday suddenly erupted in brief applause at her fleeting appearance.

An officer on detail yelled to a fellow officer, “You missed her!’’

“Aawwww,’’ the officer lamented, shaking his head.

As they watched the Prius slink away, two disappointed women at the scene complained, “She should have stopped to wave.’’ But for the most part, the brush with Diaz and the film crew was good enough.

“I’m so excited. I can’t fall asleep. It’s weird,’’ said 13-year-old Grace Herron, an eighth-grader at McDevitt Middle School. The Herrons see themselves as the lucky family whose home 20th Century Fox chose to use in the film starring Cruise and Diaz.

“All my friends are jealous – but not in a (catty) way,’’ said Grace Herron, who couldn’t stop smiling.

Her parents, Tod and Rose Herron, also said they were thrilled about the whole production at their house at 11 Brigham Road, a simple, pale yellow colonial.

“I loved him from his movies,’’ said Rose Herron.

Tod Herron said, “My favorite is an old one – ‘Risky Business.’’’ 

The Herrons said they were not allowed by contract to discuss why their home was selected or other details, but said everyone involved in the film was “great’’ to them.

Police and neighbors said there were no prima donnas among the actors or film crews – the locals said the movie professionals have been respectful, considerate and generous since they arrived yesterday morning around 8. And no limo for Diaz – who insisted on riding in a Toyota Prius.

“She’s eco-friendly, so they had to have hybrid cars for her,’’ said Officer Joseph Guigno.

Guigno, who is also a neighbor, said the production is good for the neighborhood, the city, and the economy in general.

Crew members, who all hit up D’Angelo’s for lunch yesterday, have been using a lot of the local facilities and restaurants, he noted. As a neighbor, Guigno said, “It’s nice when I’m out walking my dog, to see something going on that’s kind of exciting.’’

Tom Keene, who lives across the street at 110 Main St., opined that the production would likely be good for future home sales as well. The movie producers approached his wife, Marianne Keene, who runs “Keene Cuts’’ out of her home, to ask permission to for a shot panning over their house, he said. She immediately said yes, and then let him know about it, he said, laughing.

“I’m laid-back, I don’t mind. My wife is excited,’’ said Keene, a welding teacher at Waltham Vocational High School. “I’m assuming they chose my house it’s because it’s a stately-looking property,’’ Keene said, Guigno nodding in agreement.

Neighbors at 31 Brigham Road, William and Margaret “Peggy’’ Lee, were also delighted to get a little piece of the action.

“They borrowed my chair! If they don’t cut the scene, my chair will be in the movie – my chair will be famous,’’ said Peggy Lee, laughing. Peggy Lee was out on the sidewalk early enough to catch Diaz when she emerged from the house and “gave a little smile and wave.’’

“She was very beautiful, very natural-looking. And very tall,’’ said Peggy Lee.

The whole production has been fun, and the crews, wonderful, she said. William Lee, peering across the road at the crews hustling around his neighbors’ lawn, called the local filming “once in a lifetime.’’

Neighbor Christina Pulselli said she was hoping to get a glimpse of Cameron Diaz. Watertown resident Janet Powers took a little half-hour break from her routine to watch the production.

“Who am I waiting to see? Anybody!,’’ she said, laughing.

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Tom Cruises into lecture at Harvard Law

Boston Herald – The Inside Track
By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
October 7, 2009

Cruise at Harvard
Photo by Jessica Corsi

Tom Cruise isn’t an attorney, but he’s played one on the big screen and the other day the Hollywood heavy was in Cambridge auditing a class at Harvard Law School!

According to Harvard Law Record blogger Jessica Corsi, Cruise popped into celebrity attorney Bertram Fields’ guest lecture in professor Bruce Hay’s entertainment-law class. After announcing he had never heard his buddy lecture before, Cruise took a seat in the back of the class at Langdell South and even participated in the two-hour discussion.

Apparently, Fields, who is a 1952 Crimson alum, and Cruise are quite tight in Tinseltown. Hence, Tom’s appearance.

“Throughout his discussion, Fields would refer questions back to Tom, and Cruise would also interject his own experiences,” Corsi blogged. “He spoke about tabloid magazines . . . working with director Stanley Kubrick and the business of how the ratings on movies get set in the U.S. as opposed to Europe.”

The students, were, of course, blown away.

The leading man also talked about the paparazzi, his children and how he deals with the omnipresent cameramen.

“(H)is daughter, Suri, has, according to Cruise, some comical responses,” reported the Record writer. “For example, she will sometimes throw down her hands and say, ‘Why is this person following me?’ She has responded to encroachments on her privacy by raising a hand and declaring, ‘Personal space!’ ”

The students, although star-struck by Cruise, acted cool by continuing their usual classroom activities of taking notes, GChatting and surfing retail Web sites, said Jessica. But by the end of the class, “a bush fire of text messages, emails and IMs” swept through campus and the room was crowded with kids who hadn’t signed up for Hay’s course. How odd.

Corsi wrote that Cruise stayed an hour after class to answer student questions – which is way more time than their own professors are able to give!

Hollywood’s Mr. Personable doled out advice, stories, high-fives, handshakes, hugs, and – even at one point – an impromptu dance. No couch jumping though.

File Under: One Classy Guy.

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Editorial: Roll film

Berkshire Eagle
October 6, 2009

Movies are being made in Massachusetts, just not out here in the Berkshires. Boston and its surrounding communities may always dominate Bay State movie-making, but the Great Barrington-based Berkshire Film and Media Commission and its new executive director Diane Pearlman may help the county grab a share of movie studio bucks.

Boston has been the locale for two films at a time in recent months, with local boy Ben Affleck directing a big budget film in the city now. Tom Cruise is starring in a film being made in nearby Bridgewater. With a number of Boston-based crime novels like “Mystic River” being turned into films in recent years it isn’t surprising that Boston would be the locale for many films, but the city has aggressively courted the Hollywood film community and the Boston-based Massachusetts Film Office has an eastern orientation.

A former producer based in New York City and the co-founder of Mass. Illusion, the busy Lenox-based visual effects production company, Ms. Pearlman is a Berkshire resident with connections to the film industry. The Berkshires have served as the backdrop for several (largely forgettable) films over the years, but there has never been an organization like the Berkshire Film and Media Commission, now incorporated as a nonprofit, to serve as an advocate for the region.

According to a report released in July by the state Department of Revenue, productions of film, and also television, have tangible financial benefits. Since 2006, that production has generated $676 million in revenue, with another $200 million generated in spin-offs, such as the purchase of state goods and services by film crews. The report found that the state collected $3.6 million more in taxes than it paid out in tax credits to the industry, with that money paying immediate dividends because filmmakers must spend the money first before they can receive credits. Film production also generates publicity for a locale, a benefit that is difficult to measure in dollars and cents but is real nonetheless.

Movie box office is booming, in part because state of the art theaters like Pittsfield’s soon to open Beacon Cinema have dramatically enhanced the movie-going experience. Ancillary sales of DVDs are thriving and other electronic options are expanding. The movie pie is a substantial one, and even a small slice for the Berkshires would be tasty.

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Support for film industry still strong on Beacon Hill

But changes could be coming

by Jon Chesto
Quincy Patriot Ledger
October 5, 2009

It’s hard to get around Boston these days without running into a film crew or hearing about a movie shoot or a celebrity sighting. That’s one reason why I decided to write my latest column in The Patriot Ledger about an effort on Beacon Hill to give the state’s film tax credits a new level of scrutiny as part of a broader review of the state’s numerous tax incentives.

Film industry sources told me they don’t expect that legislative leaders will challenge the credits anytime in the near future, even though the Legislature briefly approved language suggested by the Patrick administration this past summer that would have significantly watered down the tax credit program. Lawmakers quickly wiped out that change – a $2 million cap on the amount that any film worker’s salary could count toward the state’s credits – before it could do any damage after industry reps explained that the change would scare away most big-budget flicks.

But the Patrick administration is under tremendous pressure due to an ongoing tax revenue shortfall (tax collections are down by about 10 percent in the first three months of the state’s current fiscal year). so I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration attempts to revive a similar measure in the future.

The Legislature will likely have the final say on this. Senate President Therese Murray has been a strong supporter of the industry. That’s not surprising: She could have a year-round film studio become the biggest private employer in Plymouth, her hometown, if the Plymouth Rock Studios project stays on track.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo seems supportive, but he didn’t want to commit to not watering down the program when I recently asked him about it. He’s waiting to discuss the issue with his revenue committee chairman, Rep. Jay Kaufman, who in turn is waiting for a revenue subcommittee to make its analysis about whether the state is getting an adequate bang for its buck from this and other tax credit programs. That report should be out by early next year in time for the next legislative budget debate.

In the film program’s first three years, the state doled out $166 million in credits. Meanwhile, the tax incentives helped generate more than $300 million in direct economic activity in Massachusetts – or more than $600 million when you count what the movie stars and other out-of-state film workers earned while they were working here.

The program remains a popular one, with a recent poll showing that about two-thirds of Massachusetts residents support it.

Even with the program’s successful track record and the high-profile nature of the industry, I’m not going to assume that the film production credits program will remain untouched. Certainly, the 25-percent credit rate for film productions is one of the most generous economic incentives provided by the state to any industry here. If the state revenue outlook doesn’t improve soon, the movie industry could become a tempting target for savings.

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