News & Events

Investor wants Mass. role in film funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa van der Pool can be reached at lvanderpool@bizjournals.com.

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Louisiana ups credits to 30%

State also to buy back credits at 85%

By CAROLE HORST
Variety
July 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Karen Anderson
July 10, 2009

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

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

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

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State has actually doubled its investment in film industry tax credits

by Jon Chesto
WickedLocal.com
Mass. Market
July 9, 2009

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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Still the reel deal

Boston Herald Editorial
July 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/editorials/view.bg?articleid=1183785

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Hollywood or Needhamwood: local company produces ads for tv

By Kathryn Eident
Boston Globe
July 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DOR: MOVIE SPENDING IN MA IS $676 MILLION

Economic impact exceeds expectations–at no cost to Mass. taxpayers through FY 2008.

MFO NEWS
July 2009

The MA Department of Revenue (DOR) has reported that new direct spending on film and television production generated by the film tax credit in Massachusetts is $676 million since 2006. That figure, included in the annual report required under the film tax credit law, is over $100 million higher than the agency predicted in its March 2008 report. When DOR’s “ripple effect” multiplier is factored in, the total economic output tops $870 million.

These 2009 figures, the most detailed to date, show that $167 million in film tax credits were issued in the first 3 years of the program (2006 to 2008). When comparing the total credits (adjusted for new taxes collected) with the total economic output projected by DOR, this translates into a cost of 16 cents for every new dollar generated—once all the credits are ultimately redeemed.

Other key findings in the report are as follows:

*The $676 million in new direct spending, as of the end of FY 2008, came at no cost to Massachusetts taxpayers. DOR reported that the state collected $3.6 million more in taxes than it paid out in credits during that three year period—because the law requires that filmmakers must first spend money in Massachusetts, and then pay taxes on that new spending, before they can receive or redeem any tax credits.

*Since 2006, direct employment of Massachusetts residents in film production increased by 537%.

*Since 2006, over 3,000 new direct and indirect jobs have been created. Sixty-two percent of those jobs went to Massachusetts residents. DOR predicted that this percentage should rise as the industry matures and the crew base expands with the construction of new sound stages in Massachusetts.

*The median annualized wage for Massachusetts residents employed by film productions was $67,775.

Industry advocates welcomed the new results, which seemed to underscore the rapid expansion of local direct and indirect economic activity resulting from the film tax credit. The Massachusetts Film Office reports that more than two dozen major productions have been shot here since 2006.

“The DOR report clearly shows that the benefits of the film tax credit to our economy are real and far-reaching” said Joe Maiella, President of the Massachusetts Production Coalition. “The report shows the film tax credit is a good investment for Massachusetts — creating thousands of new jobs and infusing much needed spending into cities and towns across the Commonwealth at a time when it is desperately needed.”

DOR’s analysis comes on the heels of an economic impact report issued in April by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that ranks Massachusetts among the top ten film production states outside of California and New York, and the only New England state to earn that distinction.

The MPAA report also spotlighted two major productions shot in Massachusetts last year. According to the MPAA, Disney’s THE SURROGATES spent close to a million dollars per week on Massachusetts goods & services during a six-month stretch in 2008, and Paramount’s SHUTTER ISLAND spent a quarter million dollars a day in the local economy when they were shooting in Medfield and other south shore locations last year.

On May 5th of last year, the Boston Globe reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly complained that Massachusetts is luring away tens of thousand of jobs.

The local impact of film and television production has also been widely reported in many cities and towns across the Commonwealth including Boston, Salem, Lynn, Burlington, Hull, North Andover, Plymouth, Gloucester, Worcester, Taunton, Medfield, Milton, Essex, and most recently, Lowell.

In developing their economic model, DOR chose to discount or omit several additional factors contained in three other recent 2009 film tax credit studies by Ernst & Young (for New York & New Mexico) and Economic Research Associates (for Pennsylvania)–leaving many industry observers speculating that the actual economic impact in Massachusetts could be even greater than reported, and that the actual cost of the credit may be as low as a nickel for every new dollar generated.

Factors discounted or omitted from DOR’s calculations:

1) The impact of local taxes and fees paid by film and television productions,
2) The impact of state savings on unemployment compensation & health care,
3) The impact of income tax collections from residuals paid to actors,
4) The impact of the development, construction and operation of new sound stages,
5) The impact of film related tourism and the marketing and promotion of Massachusetts,
6) The impact of new Unitary Tax Reporting requirements.

The Massachusetts Film Office reports that a half dozen major productions have already been slated to shoot in Massachusetts during the first six months of 2009. Ben Affleck & Kevin Costner recently completed filming COMPANY MEN, written and directed by John Wells (ER, WEST WING). Also, following up on their success with last year’s MALL COP, Adam Sandler’s company begins shooting the first of two more films he is making in Massachusetts this year.

DOR-2009-SpreadSheet

HOW DO EXPERTS FIGURE OUT THE COST TO TAXPAYERS?

In order to figure out the “cost to taxpayers” for every dollar of new economic impact generated by the film tax credit, analysts need to agree on two important variables:

1) An “Economic Impact Multiplier” — which helps predict what kind of ripple effect the new direct spending is having in our economy. Economic impact multipliers in this industry range anywhere from 1.5 to 5 or greater. Mass DOR used 1.29. Arthur Anderson used 2.69. Cornell University used 3.10.

2) A blended “Tax Rate Multiplier” — which helps predict how much money Massachusetts will collect in new taxes on all the new spending generated by the credit. The biggest chunk of new revenue collected will be from income taxes (tax rate: 5.3%). The balance of taxes collected are from gas (8%), hotels (11%), and corporations (9.5%), among others. DOR uses a blended tax rate of less than 3%. The Film Office models use 3.5% and 5%.

As you can see from the chart above, the “cost to taxpayers” (in cents) for every new dollar of economic activity generated, depends almost exclusively on what number for each of these two multipliers (economic impact and blended tax rate) you believe is the most reasonable and appropriate:

But even DOR—using a very conservative multiplier and blended tax rate—still puts the “cost to the taxpayer” as low as 16 cents for every new dollar generated in the economy.

In the Film Office’s first model–using Arthur Anderson’s economic impact multiplier and a relatively low blended tax rate–the cost to the taxpayer is only 5 cents for every new dollar generated in the economy.

In the Film Office’s second model–using Cornell University’s economic impact multiplier and a slightly higher blended tax rate–the cost is even lower (3 cents).

AT THE END OF THE DAY—NO MATTER WHAT MULTIPLIERS ARE USED—THE COST TO TAXPAYERS (IF ANY) VS. THE BENEFIT TO THE STATE’S ECONOMY, AMOUNTS TO PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR.

For a more detailed year-to-year cost/benefit analysis of the 2009 DOR report, click here.

Common Questions about the 2009 DOR Report

1. How come such a high percentage of wages went to non-residents?

As most people know, a handful of big stars on major motion pictures routinely earn much more than the average salary of everybody else–which always distorts the wage percentage. However, nearly two-thirds of all the new direct and indirect jobs created since 2006 went to Massachusetts residents.

2. Why should big stars be getting a tax break?

Big stars don’t get any tax break under this law. Quite the contrary. They are required to pay 100% of all Massachusetts taxes due on their salaries, before the production company that hired them is eligible to receive a film tax credit. Big stars must also pay Massachusetts taxes on any residual income they receive in the future for work they performed here. So the state will be collecting income taxes from them for years to come.

3. Is it true that big stars—mostly non-residents—have no local economic impact?

Of course not. When Leonardo DiCaprio, or Kevin Costner, or Bruce Willis choose to work in Massachusetts, they live here while they are working. They spend money here while they are living here. And, most important, they pay taxes to Massachusetts on all the money they earn here—not just while they are working, but for years to come on all residual income they earn from that project. Stars also validate the local industry for major private investors. Does anyone seriously believe that the four different groups currently planning to spend over a half-billion new dollars in Boston, Lowell, Plymouth and Weymouth (on the construction and operation of new state-of-the-art sound stages) would be investing that money in Massachusetts were it not for the frequent presence of big stars living and working in our state?

4. Does the film tax credit cost us too much for the benefits we receive?

According to DOR, the Massachusetts economy received somewhere between a half-billion, and a billion dollars worth of new economic activity between FY 2006 and FY 2008–at no cost to the taxpayers. That is because filmmakers are required to spend money in Massachusetts and pay taxes on that spending before they can receive or redeem any tax credits. When all the tax credits issued are ultimately redeemed, the cost to the taxpayers—according to DOR—could be as little as 16 cents for every new dollar generated.

5. Does DOR’s cost/benefit calculation include such things as local taxes and fees paid by film production companies?

No. If you included that factor—plus several other factors which are now routinely utilized by other industry experts such as Ernst & Young, and Economic Research Associates—the actual cost of the credit would be closer to a nickel for every new dollar generated.

But even accepting DOR’s conservative assumptions of both tax collections and economic impact, their report clearly indicates that:

A) The film tax credit program, through FY 2008, has generated well over a half-billion dollars in new economic activity, at no cost to Massachusetts taxpayers.

B) The ultimate cost to taxpayers, when all credits are redeemed, will be pennies on the dollar.

6. How does the film tax credit differ from traditional “economic stimulus” packages such as the one recently passed by the federal government?

The film tax credit is much better. Traditional economic stimulus packages call for the taxpayers to lay out millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in the hopes that those tax dollars will eventually produce new spending and other economic activity in future years.

The film tax credit takes exactly the opposite approach. It requires the new economic activity to happen first—before any tax credits can be earned and redeemed. That’s why, during the first 3 fiscal years of the program in Massachusetts, the $676 million in new economic activity has come at no cost to local taxpayers.

7. But these jobs aren’t really permanent, are they?

What’s a “permanent” job today? Lehman Brothers? General Motors? Circuit City? AIG? The Boston Globe? Massachusetts residents employed in the film industry (and related fields) have been working non-stop since the tax credit was passed. The fact is that this sector of the Massachusetts economy–because of the film tax credit–is expanding dramatically. Our growing industry has provided well-paying jobs (with benefits) for carpenters, painters, electricians, hairdressers, and countless other citizens who have been otherwise hammered in a terrible economy. Today, there are many more jobs being created in this sector, than there are qualified people to fill them. Its a nice problem to have.

8. One critic said that this program costs taxpayers $88,000 per job. True or false?

False. Be very careful when critics start throwing numbers around willy-nilly. For example, the FY 2010 state budget is approximately $27 billion. There are around 100,000 state employees. If you divide the number of state jobs into the total state budget, you would think that taxpayers are paying $270,000 per job. Of course they are not. Why? Because a big chunk of the state budget pays for things that have nothing to do with state jobs (local aid, etc). Same with the film tax credit. It does many other different and important things—all at the same time. It is a catalyst for new private infrastructure investment (sound stages, etc), it supports hundreds of local businesses preserve existing jobs, and it generates substantial payments not only to individual property owners, but also to state, county & local governments.

Taking all of these factors into account, the Massachusetts Film Office estimates that the approximate cost per new job is closer to $22,000. DOR has indicated that the median annual salary for Massachusetts residents working on films is $67,750.

But the most important fact of all is that the 3,177 new jobs created by the film tax credit, during the first three years of the program, have–according to DOR–come at zero cost to Massachusetts taxpayers through the end of FY 2008.

9. I heard that if Plymouth Rock Studios gets built, it could cost the state $3.5 billion over 30 years. Is that accurate?

Absolutely not. On June 11th of this year, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue reported that the proposed sound stages at Plymouth would actually generate $826 million in new state taxes over the period in question. And when DOR’s own 2009 ratio of economic output vs. net cost of the credit (6.2 to 1) is applied to the number of credits they predict will be earned by all the movies shooting at Plymouth Rock Studios during that same period, the total economic output generated in Massachusetts by movies shot at Plymouth Rock Studios will be more than $25 billion!

FOR A PRIMER ON TAX CREDITS, CLICK HERE.

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Welcome to Hollywood East (aka Massachusetts)

Massachusetts — and particularly Lowell — becoming a favorite of filmmakers

By Rachel R. Briere
Lowell Sun
July 6, 2009

LOWELL — There is a new economic revolution brewing in the Bay State, and once again Lowell is the epicenter.
In the past year, three movies were filmed in Lowell — The Invention of Lying (formerly known as This Side of the Truth), Four Single Fathers and Edge of Darkness.

Next week, Hollywood comes knocking again with The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.
Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Ricky Gervais romantic comedy, The Invention of Lying, due out in September, alone generated $2 million worth of economic impact in the region last summer.

According to the Massachusetts Film Office, direct spending since the 25 percent film tax credit began in 2006 has grown from $6 million in 2005 to $359 million last year. From 2006 to 2008, $167 million in film tax credits were issued.
However, this time around, the major motion picture The Fighter is set in the Mill City, centering around the life of hometown hero boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his relationship with his half brother and trainer, Dicky Eklund. Filming will take place in Lowell over the next several weeks, bringing not only the stars but also a crew of hundreds to Lowell, working on the day-to-day operations.

“I was talking to the producers and they expect to spend at least $3 million,” Belanger said of the Ward and Eklund biopic. “That’s including location fees, security, meals, hotel rooms — all that kind of stuff. It’s huge spending. Not to mention the people who are already here doing preliminary work.”

At the CVB annual breakfast in May, Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, talked of the birth of “Hollywood East” and the increasing number of projects taking place in the state, including a handful in the Merrimack Valley. The box-office hit Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James, filmed scenes inside the Burlington Mall, and the Nicholas Cage thriller Knowing shot parts in Westford at the Haystack Observatory.
“I don’t think Paul Tsongas would ever dream, when he was revitalizing the mills and historic buildings, that Lowell would be a movie magnet,” Paleologos said, referring to the former U.S. senator and late Lowell native who is credited with starting the revitalization of the city.

It will only get bigger and more lucrative for the state when Plymouth Rock Studios opens its doors next year. The state-of-the-art facility will include 14 sound stages, production offices, a theater, shops, restaurants and many other amenities to support the East Coast’s growing entertainment industry and lure movie executives away from the Walk of Fame.

The burgeoning trade has already created a niche market. Boston residents Jeff and Rachel Coveney recently created Boston Movie Tours after taking a similar tour on their honeymoon in Hawaii. The company offers a bus and walking tour leaving Boston Common and making stops at various locations made famous in movies and television shows. Belanger said the CVB is interested in starting a similar tour in Greater Lowell.

“If you remember School Ties, Danas Market in downtown Lowell had a major part in the movie, and with (The Invention of Lying) and The Fighter, we can certainly put something together,” she said.

The buzz surrounding The Fighter is also helping local businesses. Wahlberg has been spotted twice dining at Cobblestones of Lowell, most recently last Friday. Owner Scott Plath was amused at the fervor the actor created. “People were texting and calling all their friends to tell them,” he said.

Last year, Gervais filmed a scene with actress Jennifer Garner at the classy downtown institution, and Plath’s customers are constantly quizzing him on when the stars will be back. Plath also boasts a wall of black-and-white photos of a number of celebrities who have dined at his establishment since he opened it 15 years ago, including Jessica Simpson, Barry Manilow and Ray Romano.

Plath said the anticipation of possibly rubbing elbows with a celebrity brings people out even during a weak economy. However, he believes it’s not just dollars and cents that matter with the recent onslaught of Hollywood activity.

“Movies shot in Lowell are absolutely great for us,” he said. “It does stimulate activity and gets people out to celebrate, but more importantly it serves a bigger picture — if Hollywood is willing to shoot three movies in Lowell in a year, we must live in a great place. That’s the way I see it. We should be proud of Lowell and to have these outsiders see it that way.”

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A fighting shot; Filmmaker’s story of Lowell boxing greats garners star power on way to big screen

By Sonya Vartabedian
Newburyport Daily News
Features Editor

July 03, 2009

It was the start of a comeback for Lowell boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. But you could also say it was the start of a whole new path for Keith Dorrington.

Ward, a former Golden Gloves champ whose career had plummeted, was returning to the ring in the late 1990s with his older half-brother, Dick Ecklund, a one-time contender just released from prison on drug-related crimes, as his trainer. Around the same time, Dorrington was looking to leave behind a life on the road as head of international sales for FedEx, a job that saw him traveling the world. A closet filmmaker since he was a kid, Dorrington would spend his nights in hotel rooms writing screenplays and yearning to break into Hollywood.

When Dorrington learned that Ward, under Ecklund’s watchful eye and direction, was preparing to fight again, he saw the makings of a great story.

Dorrington began filming in 1999. He initially focused on Ecklund, a former opponent of Sugar Ray Leonard who became the subject of the HBO documentary “High on Crack Street” in 1995, and the fallen fighter’s efforts to rebuild his life.
The story quickly grew into one of two working-class brothers with prize-fighting dreams.

Dorrington, who runs the production company Edgartown Ventures with his partner and girlfriend, Leslie Varrelman, out of her Newburyport home, crafted a documentary about the boxing brothers, “Not Over Till The Count of 10.” From there, he turned it into a short film.

Now, that short has become the basis for the feature-length film, “The Fighter,” which starts shooting this month in Lowell starring Mark Wahlberg (“The Departed”) as Ward, Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight”) as Ecklund and Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”) as their mother.

When the film, which is slated for release in 2011 (although there’s talk it’ll be out sooner), hits the screen, Dorrington will get the “Story By” credit, and he and Varrelman will be listed as executive producers.

“I just knew, I had the feeling inside,” Dorrington said of his initial hopes for the film. “Here (Ecklund) was training his brother for a dream he threw away.

“… There are so many layers to these guys, and they’re so interesting. So many people can relate to them. There are so many family dynamics.”

The road to major motion picture was not without its hurdles. Before “The Fighter” was bought by Paramount Pictures, which has since sold the production rights to Relativity Media, Dorrington and Varrelman shopped it around as an independent film, working with Scout Productions.

Among the first people they marketed the film to back in 2004 were Boston brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. Varrelman said the Wahlbergs wanted to make the film for HBO, but the project quickly mushroomed from a $5 million independent to a $100 million feature film and garnered interest from the major production houses.

From the get-go, Dorrington saw Mark Wahlberg in the role of Ward.

“He’s been living this role for 40 years,” Dorrington said. “I think he sees this as his Oscar winner. He’s had as much tenacity for getting this made as Micky had in the ring.” Dorrington said his own upbringing — he grew up in Billerica and knew Ward and Ecklund through his own older brother — gave him an insider’s perspective on the boxers and allowed him to get at the heart of the story, which at times delves into the “shady side of the boxing world.”

“There’s a real code of ethics in these towns like Lowell and Billerica,” he said. “If you haven’t grown up in it, you wouldn’t be able to work with them.”

Dorrington did all the filming, directing and producing himself and oversaw the editing. He followed Ward and Ecklund through training sessions — sitting on a spit bucket with wheels to film their every move in the ring and following them in his car on training runs. He trekked to the gym around midnight to film a dream sequence using an old industrial light.

He researched their childhood, spending time with their mother and got to see how a young Ward looked up to his older brother and essentially lost his way, giving up fighting after Ecklund went to prison. He studied old films of the brothers’ past fights, incorporating them into his own project.

And his camera rolled as Ward won his first six fights back in the ring by knockout, setting the stage for him to later capture the WBU Light Welterweight title and take on Arturo Gatti in a trilogy of fights starting in 2002 that is considered the best boxing series of the century.
“The whole thing appealed to the studios not just as a sports story, but as a comeback, redemption story of these poor Irish guys who come from nothing,” said Varrelman, who left her job in private investment firms for the entertainment industry to launch Edgartown Ventures in 2004. “It’s got everything Hollywood likes.”

In selling the story to Paramount, Dorrington said he wasn’t just handing it off to the highest bidder. He wanted to ensure not only Ward and Ecklund were rewarded financially down the road, but that he would stay involved in the final product.
He hopes the movie succeeds in showing the “likable side” of Ward and Ecklund.

“The film deals with what motivates them, what’s behind them,” he said.

Dorrington said while he is hesitant to spend time on the set this summer watching the filming, he is confident the right team has been assembled to turn what he started into something even better. He’s anxious to see the final cut.

“They’ll fictionalize it,” he said. “It’s going to be real raw and gritty, good and bad. It’s not going to be this fluff.”
One-Two Punch Fundraiser

Keith Dorrington’s 2001 documentary on Lowell boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his half-brother and trainer Dick Ecklund that is the basis for soon-to-be-filmed feature film “The Fighter” will be screened Thursday, July 16, at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport’s Market Square.
The screening is a fundraiser for the 2009 Newburyport Documentary Film Festival. The award-winning “Elegy for the Elswick Envoy” will also be shown.
Dorrington and his Edgartown Ventures partner Leslie Varrelman will participate in a question-and-answer session following the screening. The night will end with a private reception with complimentary pizza at Not Your Average Joe’s at the Firehouse.

The fundraiser starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call the Firehouse at 978-462-7336 or visit www.firehouse.org. For more on the Documentary Film Festival, visit www.newburyportfilmfestival.org.

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No Lie: Mill City Shines in Gervais Movie Trailer

By Jennifer Myers
Lowell Sun
June 28, 2009

LOWELL — It is only two minutes and sixteen seconds long, but it is all there: La Boniche, The Dubliner, Market Street, Central Street, the Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank, the unmistakable sign of the Athenian Corner restaurant.

Lowell on film.

Last spring, the Mill City became Hollywood East as British comedian Ricky Gervais and crew, including Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K., Stephanie March and Philip Seymour Hoffman, descended upon the downtown. The film, then called This Side of the Truth, is now named The Invention of Lying.

The movie’s trailer was officially released Friday, giving the world its first glimpse of the tale that takes place in a world where lying does not exist. Gervais’ and Garner’s characters, Mark and Jennifer, are having their first date in a scene shot in La Boniche on May 5 of last year. Her cell phone rings.

“I’m with him right now,” she says. “Seems nice. A bit fat.”

“She is way out of your league,” the waiter tells Gervais.

“No, I won’t be sleeping with him tonight,” Garner continues to her friend on the phone.

“Ooh,” groans Gervais.

His life changes when he discovers how to fib, a tremendous advantage in a world where no one else knows of the existence of, and therefore would never suspect, a lie.

Sitting at the bar at The Dubliner, in a scene shot in mid-April of last year, Gervais tests out his new ability to lie on Louis C.K.

“I’m black,” he says.

“I knew it,” answers C.K.

“I’m an Eskimo,” Gervais says.

“Fantastic,” says C.K.

“I’m a one-armed German space explorer,” Gervais says.

“When’s your launch date?” asks C.K.

Other scenes included in the trailer include Gervais banking at the Lowell Five on John Street, walking down Central Street and talking to March on Market Street in front of the Athenian Corner.

Ted Panagiotopoulos, owner of the Athenian Corner said it’s “kind of a neat little thing.”

“I know they had covered up the sign and called it just ‘The Restaurant’ because the theme of the movie was that everything was kind of plain,” he added. “It’s kind of neat to go up to the big screen and see a place that your family owns and that you grew up in, even if it’s just for a split second.”

“I can’t say how excited I am,” gushed Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, when told yesterday morning that the trailer had been released. “The filming really had a huge impact on people here in the downtown and I know that people will be really proud to be from Lowell when they see this.”
The film, which also stars Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill and Christopher Guest, will be released on Sept. 25. Belanger is working hard to wrangle a premiere in Lowell. If that does not pan out, she promises there will at least be a screening and big party.

“I am talking to Nick Paleologos (director of the Massachusetts Film Office) every week,” she said. “Our goal is to do some sort of premiere or advance screening at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium (which doubles as a casino in the movie), but if that does not work out our Plan B is to use the (Showcase) Cinema and do a big event out there.”

Belanger added that a lot of locals, who worked as extras, are itching to discover if they made it onto the big screen, or were left on the cutting room floor. Belanger included.

“I was an extra in the wedding scene,” she said. “Even if it is only my arm in the scene, I’ll know.”

Other notable extras include Tsongas Arena General Manager Craig Gates and some of the staff from the Old Court.

In an interview with The Sun last year, Gervais, who co-wrote the movie with his partner Matt Robinson, said Lowell was chosen as the backdrop for two reasons: the tax credits offered by the state for filmmakers and because “it looks so good on film.”

“There is no town like it,” he said. “On the face of it, it looks like what you imagine a typical American town to be, but different. So it’s just perfect. It’s really got a lot of character.”

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YouTube: Trailer for INVENTION OF LYING – opens 10/2/09


INVENTION OF LYING, shot in Massachusetts in 2008, opens in theaters nationwide on September 25, 2009.

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THE PROPOSAL IS NUMBER ONE!

Proposal Ad
MFO full page Variety ad saluting THE PROPOSAL (made in Massachusetts) for being the number one movie in America during the week ending June 21, 2009. THE PROPOSAL joins a string of pictures shot in the Bay State–since THE DEPARTED won the Academy Award for Best Picture–which have soared to the top of the national box-office.

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Zoo’ lands stars

By Inside Track
Boston Herald
June 24, 2009

Adam Sandler
Actor Adam Sandler flashes the peace sign to his fans during a break at the second day of filming for GROWN UPS at the Pilgrim Church in Southborough, Mass.

Word from the Left Coast is that Adam Sandler, Cher, Sly Stallone, Jon Favreau and Judd Apatow will voice animals in Kevin James’ “The Zookeeper,” which will shoot at the Franklin Park Zoo in October.

The funny flick, which sounds like a cross between “Dr. Doolittle” and “Cyrano de Bergerac” is about a lowly zookeeper – surprise! – who can’t win the heart of his beloved (Rosario Dawson) until his furry charges start talking and giving him love advice.

Sandler, who is with James filming “Grown Ups” on the North Shore, will be the voice of a capuchin monkey, and Cher will be a giraffe. Favreau will lend his voice to a bear, Stallone is a lion and Apatow is an elephant, Variety reported yesterday. Peanuts all around!

Chris Rock
GROWN UPS star Chris Rock showing his face outside of Woodman’s in Essex where the buddy comedy also starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and David Spade, is filming this week (fried clams for everyone!) . . .

Photos by Kevin Ma (Sandler) and Patrick Whittemore (Rock).

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Hollywood comes to Canton: Actress stays close to home

By CONSTANCE GORFINKLE
The Patriot Ledger
June 23, 2009

CANTON — Cindy Lentol puts one in mind of Lee Remick, the all-American beauty from Quincy who graced the screen several decades ago in such superb films as “A Face in the Crowd,” “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Blond, blue-eyed and possessing a dazzling smile, Lentol may resemble Remick, but her outlook on their shared profession is very different from that of her predecessor. Remick was groomed to be a movie star in a system that overtook a performer’s life, from where she lived – inevitably Hollywood – to the kinds of roles she played and the image she was supposed to project, on and off the screen.

In sharp contrast, 30-something Lentol is an independent contractor, living where she chooses – Canton – and running her own career, from a leading role in a 15-minute short to a small part in the multimillion-dollar “The Departed,” alongside such A-list actors as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. She fills out her resume with voiceover work, commercials, industrial films and modeling for print media.

During an interview at the Barnes & Noble café in Braintree, she says she’s rarely unemployed, which isn’t surprising, particularly because the film industry has changed profoundly, mainly in its decentralization.

As in other parts of the country, Massachusetts is vigorously wooing moviemakers. Film companies are sprouting up all over the state, and at least three state-of-the-art studio complexes are in various stages of development, in Weymouth, Plymouth and Boston. That means – when all these entities are up and running – filmmakers won’t have to go back to California to shoot interiors or do all the post-production work that a movie requires.

Besides the lavish accommodations, the state has put out the welcome mat for producers by offering them tempting tax incentives that over the past few years have resulted in many major motion pictures being shot here. One of those films, playing in theaters now, is the romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” in which Lentol portrays one of the girlfriends opposite Matthew McConaughey.

A professional performer for the past 20 years, Lentol came to Massachusetts – by way of Connecticut, Ohio and California – a decade ago because her husband was establishing his business in Braintree.

“It’s been a good move,” she says, referring not only to the fact that it has been a good place to raise her two children, but also to the fact that her career has thrived over the past 10 years. For a while she’d had a dual career path, aiming toward graphic design as well as performing. But the latter took the lead when she found herself “going to auditions during my lunch hour.”

In talking to Lentol one doesn’t get the impression that she’s a driven diva focused only on a successful career. Very involved in her children’s lives, she intersperses her film gigs with responsibilities at their school. Hers is a 9-to-5 profession when it comes to the big movies she appears in, most recently “The Company Men,” a drama about three corporate types trying to survive a recession. Being directed by John Wells (“ER,” “Southland”) and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Ben Affleck, the film is still being shot in the Greater Boston area.

“In my scene I’m hosting an upscale dinner party in South Boston, and one of my guests is Tommy Lee Jones.” At that point, Lentol brings out her cell phone, on which there’s a picture of her and Jones strolling down a Boston street. Another photo is of her and McConaughey.

She also recently had a role in a television pilot starring Donnie Wahlberg and Brian Dennehy. Scheduled to air on TNT, “Bunker Hill” could become a series that would be shot in Boston. But Lentol doesn’t seem to be counting on that. She’s actually more fired up about a couple of shorts that recently generated a lot of interest at the ninth annual Chlorudis Film Festival held at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge.

In “Well-Founded Concerns,” a timely piece about a couple of germaphobes caught up in a world-wide plague, which won First Place for Best Short Film, she plays one of the germaphobes. In the other film, “Mind the Gap,” which won second place for Audience Favorite, Lentol portrays a school counselor trying to help a girl traumatized by her father’s involvement in a fatal mass-transit accident.

These two films, only about 15 minutes long each and shot over single weekends, afford her what the blockbusters don’t – the opportunity to create characters whom she describes as “organic, people who are true to themselves.” Indeed, her beauty is played down in both these films, a sharp contrast to her flirtatious stewardess in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.”

Lentol represents the new era in filmmaking. The goal isn’t always to become a star. Sometimes it’s simply to enjoy what you’re doing. “I love making movies,” she says.

But she also loves going home to Canton after work. When Lee Remick was seeking a film career, she had to go west. In Lentol’s case: “Hollywood has come to me.”

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Film studios don’t see rivalry, yet

By D.C. Denison
Boston Globe
June 20, 2009

They are unlikely costars, just 33 miles apart on Massachusetts’ South Shore: two ambitious plans for film studios. Plymouth Rock Studios wants to build a production complex in South Plymouth; the International Studio Group is proposing a studio on the former naval air base in South Weymouth.

The two projects could be rivals, competing for film projects that both are predicting will come to the Bay State. But after Thursday’s announcement that the South Weymouth studio plans to break ground in November, giving it an early lead in the race toward completion, developers for both projects and the town officials who have been working with them are still saying there will be plenty of business for both.

Susan Kay, mayor of Weymouth, said she’s not keeping score on which town is ahead. “I don’t see us as being in competition. It’s such a new industry, there’s plenty of room for both of us,’’ she said.

Melissa Arrighi, acting town manager of Plymouth, said she’s hoping that both projects get developed. “I’m interested in anything that will stimulate this economy,’’ she said. “I don’t have the expertise to know if there’s room for both, but I think whoever secures a site and gets up and running first has an advantage, and we’re aggressively moving forward to make the Plymouth Rock Studios plan a reality.’’

Lee Hartmann, Plymouth’s director of planning and development, said, “I’m not really looking at what’s going on in Weymouth. As a town, we’re committed to making sure our project works.’’

This week’s bullish announcement concerning the South Weymouth project came shortly after the state refused, earlier this month, to provide $50 million in bonds for infrastructure work at the Plymouth project. The Massachusetts

Executive Office of Administration and Finance said state economic specialists determined that the net revenue from Plymouth Rock Studios wouldn’t be enough to cover annual payments on the $50 million bond. “That was only a minor setback,’’ Arrighi said. “There are other avenues for funding, and we’re pursuing those aggressively.’’

“We were disappointed on the government funding, but we are still hopeful that we can find ways to work with the Commonwealth to look for subsidies and offsets on our infrastructure costs,’’ said David Kirkpatrick, cofounder of Plymouth Rock Studios.

He said the two projects in close proximity could create a critical mass that would help both. “There are a lot of good Italian restaurants in the North End, and together they make a great dining destination,’’ he added. “We’re still hopeful that together we can create an ecosystem. . . . We’re staying positive moving forward.’’

The South Weymouth facility will be a $147 million motion-picture complex on 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The 600,000-square-foot facility for movies, television shows, video games, and other programs, will be part of SouthField, a proposed minicity on the shuttered air base.

The Weymouth project is also waiting for approval by state legislators of a 20 percent tax credit on construction costs.

Plymouth Rock Studios would be a $282 million project with 14 soundstages initially, with plans to expand to as many as 28 stages. Two back lots and a pair of production buildings are also part of the plans. A performing arts school, vocational classrooms, cultural and visitors centers, and a screening theater are also on the drawing board.

D.C. Denison can be reached at denison@globe.com

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Cruise, Diaz, and more may be heading to Hub

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Boston Globe
June 19, 2009

Cruise

Hollywood’s infatuation with the Hub is getting serious. Very serious.

A slew of screen idols are about to descend on Boston to shoot new movies, including, we’re told, Tom Cruise. That’s right, the world’s most famous movie star is in serious talks to shoot his latest flick here starting in September.

Called “Wichita,’’ the action comedy would be the biggest budget movie ever to film here, and Cruise and costar Cameron Diaz could be hanging around the Hub for up to three months. The film, one of several high-profile projects Cruise had considered, will be directed by James Mangold, whose credits include “Walk the Line’’ and “Girl, Interrupted.’’

Not much is known about the script, which is being burnished now by Mangold and “Shutter Island’’ scribe Laeta Kalogridis, but Variety previously reported that the story centers on a single woman who meets a mysterious man on a blind date, and he turns out to be a handsome secret agent.

Since the prospective blockbuster stars Cruise, it will, of course, have several high-octane action sequences, and word is producers have already approached state officials about securing permits to close certain roads and bridges during shooting. We’re also told that a location scout has been in the city for a few weeks checking out various neighborhoods.

It remains to be seen if Greater Boston has enough tradespeople to satisfy the demands of the many movies set to shoot here.

In addition to the Cruise pic, there’s “The Fighter,’’ director David O. Russell’s biopic of Lowell-bred brawler “Irish’’ Micky Ward, which starts shooting in the Mill City July 6. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

Then there’s “Furry Vengeance,’’ a family comedy starring Brendan Fraser and “High School Musical 3: Senior Year’’ costar Matt Prokop, who plays a city kid forced to move to rural Oregon with his dad. The movie rolls early next month.

Later in July, Kevin James and Rosario Dawson will take up temporary residence at the Franklin Park Zoo to shoot “The Zookeeper.’’ The movie stars James as a likable zookeeper who’s unlucky with the ladies, so he consults with the critters. Yes, the animals talk in the film, which makes us wonder if Little Joe is busy learning English. (By the way, the Franklin Park Zoo will keep its name in the movie.)

Finally, in August, Ben Affleck gets behind the camera again, following up “Gone Baby Gone’’ with “The Town,’’ a movie based on Chuck Hogan’s book “Prince of Thieves.’’ The award-winning novel is about a Charlestown thief, played by Affleck, who falls hard for the bank manager whose branch he and his crew just robbed. Word is Rebecca Hall, who was in “Frost/Nixon,’’ will play the pretty bank manager.

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Paul Giamatti could warm up to ‘Stooges’ role

By Laura Raposa
Boston Herald
June 20, 2009

Giamatti
Photo by Mark Garfinkel

NANTUCKET – Would Paul Giamatti consider replacing Sean Penn as Larry Fine in the Farrelly Brothers upcoming “Three Stooges” flick? Soitenly!

The Emmy Award-winning actor, who is here at the Nantucket Film Festival with his dark comedy “Cold Souls,” revealed that, as a kid, he thought Moe, Larry and Curly were scary and creepy. But he’s come to appreciate their comedy in middle age.

“They were always so dark and grim,” winced Paul G., who won an Emmy last year for his role as the dark and grim John Adams in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries. “And Moe was this ancient man with a little boy’s haircut. But Larry? I don’t get Larry. He’s strange. He’s sort of the blank guy in the middle.”

Peter and Bobby Farrelly thought they’d finally cast their long-awaited comedy with Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio del Torro until Penn pulled out this week for his self-imposed yearlong hiatus. But coincidentally the Farrellys and Giamatti are all on Nantucket for the rainy film festival so some impromptu casting may happen!

Bobby Farrelly told the Track yesterday that Giamatti would be “a sensational Larry.”
“We’d love to have Paul,” he said.

However, Peter said the duo “have an offer out to someone else.”

The Rhode Island homeys have been working on their “Stooges” script for 10 years and were set to begin filming it in August in Massachusetts. However, the Penn departure may push them back to October or next spring.

“We were devastated to lose Sean,” Peter said, “but we can’t blame him for choosing his family over our film.”

Penn pulled out of “Stooges” and a second project to spend more time with his family after months of marital turmoil between him and his wife, Robin Wright Penn .

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Film complex plans taking shape

Boston Globe
By Casey Ross
June 19, 2009

A California studio developer yesterday launched plans to build a $147 million motion-picture complex on 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. International Studio Group said it plans to break ground in November and by next spring will be in full construction of a 600,000-square-foot facility for movies, television shows, video games, and other programs.

“What we’re hoping to do is help build up the entire entertainment industry in the state,’’ said Allan Kassirer, a principal with International Studio. “If the state remains committed to it, there is no reason we can’t grow high-paying jobs and retain talented young people at local colleges.’’

The 12-stage studio will be part of SouthField, a proposed mini-city on the shuttered air base that the Patrick administration this week said would probably be the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar road construction project intended help the development get going. ISG’s financial partner in the deal is LNR Property Corp., which is the master developer of the larger project.

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Essex gains from filming ‘Grown Ups’ seen at $1 million

Gloucester Daily Times
By Cameron Kittle
June 19, 2009

ESSEX — It’s been three weeks since the star-studded cast of “Grown Ups” arrived in Essex to begin filming at Centennial Grove, and the town is not only buzzing with enthusiasm, but thriving on the added business opportunities as well.

Rumors of celebrity sightings at local spots are circulating daily, including star Salma Hayek’s stop at Silly Goose Toy Store, confirmed by owner Diane Robinson.

The movie also stars Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Kevin James, and it has brought $150,000 directly to the town to rent Centennial Grove for filming. But merchants say the town’s gains extend far beyond that.

“The statistics are pretty astounding,” said Bob Coviello, owner of Main Street Antiques and member of the Essex Merchants Group. “The numbers are far more impressive than just the $150,000 paid to the town.”

Coviello estimates the movie will bring in close to $1 million locally by the time it’s finished, and Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki said that he has already seen a wide variety of benefits stemming from the movie.

The Manchester Essex Little League received $25,000 for improvements to the Field of Dreams, the Essex Musical Festival took in $6,000 to relocate its annual event to Memorial Park, and the Essex Youth Commission Summer Camp program picked up a $3,000 donation on top of the $5,000 it was given to relocate.

Coviello said the crews bought about $20,000 worth of antiques from shops throughout the town for their sets in the cottage, and have spent additional money for lumber and food at local restaurants. But the flowing river of money doesn’t stop there, he said.

“Then there’s the excitement effect,” Coviello said. “It draws people here; it draws more tourists and more visitors. Every time somebody says Essex in reference with the movie, it’s advertising for the town.”

Meanwhile, each group that usually stays at Centennial Grove in the summer has received $1,000 to live elsewhere; the Council on Aging, the Essex Shipbuilders Athletic Association and the Manchester Essex Junior Hornets football team were all given $1,000 for relocation purposes.

The movie has also covered the construction of two basketball courts on Centennial Grove: a small one-net court near the cottage and a two-net court in the center of the area. New gravel has been added to the parking lot by the baseball field. The docks by the lake have been renovated and will be left in better condition. An underground electrical line has been installed that might be used for future events at the Field of Dreams.

“There has been quite a residual impact with funds that have been spent in the community,” Zubricki said. “There were a lot of opportunities that did not come to the town per se, but they’re going to the community and businesses.”

All of this without mentioning the renovations to Grove Cottage, which Coviello said is “a palace now.” The lakefront treasure will be left with a new kitchen, new bathrooms and the proper ventilation for a heating or cooling system yet to be installed.

“It’s difficult to quantify everything, but if you bring a few hundred people to the town it’s going to help all the local businesses,” said Selectman Mark Lynch.

“Grown Ups” is one of the many movie projects that have popped up around the state in the past few years, due mainly to legislation that allows any motion picture to claim tax credits on their expenditures.

From 1999 to 2005, Massachusetts saw 10 films produced in the state and gained $67 million over those seven years. In the three years since the tax credit act has been in effect, from 2006 to 2008, the state has been the site of 26 films and gained $545 million, according to the Massachusetts Film Office.

As a matter of comparison, the state received only 2 percent of the $140 million budget for “The Perfect Storm,” which was partly filmed in Gloucester in 1999, but an estimated 70 percent of the $42 million budget for “21,” which was filmed in Boston and Cambridge in 2007.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at gt_reporter@gloucestertimes.com

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

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YouTube: Trailer for SURROGATES – opens 9/25/09

SURROGATES, shot in Massachusetts in 2008, opens in theaters nationwide on September 25, 2009.

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