News & Events
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
New York Times
January 28, 2009
LOS ANGELES – Costly state incentives to lure film production and
jobs may be paying off, at least in New York.
A study of New York’s tax breaks for movie and television production
suggested that a 30 percent credit offered by the state, with an
additional 5 percent offered by New York City, could be expected to
keep or create about 19,500 jobs while yielding $404 million in tax
revenue, at a cost of $215 million in credits.
But the benefits were heavily weighted toward New York City, which
attracted by far the largest share of production with New York-based
television series like “Ugly Betty” and “30 Rock” and movies like
“Notorious,” a rap music drama released by Fox Searchlight this
month. The city collects about 6.4 times as much in taxes from film
as it spends on incentives, the study said.
The study, completed last week, was conducted by the accounting firm
Ernst & Young for both the Motion Picture Association of America and
the film office of New York State.
In recent years, states like New York, Michigan and Louisiana have
used aggressive subsidies to compete for film jobs, but comprehensive
reviews of their impact have been few and far between.
In 2005, a study by the chief economist of Louisiana’s legislative
fiscal office said that state’s incentives, among the country’s
highest, created only a modest number of jobs and did not generate
enough tax revenue to offset their costs.
New York State’s subsidies were raised from 10 percent of qualified
expenditures to 30 percent in April 2008, in a move to stem the flow
of productions to competing states, including Connecticut and
In its assessment, Ernst & Young noted that New York State’s film
office received 100 applications for movie and television shoots from
April 23, when the new subsidy became effective, until the end of the
year. Spending on those projects was estimated at $1.8 billion, up
from $940 million in all of 2007.
Applying the new 30 percent subsidy rate and current tax rates to the
level of activity that occurred in 2007, Ernst & Young figured that
the state would have spent $184.4 million, while getting $208.7
million back in taxes. New York City, meanwhile, would get $195.3
million from a tax credit expenditure of only $30.7 million.
Ernst & Young said it figured about 7,000 jobs were gained or
retained in direct film employment, while an additional 12,500 came
from related economic activity, not counting any increase in tourism
If the subsidies are indeed working for New York, that can only be
bad news for California, the film production capital, which has seen
jobs and income flee and which offers no major subsidies.
Last year, according to FilmLA, which tracks location shoots in Los
Angeles, days of feature film production outside of studio walls fell
14 percent, to 7,043 days, the lowest level since the count began in
By Inside Track
January 28, 2009
The buzz in the Massachusetts movie biz is that yesterday’s ouster of Screen Actors Guild prez Doug Allen is good news for the locals.
Word is, now that Allen, who was pro-strike, is out of the way, there’s hope for two TV series and a bunch of motion pictures to film in the Bay State.
“We have a handful of planes circling the runway waiting for SAG to ink a deal with the studios before coming in for a landing,” Massachusetts Film Office chief Nick Paleologos told the Track. “I’m expecting somewhere between 8 and 12 major projects this year – depending on how fast SAG re-ups with the studios.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view.bg?articleid=1148294
By Mark Shanahan and Paysha Rhone
January 26, 2009
Judging from the 700 or so people who showed up at Saturday’s job fair, there’s no shortage of Hollywood hopefuls in the Hub. The daylong forum organized by the Massachusetts Film Office included industry reps, casting agents, and union officials. One panel featured Angela Peri of Boston Casting and Todd Arnow, co-producer of the Bruce Willis film “The Surrogates.”
By Laura Crimaldi
January 25, 2009
A sell-out crowd of 700 people dreaming of a Hollywood ending for their recession job search yesterday got a close-up with film industry professionals hoping to create 3,000 to 5,000 jobs in the Bay State in the coming years.
“This is the one glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy economy,” said Nick Paleologos, director of the Massachusetts Film Office.
The daylong exhibit at the InterContinental Boston marked the first time that the state hosted a film industry career fair since tax credits brought Hollywood to the Hub in 2006, Paleologos said. “We are trying to prepare for the next wave of business,” said Paleologos. “We’ve been scrambling to develop the workforce to meet the job demand.”
In 2005, “The Departed” was the only movie filmed in the state. Last year, 13 movies filmed here. Represenatives from Boston Casting, soundstage developers Plymouth Rock Studios and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (Local 481) were on hand.
“Unemployment is rampant, but Hollywood is not going out of business,” said Matt McCormack, 29, an unemployed writer from Hudson, N.H. “It’s good that they are growing here.”
A steady crowd stopped by the Boston Casting table to inquire about a database of 30,000 actors. Feature films need extras of all ages and pay about $100 for a 12-hour work day, said Boston Casting’s Carole Souza.
Jim Baker, 35, a Starbucks barista from Londonderry, N.H., said he’s worked as an extra on the set of “Bride Wars” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.”
“I haven’t had a bad experience as an extra,” said Baker. “It’s very hard to complain about.”
Boston University film student Sara Stenchever, 21, said that she’s interested in a production job when she graduates in May.
“I’ve contacted a lot of companies and sent resumes places,” Stenchever said. “People say, ‘Keep in touch,’ but that’s about it. It doesn’t seem to be a good time right now.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=1147586
January 24, 2009 (Stephen Iandoli, NECN: Boston, MA) – It takes a lot of people to make a movie, and that means there is the potential for a lot of new jobs. Today, the Massachusetts Film Office hosted an information session to explain just what it takes to make a movie.
The Rose Kennedy Ballroom at Intercontinental Boston was the stage. Jobs, Camera, Action was the show. A film industry career fair in Massachusetts that now offers more than just a dream for the hundreds who showed up.
Since the state’s tax-credit package for the motion picture industry was put in place in 2006, 21 movies have been shot in the state. Meaning a fair like this is almost necessary just to fill those crews.
Already, one major movie production studio is ready to be built in Plymouth. And there are reportedly at least three major movie studios, including Disney and Paramount, looking at the state for productions this spring.
MA officials say the plan is to consistently host 8-12 movie shoots per year.
January 24, 2009
BOSTON — Despite widespread layoffs and financial woes, Massachusetts job-seekers may find luck in a growing sector of the state’s economy this year. NewsCenter 5’s Shiba Russell reported that about 600 people attended the Massachusetts Film Office’s first career fair, hoping to find work in one of the multi-million dollar film projects setting up camp across the state.
New tax incentives coaxed moviemakers to bring 13 productions to Boston in 2008, and another eight to 12 are projected to be filmed in the state this year. Attendees at the fair swapped business cards with producers and industry representatives, who offered advice on how to land a job in front of, or behind, the camera.
“We’re scrambling to keep up with the demand, and one of the things that this conference hopes to achieve is to let people who are looking for work in the industry know how to get it,” said Nicholas Paleologos of the Massachusetts Film Office.
The Office of Workforce Development will also host several seminars in March to help job seekers find positions at the two new studios in South Weymouth and Plymouth.
January 13, 2008
Media Services, a leading entertainment accounting, payroll, and software provider, today announced the acquisition of CrewStar, Inc., a production crew payroll, search and booking company in Boston, Massachusetts. The acquisition is part of Media Services’ strategy to expand into complementary services and markets that will address the unique needs of clients.
“The acquisition of CrewStar enables us to better serve our clients who are looking to save money and time by outsourcing their freelance production crews and equipment,” says Greg Pickert, CEO and president of Media Services. “Crew resourcing represents a significant opportunity for additional growth for Media Services, and we now have the management team and expertise to more aggressively pursue that opportunity.”
CrewStar, Inc. provides crew and talent payroll, crew search and booking, and staff placement services to the visual communications industry, including clients in corporate media departments, video and film productions, and events, internet, and multimedia production companies.
“We are very excited about working with Media Services and have every confidence that our clients will continue to receive the outstanding level of service that CrewStar has delivered since 1994,” adds CrewStar President Lily Maiella. “Now, clients will also have access to a comprehensive set of new production administrative tools. And, we’re looking forward to the growth that this affiliation will bring, especially in the areas of payroll services for the now robust film and commercial production industry in Massachusetts.”
In addition to crew resourcing, the acquisition will enable Media Services to gain a stronger foothold in the New England region with a fully staffed regional office.
“Media Services’ investment in Massachusetts through this acquisition is another vote of confidence in the future of our state as the New England center for film, television and digital media production,” explains Massachusetts Film Office Executive Director Nick Paleologos.
As part of the acquisition, CrewStar management and employees will remain on staff, providing a seamless transition for CrewStar’s customer base. Joe Maiella, CrewStar senior vice president of sales and marketing, will assume the same role and be responsible for business development for Media Services.
“Media Services has operated under the same ownership for 30 years and shares our same vision and commitment to client service,” Maiella says. “I’m looking forward to working with Media Services to ensure that vision is realized for our existing and future clients.”
About Media Services and Showbiz Software Stores
Media Services has been one of the entertainment industry’s leading accounting, payroll and software companies since 1978, serving feature, television, commercial, corporate and Internet productions world-wide as well as music video and residual clients. Media Services is headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in New York, Boston, and Toronto. The company is committed to driving the industry through constant innovation by offering best-in-class software solutions through its product division, Showbiz Software. In addition to its proprietary production accounting, payroll, budgeting, scheduling and time management software, the company offers a wide range of other entertainment industry software, books, tapes and supplies through its Showbiz Software Stores in West Los Angeles and New York as well as online, at www.showbizsoftware.com.
Studio group signs pact for first commercial project at former naval air base
by Jack Encarnacao
The Patriot Ledger
December 20, 2008
WEYMOUTH — The parties looking to build movie and television production studios on the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station have signed a deal they say clears the way for construction to begin in August.
The deal between developer LNR Property Corp. and Los Angeles-based International Studio Group (ISG) is the first to be signed for commercial development on the base, which LNR is redeveloping into a sprawling mixed-use complex called SouthField. Long-term plans call for development through 2017.
“Things will happen very quickly,” said Robert Papazian, one of ISG’s principals and a Belmont native, who has produced several television shows, including “Nash Bridges” and “Rome.”
The $100 million project, called SouthField Studios, will include 11 sound stages, production offices and more than 125,000 square feet of retail and office space.
Individuals involved in ISG, a privately held company, have successfully opened, restored and operated movie studios in California.
Design and architectural plans still need to be developed and approved before work on the project begins.
The project’s scope was scaled down from what was originally talked about – a $300 million project with up to 15 sound stages.
That version of the project was predicated on the state passing new new tax breaks for major projects. SouthField Studios stood to secure about $60 million in tax credits under that proposal, but it failed to win legislative approval this year despite concerted lobbying.
The idea behind the project is that the new studios will offer post-production facilities for film crews that have been lured to Boston by tax incentives. Many film projects have come to Massachusetts for location shooting, but leave the state after shooting to complete the projects in Los Angeles and New York.
A separate group is planning a film studio in Plymouth.
Jack Encarnacao may be reached at email@example.com.
Mass. jobs seminar set
By Donna Goodison
December 18, 2008
If you have seen the Hollywood movie crews shooting around Boston and want to get in on the action, the Massachusetts Film Office will host a Jan. 24 career fair to explain just what it takes.
“The point of trying to attract all this business to Massachusetts isn’t simply to have Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio or Mel Gibson in town,” said Nicholas Paleologos, the film office’s executive director. “The point is to have as many people working and as many people selling stuff as possible.”
Since sweetening its tax-credit package for the motion picture industry in 2006, Massachusetts has seen a dramatic increase in the number of films shot here. It hosted eight major productions last year and 13 this year. At least three studios, including Disney and Paramount, are eyeing the state for productions this coming spring.
“One of the challenges that we face is trying to make sure the work force expands to meet the job demand,” Paleologos said. “We’re hopeful that people will leave with a much clearer idea of how they can match their skills with the jobs that are available now and the jobs that will become available in the next two to five years.”
In the first session of “Jobs, Camera, Action! Building Your Career in the Massachusetts Film Industry,” a feature film director, line producer and first assistant director will discuss how to make it onto a movie set, what happens there and how to get invited back.
Then representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and other unions will explain their roles in movie productions.
In the third session, developers of soundstages proposed for Weymouth, Plymouth and South Boston will discuss their projects and expected job opportunities.
The final session will focus on opportunities in commercials, TV, radio, post-production, visual and special effects, and digital media.
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=1139808
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.