News & Events

SLIDESHOW: Are the tax credits working?

The following slideshow describes the local economic impact of the film tax credit program from 2006 to 2009:

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Cameron Diaz joins 9/11 remembrance at Mattapan school

Cameron Diaz in Mattapan
Cameron Diaz helps set up a fence today, on the nation’s first National Day of Service and Remembrance. Diaz, along with members of the Celtics, City Year and Harvard Pilgrim Health, volunteered at the Young Achievers Pilot School in Mattapan. Photo by Mark Garfinkel

By Inside Track
Boston Herald
September 11, 2009

Hollywood honey Cameron Diaz surprised Boston Celtics [team stats] J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker this morning when she turned up to get her hands dirty at the team’s beautifying project at the Young Achievers Pilot School in Mattapan.

Diaz, who begins filming “The Untitled Wichita Project” with Tom Cruise next week in Worcester, helped to dig new flower beds at the school to mark the National Day of Service and Remembrance, a nation-wide observance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“She wasn’t messing around,” said Celtics spokesguy Christian Megliola, adding that the actress is a volunteer with a City Year-type organization in Los Angeles. “She dug right in. And she was very gracious.”

The event was a joint project between City Year, the Celtics and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view.bg?articleid=1196903

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South Shore region turning into Hollywood hotbed

By Vicki-Ann Downing
Brockton Enterprise
September 5, 2009

BRIDGEWATER — Even Ethan Hunt, the secret agent played by Tom Cruise in the “Mission: Impossible” movie series, might find it a challenge to solve the financial woes facing the town of Bridgewater these days.

But when the Hollywood actor steps onto a cornfield off Curve Street later this month to begin filming a new movie, “Wichita,” with co-star Cameron Diaz, a lot of people are going to feel good anyway.

Having famous people come to town is fun, as Taunton residents discovered last year when Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley and Martin Scorcese filmed “Shutter Island,” originally titled “Ashecliffe,” at Whittenton Mills. That movie is due out in February.

And it’s good for business, too, according to the state Department of Revenue. Attracted by a tax credit of 25 percent on qualifying expenses and an exemption from the state sales tax, movie companies have been coming to the state in increasing numbers since 2006.

It’s paying off, according to the DOR, which estimates that 13 movie projects filmed in 2008 resulted in $452 million in direct spending in Massachusetts — and not just in Boston, either.
“One of the best things, and perhaps unexpected things, that happened as a result of the film business boom, since the governor and the Legislature lifted the cap on the tax credit back in 2007, has been the migration of business outside greater Boston,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“When you look around and ask yourself, ‘Where is Hollywood spending its money,’ it’s Worcester, Gloucester, Woburn, Taunton, Medfield, Hull. It’s really been great,” said Paleologos. Paleologos said filmmakers who originally came to Boston to make their movies were “tripping over themselves” in the city’s neighborhoods, so they began looking around and discovering “film-friendly communities” outside Boston.

“They find labor, materials, infrastructure,” said Paleologos. “If they can get their creative needs met, they love coming to Massachusetts.”

Two proposals for sound stages that would further serve the movie industry are moving through the local permitting process south of Boston. Plymouth Rock Studios in Plymouth would be a $282 million production complex with 14 sound stages, two back lots and a pair of production buildings. It would feature a performing arts school, vocational classrooms, cultural and visitors centers and a screening theater.

International Studio Corp. would be located on 30 acres of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The $147-million, 600,000-square-foot motion picture complex would be able to produce television shows and video games as well as movies. “If they get up and running, it will generate more movies and TV series,” said Paleologos. “We don’t have state-of-the-art sound stages in Massachusetts. If one or two are built, we’ll go from a seasonal business to a year-round business, and be able to produce the kinds of movies that require these kinds of facilities — those with computer-animated special effects.”

Meanwhile, the Bridgewater movie, tentatively titled “Wichita,” will be “the biggest we’ve ever had by whatever means you measure,” said Paleologos. “The amount of money they will be spending in the state is very large, as you would expect in a Tom Cruise movie,” Paleologos said. “It’s going to be a big, challenging film for us to host with lots of big action scenes.”
The movie is described as “an action-oriented romantic comedy.”

Diaz will play an “upbeat Midwestern woman” who goes on a blind date with Cruise, a federal agent. She is pulled into “a violent world journey to protect a powerful battery that holds the key to an infinite power source,” according to a description on the movie’s Web site.

The Boeing 727 carrying Cruise and Diaz will seem to crash into the 263-acre Bridgewater field, though it is actually arriving in three separate pieces next Friday. Filming is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sept. 24 and 25. Fireworks will simulate the plane crash.

Other parts of the movie — chase scenes, cars overturning — will be shot elsewhere, including Woburn and Boston. “Congratulations. We’re happier than heck that it’s happening there for you guys,” said Paleologos of Bridgewater.

Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at vdowning@enterprisenews.com

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Former resident to shoot film inside Next Page Cafe

Staff reports
GateHouse News Service
September 4, 2009

Weymouth – It will be lights, camera, and action in The Next Page when an independent filmmaker shoots “Minutes to Live, The Hitman,” inside the cafe on Saturday, Sept. 12. The movie theme centers on several groups of people who discover the end of the world is coming while meeting in common settings like a bar or restaurant.

“The film is a bunch of little stories that is occurring (simultaneously) in different parts of the country,” said film producer Billy Jacks, a former Weymouth resident, and Hingham High School special education teacher. “They all find out that the world will end.”

The script does not say how the world ends. “We leave that up to the imagination of the viewer,” Jacks said. The scenes to be filmed inside The Next Page Cafe features a hitman who enters The Next Page to carry out a murder contract on a person and two women who ponder their fate upon learning the end of the world is near.

“The hitman will walk into the bar,” Jacks said. “He confronts the person who says, ‘why are you going to kill me? The world is going to come to an end.’ But the hitman says, ‘a contract is a contract. Business is business.’”

The would-be victim tries to reason with the hired killer to let him live without success while having a drink that is served by Ed Page, owner of The Next Page. “He asked me to be in it,” Page said of his bartender role.

He said it is exciting to have a movie filmed at The Next Page. “We have put in about $400,000 in renovations here,” Page said. “We have gone from being a neighborhood bar to being a café that attracts families.” He said the movie would be an opportunity to advertise The Next Page which was voted the number one blues club in New England by The Blues Audience newsletter.

“I thought it would be nice to make a film back where my roots are,” Jacks said. “It will be a tribute to Ed’s late dad. The elder Page died in 1992.

“I have a lot of good memories there,” Jacks said.

Jacks previously patronized The Next Page when it was called Jimbos Café. It is located on Broad Street in Central Square. Movie production will begin at 8 a.m. and continue throughout the morning until noon on Saturday.

Jacks said most of the people taking part in the filming are professional actors. “We will have a few extras on the set,” he said. Jacks’s interest in movie making developed while he worked as an extra in various films produced in the Boston area.

“I’ve been in 22 films in 19 months,” Jacks said. “I ‘m now getting to write and direct movies. It’s amazing how the movie industry is growing in Boston.”

He said Boston is especially appealing for movie-makers because of the city’s culture. This aspect is encouraging International Studios Group, a California firm to break ground for 12 motion picture studios at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station by the end of 2009.

The soundstages will be built on 212,000 square feet of land at the base. International Studios Group plans to construct a restaurant, a specialty store and have studio-lot streets with a colonial flavor that reflects historical sections of Boston at the site.

State Rep. Ronald Mariano, D- Quincy is proposing a 20 percent manufacturing tax credit for movie studios to construct soundstages in Massachusetts. The tax benefit would exempt motion picture firms like ISG from paying $20 million in state taxes over a two-year period and would be a credit against future state taxes. The bill has not come for a vote by the House to date.

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WCVB-TV 5: Cruise, Diaz Shooting Spy Flick In Mass. – Sept 09

Action Comedy Will Film At Several Bay State Locations.
Click here to see video story.

WCVB-TV Channel 5
September 3, 2009

BOSTON — Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and other Hollywood names are heading to Massachusetts for two and a half weeks of filming for an upcoming untitled blockbuster.

Filming begins Sept. 15 at Worcester Regional Airport, but crews are already preparing two locations, the airport and a field in Bridgewater, for their roles in the movie.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported the filmmakers chose Worcester Airport because it is sparsely used, making it easier for crews to set up the scenes and work with security. Since Sept. 11, 2001, filming movies in airports has become difficult because of tight federal regulations, set workers said. Worcester Airport was deemed the perfect spot because construction will be a breeze, and extras can be brought in to make it look like a bustling airport, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

The action comedy, with the working title “Untitled Wichita Project,” is about a secret agent, Cruise, who periodically runs into the same young single woman, Diaz, said 20th Century Fox.
Once shooting wraps in Worcester, the film shifts locations to Bridgewater. There, on a 263-acre corn field owned by Cumberland Farms, the crews will film scenes of a plane crash and its aftermath, said Hyunsoon Moon, assistant location manager for 20th Century Fox.

The Brockton Enterprise said the film company is already flattening out the field so that the plane can be brought in and set up for filming. The plane’s fuselage is fairly large, nearly 16 feet wide, and will bring safety and logistics concerns, said Moon. 20th Century Fox met with Bridgewater selectmen and public safety officials Tuesday and Thursday to work out a plan, said The Enterprise.

The priority was to watch out for the safety of crew workers and neighbors, but also to handle traffic and crowd control, said Bridgewater Fire Chief George Rogers, Jr. Shooting in Bridgewater will take place on Sept. 24 & 25 from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. Neighbors were advised by the film company that pyrotechnics will be used to simulate a plane crash. Moon said the field is far enough away from houses that it shouldn’t disturb neighbors much.

Flyers will be distributed to area houses listing schedules and contact information should any problems occur, Moon said. Rogers said the production company is in the process of getting all the proper permits, and he has checked with other communities for references from previous projects.

Twentieth Century Fox estimated that shooting in Bridgewater would be done by Oct. 9. The company also said they would reimburse the town for all public safety personnel costs as well as other costs that were a direct result of filming. The town itself won’t get any direct compensation from the production company, but the town is expected to get a bump for local businesses as a result of the influx of workers, actors and spectators, said selectmen.

Construction necessary for the film in both towns will provide 180 to 230 jobs, many of them being filled by workers inside New England, said crew workers.

The movie will shoot in other Massachusetts towns, including Chelsea and Woburn, in addition to Worcester and Bridgewater. Boston, one of the film’s prominent settings, will also be used as a filming location.

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Public safety on officials’ minds as movie makers come to Bridgewater

Cornfield to be set up as site of plane crash

By Theresa Knapp Enos
ENTERPRISE CORRESPONDENT
September 3, 2009

BRIDGEWATER — Hollywood movie makers and local public safety officials will meet today to devise a plan to address safety concerns that could arise later this month when a movie scene is filmed in the Cumberland Farms cornfield off Curve Street.

The scene will feature actors Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and others in the aftermath of a Boeing 727 plane crash in the as-yet unnamed movie, currently being called the untitled Wichita project. The movie is being directed by James Mangold, who also directed “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line,” “Kate & Leopold,” and “Girl, Interrupted.”

“Our biggest concern is for the people who will be there and for the neighbors,” said Bridgewater Fire Chief George Rogers Jr. “That’s what we’re going to concentrate on first and foremost.” Filming is scheduled for Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, starting at 3 p.m. on both days and ending at 6 a.m. the following mornings, during which time there will be pyrotechnics set off to simulate the plane crash.

Rogers said the production company will have all the required permits, and he has checked references of the company’s past performance in other communities.

Rogers said he has also talked with officials from Boston, Cohasset and Medfield regarding their recent experiences with movie production companies. Site work is already under way to prepare the 263-acre parcel for the arrival of the Boeing 727 fuselage, which will be trucked through the residential neighborhood in three separate pieces on Sept. 11.

“It’s almost as if they’re moving a small house and all of those things have to be worked out ahead of time,” said police Lt. Christopher Delmonte. Potential issues being discussed include traffic and security, crowd control and the height and width of the fuselage that will be maneuvered over back roads.

“The biggest problem is it’s a wide load,” said Hyunsoon Moon, assistant location manager for 20th Century Films, at a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, noting the sections are 15 feet 7 inches wide. The movie makers and town are working on a delivery strategy and route.

The film company has agreed to reimburse the town for all public safety personnel costs as well as other costs incurred as a direct result of the filming.

The town will not receive any monetary compensation for hosting the movie production, though local businesses will likely see a bump in sales because of the influx of 100 to 150 employees and 44 extras (plus spectators) in town for the filming.

And as far as a potential role in the new film, Delmonte had no comment. “Right now we’re just trying to work out the details of a large-scale project in a small residential neighborhood,” he said.

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Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz to film movie in Bridgewater

By Rebecca Hyman
WickedLocal.com
September 2, 2009

BRIDGEWATER – Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz will be shooting scenes from a Twentieth Century Fox movie in a cornfield off Curve Street in Bridgewater later this month. And some of the town’s police and firefighters will be tapped as extras in the film, which does not yet have a name, Twentieth Century Fox Assistant Location Manager Hyunsoo Moon said. “It’s exciting. It puts Bridgewater on the map,” Selectman Mike Demos said.

The scenes to be filmed in Bridgewater depict the aftermath of an airplane crash in a cornfield in Indiana, Moon told selectmen Tuesday night. Shooting will take place on Thursday, Sept. 24 and Friday, Sept. 25 from about 3 p.m. to 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., Moon said.

Selectmen Chairman Stanley Kravitz said the shooting will take place on the old Cumberland Farms farm, which is privately owned. There will be a lot of prep work to gear up for the two nights of shooting, Moon said. Crews are currently plowing down the corn making a pathway to simulate a crash scene where a commercial jet airliner has skidded along the ground.

On Sept. 11, production crews will move in the plane, a 727. Moon said the route through town is still being worked out. The airplane will be divided into sections to make transport easier, but the sections will still be oversized loads, he said.

“It will be logistically tough,” Moon said. Moon said there will be a crew of about 100 to 150 on the set and 44 extras. The production will also bring with it about 20 tractor-trailer trucks and quite a few cars. Moon said the plan is to park on the premises. He said the filming will involve some pyrotechnics, which may cause some noise. He is coordinating with Fire Chief George Rogers to ensure the fireworks are safe. The lighting will be minimal and probably not noticeable to neighbors, he said.

The plan is to have cleaned up the field and be out of town by Oct. 9, Moon said.
The Bridgewater Police Department will be in charge of security and traffic on detail assignments at no expense to the town, Kravitz said.

“It’s kind of a nice opportunity to have something like this happen in town,” Kravitz said.

Moon at first said the movie is set in Kansas but then corrected himself to say Indiana. According to the MTV Movies Blog, Cruise and Diaz are working on a film, at least tentatively, called Wichita.

“According to Variety, Cruise has decided to pair up with Cameron Diaz for James Mangold’s action comedy,” the on-line blog states. “Variety previously reported that the story revolves around a single chick who has terrible luck with men, but meets a mysterious, handsome man on a blind date. Now we know that the mysterious man is actually a secret agent who pops in and out of the woman’s life. The film also has several new action scenes tailor-made for Cruise, pulling it out of the romantic comedy genre and into something that can attract a wider audience,” the blog states.

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Boston’s got game

‘Wheel of Fortune’ is latest show to hit city as officials court TV producers

By Johnny Diaz
Boston Globe
September 2, 2009

Wheel of Fortune

The giant electronic green puzzle board is up. The colorful flat wheel is ready to be spun.

“Wheel of Fortune,’’ the popular syndicated game show, has rolled into Boston this week to tape 15 shows at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center tomorrow through Saturday. The episodes, which will air over three weeks during the competitive November ratings sweeps, are all Boston-themed, featuring contestants and audience members mostly from the Hub. And flanking the recognizable big wheel will be replicas of New England row houses and the Old North Church, which were built to make the set look like a mini-Boston to a national audience.

The “Wheel’’ is just one of several shows that have been in Boston recently as the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and city officials have been working to attract them – and their money – to the seventh-largest TV market. Fox’s “American Idol’’ reality singing competition has been here twice this summer. “So You Think You Can Dance,’’ a Fox reality dance competition, also held auditions here. And the CW’s “America’s Next Top Model’’ and NBC’s “America’s Got Talent’’ have had casting calls in Boston in the last two years.

“Boston essentially gets free commercial time as a destination,’’ said James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, noting that his office and the city highlight attractions that incoming shows should showcase during their shoots. “That has huge value. Beyond that, it’s a fun event and it creates a buzz around the city.’’

For its part, the “Wheel’’ is expected to give Boston’s economy a bump: The show is bringing its 160-member crew from Los Angeles and renting hotel rooms for them. It is also hiring 200 workers in Boston for security and police support for the production. Officials say the “Wheel’’ will be a televised postcard to the rest of the country when it airs on 211 affiliates.

Overall, city officials estimate that “Wheel of Fortune’’ will spend at least $1 million here directly this week, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Mayor Thomas M. Menino will proclaim tomorrow “Wheel of Fortune Day.’’

Harry Friedman, the show’s executive producer for the past 15 seasons, estimates that the show will cost about $4 million to produce in Boston. “We will leave behind three quarters of a million dollars in cash prizes,’’ said Friedman, who is also executive producer for the show’s sister program, “Jeopardy!’’

As Friedman toured the “Wheel of Fortune’’ set at the Convention Center’s Exhibition C Hall yesterday, he pointed to the wall-length bleachers that will hold 5,000 audience members a day for the show’s tapings over the three days. Since early summer, the show has been promoting its arrival in Boston by offering free tickets to residents and tourists who would be visiting Boston this week. The tickets are so popular that some of those wheel watchers are offering their seats for $25 on Craigslist.

“ ‘Wheel of Fortune’ is so simple,’’ said Friedman, as he stood at the set’s centerpiece: an 8-foot wheel that contestants spin to win cash and vacations. “It’s hangman with prizes.’’

The show hits the road twice a year to give viewers another backdrop to watch. In July, the show taped four weeks’ worth of episodes in Las Vegas. Those shows will air later this month and in February. The show has not been to Boston since 1993, when it taped at the former Wang Center, which is now the Citi Performing Arts Center’s Wang Theatre.

This time, the show will have Boston-themed weeks such as historic Boston, college week, and Boston sports. Through the episodes, viewers will see co-host Vanna White at popular Boston tourist spots such as Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, and Beacon Hill. “It’s a way for the audience to vicariously travel with us to the city,’’ Friedman said.

“Wheel of Fortune’’ has entertained and challenged daytime audiences since it debuted in 1975 on NBC. The show became syndicated in 1983. The “Wheel,’’ with hosts Pat Sajak and White, remains the most-watched syndicated show.

In August, the show averaged about 9.2 million viewers a week, ahead of “Jeopardy,’’ “Two and A Half Men’’ reruns, and “Judge Judy.’’ In Boston, the show airs at 7 p.m. on WSBK-TV (Channel 38), where it regularly wins or places second in its time slot.

One media observer said the show’s longevity can be attributed to its simple formula: Contestants buy vowels and guess the hidden word behind the board. “There is something in the human spirit, that, when it sees a board with some letters on it and some blanks, that creates an immediate drama and you have to fill those in,’’ said Robert Thompson, professor of TV and pop culture at Syracuse University.

“Many times in that half hour the show presents something on that screen that begs you to stick around and see it out.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com

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Movie to land at airport

Cruise, Cameron Diaz, 20th Century Fox needed a quiet, empty place

By Nancy Sheehan
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
September 2, 2009

Worcester Airport
Jill DiCicco of Holliston and other members of the New England Studio Mechanics, Local 481, build a set at Worcester Regional Airport yesterday that will be used in the filming of “Wichita.” (T&G Staff / MARK C. IDE)

What do you mean no one uses Worcester Regional Airport?

How about Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz? The Hollywood superstars are sure to create a flurry of excitement at the otherwise underutilized airport when they breeze in to the terminal about two weeks from now to shoot scenes for an upcoming movie. Construction workers already are building sets in the cavernous, almost empty terminal building for “Wichita,” a 20th Century Fox action comedy in which Cruise plays a secret agent who weaves in and out of the life of a single woman.

Much of the movie is set in Boston and shooting will take place there as well as in Chelsea, Woburn, other Bay State locations and overseas, including Barcelona, Spain. But Worcester will be where the first scene will be shot. What will Worcester’s role be? (Hint: Think of the movie’s title.) That’s right! Worcester Regional Airport will be Wichita Airport in the film. Shooting here is expected to start around Sept. 15 and take three or four days. The James Mangold-directed movie is scheduled for a summer 2010 release.

Now, you might be thinking: “Oh, no. We got all excited about ‘The Maiden Heist’ with scenes shot at Worcester Art Museum, only to recently find out financial problems probably have scuttled a theatrical release.” Worry not. We don’t mean to jinx “Wichita,” but we really are talking apples and kumquats here. “The Maiden Heist,” in spite of a cast list that included Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken and Marcia Gay Harden, cost just under $20 million to make. “Wichita,” by the time filming wraps and all the popcorn is popped, will be in the megabudget range. The studio isn’t saying how much, but one of their employees building sets at Worcester airport who has worked for 20th Century Fox on various movies for 30 years pegged it at about $130 million.

Add to all that money the fact that most of Hollywood held its collective breath wondering “What will Tom do next?” while Cruise sifted through a slew of major project offerings including this one. Once the project was selected, where to shoot? Massachusetts was chosen because of the generous tax breaks the state grants moviemakers in hopes that their unfathomably huge budgets might spur our sagging economy into showing signs of life.

Not to mention our sagging airport.

Actually, that turned out to be a good thing. A main reason Worcester Regional Airport was chosen was because of its … emptiness.

“The filmmakers love it,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “Most airports are under incredible security constraints in the wake of 9-11. If a movie happens to require use of an airport, it’s really a pain in the neck. So to be able to come to a state where you have an underutilized facility like Worcester airport and be able to really go in there and just remake it for a little while for the purposes of the film is a great benefit, obviously, to the locality but it’s a terrific benefit to the filmmaker as well.”

The construction phase in Worcester employs about 80 people, said Larry Clark, a scenic painter for 20th Century Fox. The studio sent about eight people, including Clark, but most of the others are from the New England area, he said. To accommodate “Wichita” (that’s a working title and might change), the crews are building a bar, a Transportation Security Administration inspection area, a gift shop and a coffee shop. When the shoot is over, they will tear down the sets.

Now for the important part: How do you get a job as an extra? Boston Casting is handling that for the film, so you should go on its Web site, www.bostoncasting.com, and click on talent application. (Don’t call them. They’ll call you, or so they told us when we asked about the process.)

Do not tarry, however. Casting already is under way, the agency says. Maybe so, but your chances still should be pretty good. Just think of how many extras are going to be needed to make Worcester airport actually look busy.

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Star rising on state’s film tax credit

by Lisa van der Pool
Boston Business Journal
August 28, 2009

Tug
Tug Yourgrau is finding good
success with his production shop.

Powderhouse Productions Inc. operated under the radar for more than a decade, quietly creating well-received non-fiction cable television shows that feature everything from engineering achievements to roller coasters to felines.

But the Somerville-based production company’s star has risen in recent years with a boost from the state’s film tax credit. Extra cash generated from the incentive has helped the business grow and has given the company the flexibility to be more daring with the types of series it is producing.

Revenue for Powderhouse, which has created TV series for cable channels including the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC, is expected to nearly triple to $12 million this year, from $3.7 million in 2006. Its ranks have swelled to its current 60 people, up from 35 three years ago. And Powderhouse recently tripled its office space to 14,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, the company is hoping for a hit with its latest Animal Planet show, “SuperFetch,” set to debut Oct. 3. Described as a dog-training show infused with slacker humour, the program features trainer Zak George teaching pooches unusual tricks. One canine learns to ride a tandem bicycle; another helps his owner change a diaper.

“SuperFetch” is a departure for Powderhouse from classic documentaries into “factual entertainment,” said Tug Yourgrau, Powderhouse president and co-founder. “For the last two or three years we’ve climbed to a point where we are on people’s radar nationally,” Yourgrau said. “We’ve become a name player.”

Powderhouse is one of several local production houses that has reaped the benefits of the state’s film tax credit, which works by giving a 25 percent tax credit for every dollar spent on film production in the state. For Powderhouse, half of its revenue qualified for tax credits last year.

Powderhouse “is having enormous success,” said Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office in Boston. “They’ve been a very successful local company that has become an extremely successful local company with a national profile. The tax credit has given home-grown companies the ability to compete for national business that they might not otherwise have been considered for.”

Yourgrau and his business partner, and Powderhouse CEO Joel Olicker, founded their shop in 1994 with the idea of making documentaries for TV. The men met while working as producers at WGBH in Boston.

After handling several projects, including one for the Discovery Channel, Yourgrau and Olicker realized one-off programming was not going to be a successful long-term strategy. Instead, they planned to seek out steady series work, which would enable the company to grow. “We realized if we kept that up, we couldn’t make a living. It’s more cost-effective to get series work,” said Yourgrau.

After a two-hour “Extreme Engineering” special for the Discovery Channel in the late 1990s, Powderhouse was asked to produce an “Extreme Engineering” (in which the Big Dig was featured) series.

Over the years, the company has produced programs for the History Channel (“The Works”), Animal Planet (“Dogs 101,” “Cats 101,” and “SuperFetch”) and TLC (“Kids by the Dozen”). Powderhouse has worked on a total of 10 series.

The tax credit has also allowed the company to hire a four-person development team. It was that team that developed “SuperFetch,” after Animal Planet asked for a show involving George.

“They are enormously visually creative and they have a great sense of casting,” said Charlie Foley, vice president of development at Animal Planet. “They make shows that have a rich sense of story and a rich look, but also give you facts and insights … We expect to be doing a lot of business with Powderhouse in the future.”

Powderhouse films mostly in Massachusetts and for that reason locals often pop up in their programs. Indeed Beth Tucker, a South End resident and digital PR manager at Boston-based guerilla marketing firm Street Attack, was approached on the streets of Boston to appear in SuperFetch with her terrier-mix Dobby. Over a three-day shoot at Tucker’s South End brownstone, a crew filmed Dobby as she learned how to take out the trash for Tucker and her husband. “She is actually taking the trash out for us on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Tucker said. “It’s pretty ridiculous.

Ultimately, the Powderhouse team hopes to continue its growth and create more factual entertainment programs that could ultimately compete with the most successful companies in that genre, including Original Productions, which makes “Ice Road Truckers,” Pilgrim Films, known for “American Choppers” and Figure 8 Films, famous for “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”

Powderhouse aspires to work with a greater range of cable networks, including Spike, Comedy Central and Bravo. The firm even signed on with an agent in Hollywood about a year ago.

“That has given us a profile we haven’t had before,” Yourgrau said. “We can probably get a meeting anywhere now.”

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Boston site set for silver screen

Company lines up buildings

By Donna Goodison
Boston Herald
August 30, 2009

A Los Angeles company that represents high-rise owners interested in seeing their buildings on the big and small screens has set up shop in the Hub.

Skyline Locations was lured by the growing Massachusetts film industry that’s sapped business from the West Coast thanks to the state’s new tax incentives that took effect three years ago. The breaks for in-state productions, strengthened in 2007, have brought more than 25 film projects to the state, from the already-released “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Pink Panther 2” to the still-in-production “Grown Ups” and “The Zookeeper.”

“The economic environment in Los Angeles has not been able to meet up with what Massachusetts is offering and some other states in terms of tax incentives,” said D. Sinclair Anderson II, a Skyline principal. “It’s fostered a growing filming community in Boston that’s created a need for this sort of service.”

Founded in 2004, Skyline is a location service company, acting as an intermediary between its commercial real estate clients and production companies looking for locations to shoot film and TV projects. It’s believed to be the first company of its kind to land in Boston. “We market the properties to the entertainment industry and manage the entire process, from contract negotiations to onsite production management and production accounting,” Anderson said. Building owners benefit from an additional revenue stream, and the publicity adds cachet to their properties that is enjoyed by tenants, according to Anderson.

Skyline already has signed 23 class-A office and mixed-use properties in Greater Boston and hopes to double its portfolio in the next 60 to 90 days. Current clients include South Station, 60 State St., 500 Boylston St., Rowes Wharf and One Post Office Square, according to the company’s Web site.

But longtime Massachusetts location manager Charlie Harrington, who worked in Hollywood in the 1980s and returned to Boston after a decade, says that movie studios frowned upon using location services firms.

“The major studios didn’t like us to use those services because I think they felt the prices might be inflated,” said Harrington, who’s worked as a location manager on movies including “Edge of Darkness,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “The Pink Panther 2,” “21‘ and “Gone Baby Gone.”

That’s a misnomer, according to Anderson, who said he’s already working on two studio pictures that are preparing to shoot here. “We do try and achieve the best market rates for our customers, so if everybody is playing fair the prices are not really inflated,” he said. Whether it’s Los Angeles or Boston, a location scout may be familiar with a building’s name, location and exterior, but they likely don’t know if a particular law firm has higher-end interior finishes such as glass and steel, Anderson noted. Skyline’s online property listings eventually will feature up to 1,000 photos of each client’s building.

Still, Harrington doesn’t see the need for a location services firm in Boston given the increased number of location managers and assistant location managers who are knowledgeable about properties and often have relationships with their owners. While specific types of offices may be called for as film locations, they’re required less frequently than other locations that often reoccur in films, such as police stations, jails or hospitals, he said.

But Harrington acknowledges the bounty of location work available in Bay State since the tax breaks have been offered. Five years ago, he had to travel around the country and internationally to keep working, and he didn’t have the luxury of turning down a bad comedy or horror flick. “There are weeks where I get called for four or five movies in one week now, and before the tax breaks I could go for four or five months without being called for a movie,” he said. “For the first time in my life, really, I can kind of pick my movies.”

Indeed, five years ago, Harrington was one of the only location managers working locally, according to Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “In the last 24 months, we’ve kind of had to scramble to cultivate a bench, and a lot of folks have been able to move up the ranks faster, because there’s just more work than we have people to do it,” Paleologos said. “This is not just happening in the locations area, it’s happening across the board (in the film industry),” he said. “So it’s great to see new businesses coming into the state instead of going away from the state.”

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Movie-making takes personal turn

By Jennifer Powell
Boston Herald
August 30, 2009

When Al Ward starts talking to your loved ones, you just might hear stories you didn’t expect.

He has spent his career documenting important, well-known subjects turning their stories into captivating video. Now, the owner of Award Productions Inc. has launched a new business venture, turning the camera on less-known but still important subjects.

Reel Profiles, an offshoot of the video production company, will make personal documentaries for individuals or companies. Ward and team bring more than just professional equipment to the job. They know how to get people talking.

It’s an opportunity to preserve a legacy, said Stephen Gladstone, who hired the company to make a documentary about his grandfather, a World War II veteran who started a real estate business that’s still in the family.

“We wanted to be able to pass on information about our grandparents and to let (future generations) know where they came from and what they were all about,” Gladstone said.

Reel Profiles certainly faces competition as other companies have already moved into the space. But Ward believes there will be enough demand largely because of the Internet. It’s easier now for people to hunt down their roots and there’s an abundance of sites to encourage videos.

Ward developed the idea for Reel Profiles as he made a documentary about his own grandmother, Alice Baddour, who died last year at age 92. She had amazing stories about raising four children while moving around the country and running a couple of diners. Ward said he’s excited that his children who didn’t get to meet her will be able to see her telling those stories herself.

“The concept of Reel Profiles is to preserve something forever,” he said. “This is a way to give personal heroes the attention they deserve.”

The biggest challenge for Ward has been building what will essentially be a retail business with a much different focus than Award Productions, which is more of a business-to-business entity. It’s even harder since it’s the first time he’s intentionally started a business.

Award Productions more or less grew out of a job hunt. Ward kept taking on freelance assignments until he realized he had a full-fledged business on his hands.

This time around, everything is being done more thoughtfully and purposefully. For one thing, there’s advertising. That’s something Ward hasn’t needed since most of his business comes through referrals.

The pricing structure also had to be adjusted. The basic package, just getting footage in the can, is $5,000. The final price will depend on such things as the length of the film and how much editing is involved.

That may not sound cheap, but it is less expensive than a commercial documentary. “We wanted to make it as cost efficient as we can to allow the service to go to as many people as possible,” Ward said.

There has been significant planning around the pacing of the outreach.
“We don’t want to get into a position we can’t provide what were offering,” Ward said.

Just in case there is a stronger response than expected, however, the company will be ready with an expansive freelance staff that can be called in for backup.

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Movie industry boom shapes local dreams

By Suzette Standring
For The Patriot Ledger
August 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lights, camera — city props supplier has that and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paramount to open ‘Shutter’ in 2010

Scorsese, DiCaprio pic delayed for economic reasons

By DAVE MCNARY
Variety
August 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

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Powderhouse Productions explodes on to the scene



By Aaron Crear


Somerville News
August 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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Local boy lands part in Grown Ups

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

By Emily Wilcox
GateHouse News Service
August 19, 2009

Dillingham

PLYMOUTH — It can take hours to get that shot.

If you’re lucky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Workers take action to launch film careers

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

By Johnny Diaz
Boston Globe
August 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.

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Charting the Costs and Benefits of Film Tax Credits in Massachusetts

GDP Chart

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

Film Job Growth 2006-2008

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

State Job Growth 2006-2008

Cost vs Economic Impact

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

DOR 2009 Cost/Benefit Charts

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

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The fighter

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

By Mark Shanahan
Boston Globe
August 18, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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