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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 20:27

New England Region

Written by  NAthan Hoturoa Gray
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It’s been another bumper year for the New England Region, which continues to field a spate of the most highly financed Hollywood blockbusters. While some New England states continue to eclipse previous financial records, others have had a quiet year as their incentive programs continue to prove their worth. P3Update looks at both the bigger and smaller players on the New England circuit to see how they’re facing the challenges of the current economy.

CONNECTICUT

The Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media is the primary contact for statewide film, television and media production. George Norfleet, the director of the Office, states, “It is our mission to demonstrate that, in addition to great locations, the Connecticut Office of Film provides a range of indispensable support services targeted specifically to the digital media and motion picture industries.” Indeed, with an online Production Resource Directory and Location Gallery, the Film Office serves as a clearinghouse for information, economic incentives and services that make Connecticut an ideal production location. “These services, along with our successful tax incentives, offer compelling reasons for producers to select our state for their next television or film production,” adds Norfleet.

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With three tax credit programs –– for production, infrastructure and digital animation ––   Connecticut’s Digital Media and Motion Picture Tax Credit offers a transferable tax credit equal to 30 percent of qualified digital media and film expenses incurred in the state at all stages of production, and with a minimum spend of $100,000. “To date, this combination of services and incentives has resulted in the relocation of Fox’s Blue Sky Studios to the state, as well as three talk shows from NBC and infrastructure expansions, bringing more jobs to the campuses of longtime corporate citizens ESPN and WWE,” says Norfleet.

Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, recently announced plans for a new production facility in Stamford that will potentially create 150 to 200 jobs. “As a company based in the Tri-State area, NBC Universal is enthusiastic about expanding our footprint in the region,” says Wallach. “The tax credit program fosters additional public/private investments in production infrastructure that Connecticut can use to help the state through the current economic crisis.”

In an effort to further grow the state’s film industry, the Film Industry Training Program (FITP) has been a great success. “By establishing a skilled in-state film workforce, the training program provides an additional incentive for producers to select Connecticut as a location for film and television,” Norfleet explains. “To date, over 500 students have graduated from the program.”

MASSACHUSETTS

Hosting recent studio hits like Shutter Island and The Proposal, Massachusetts has been attracting some seriously big-time Hollywood features. With $6 million secured in 2005, $72 million in 2006, $152 million in 2007 and $452 million in 2008, the Commonwealth has been blitzing the cinematic scene. “2009 was the second consecutive year direct spending on film production in Massachusetts topped $400 million, bringing the four-year total since 2006 to over a billion dollars,” says Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “More than 90 percent of that new spending can be directly credited to Governor Deval Patrick, who, back in 2007, filed and signed the current tax credit law.”

Massachusetts’ expanding creative economy has been forged by a bipartisan film tax-credit law allowing studios, producers and filmmakers shooting at least half of their movie or spending at least half of their production budget in the state to be eligible for a tax credit equal to 25 cents for every new dollar of spending they bring to Massachusetts. With no caps and only a $50,000 minimum spend, the benefits of the film tax credit are extended to thousands of locally based, small independent and documentary filmmakers helping to keep the economy buoyant on top of the enormous influx of cash secured via Hollywood blockbusters.

OnLocation_Mass.Washington_Stature_-_Boston_Public_Garden“In January, Shutter Island became the fifth Massachusetts-made film since 2006 to open as the number-one movie in the country, joining The Proposal, [Paul Blart:] Mall Cop, 21 and The Game Plan,” states Paleologos. “Furthermore, during the week of June 25th, two more Massachusetts-made movies, Knight and Day and Grown Ups, opened nationally in the same week –– another first.” Massachusetts is also the only state in the country that allows filmmakers to take their credits either as a direct rebate at 90 percent of the face value (guaranteed) or to sell them at market rate –– whichever is more favorable. In general, filmmakers tend to sell their credits as it’s faster than filing for a tax return that only comes back at 90 cents at the end of each financial year. Plus, beginning with the start of pre-production and continuing for a period of 12 months, filmmakers are eligible for 100-percent sales-tax exemption on any production-related items purchased in the state.

“Massachusetts-made movies still slated to open in 2010 include The Town, directed by Ben Affleck; The Zookeeper, starring Kevin James; The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin; and The Company Men, directed by John Wells,” adds Paleologos. “Anna Farris and Chris Evans are also in Boston shooting a new romantic comedy entitled What’s Your Number? for New Regency Pictures, [and] several more productions [are] planning to shoot in the state in the second half of 2010.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE  

Towering mountains, pristine lakes, rolling green farmlands and quaint fishing villages offer just a small taste of the charm of New Hampshire, a nature’s paradise replete with icy tundra and breathtaking foliage. With hundreds of white-steeple churches, the quintessential New England township blends well with its quick-paced urban settlements, giving filmmakers a range of options from colonial times to post-war Americana. Add to that historic mills, working-class factories and high-tech centers, and you have a myriad of location options –– all within an hour’s drive.

The small state is nestled amongst some of the bigger players on the filmmaking circuit, and their crews are attuned to the sort of specialized work that New Hampshire attracts. While the state doesn’t actually have an incentive tax-credit program as such, most crew members can usually find work in the host of smaller projects drawn to the state, along with any work spilling over from major centers like Boston, which is just an hour away. The community tends to weave itself together to make sure everyone is involved. “Even while there are numerous studio projects shooting just to the south of us, New Hampshire has really carved out its niche as a location with a relaxed, creative atmosphere,” says Matthew Newton, director of the New Hampshire Film & Television Office. “We’ve become a bit of a haven for independent filmmaking.”

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In addition to the state’s offering of diverse, easy-access locations, there are no sales, personal income or use taxes on top of discounted hotel rates for productions. With no permits required, productions can be staged hassle-free, especially with New Hampshire’s large, experienced crew base and an exceptional network of filmmakers.

 

Just four hours from New York City, the New Hampshire Film & Television Office (as part of the New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources) is dialed into numerous state government agencies and associations, making it a one-stop shopping affair for an entire production. “The State Film Office partners with productions for real,” says Buzz McLaughlin, executive producer of The Sensation of Sight, starring David Strathairn and Ian Somerhalder. Ernest Thompson, writer of On Golden Pond, has based his current film production company, Whitebridge Farm Productions, in New Hampshire where he’s also filming his latest project Time and Charge$. “I wouldn’t want to shoot anywhere else!” says Thompson.

RHODE ISLAND

At only 1,545 square miles, Rhode Island is renowned as the smallest state in the New England area, but with the greatest backlot. The state is blessed with a wide range of scenic cinematic locations, such as the extravagant capitol building in Providence that not only has some of the most elaborate interior decor for filming but provides a full range of administrative and authoritative connections to help ensure film projects progress seamlessly through all production phases. With quaint beaches, vibrant cities and colonial-styled townships, the Ocean State houses some of the most spectacular mansions in the world, with many perched majestically upon rugged cliffs pounded by surging white surf. Indeed, with only a 20-minute drive between locations, film productions can benefit temporally with big financial savings.

“In the big cities, you’re a number. In Rhode Island, you’re a neighbor!” says Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film & Television Office. The first New England state to offer a tax break currently provides a 25-percent transferable income-tax credit for all in-state spending. This tax credit even extends to the salaries of those working on the ground in Rhode Island. Additionally, 51 percent of film, video, commercial or game productions must be shot in-state to qualify, and currently there’s a $300,000 minimum spend under an annual cap of $15 million.

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Since the tax incentive program’s inception in 2005 (after the legislation was written by Feinberg himself), the state has attracted a huge range of films that have brought in over $250 million in recent years. Films shot in Rhode Island include 27 Dresses, starring Katherine Heigl; Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen; Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell; and Inkubus with Robert Englund. The state has also housed three seasons of the Peabody Award-winning Showtime series “Brotherhood,” Walt Disney Pictures’ Underdog, The Education of Charlie Banks, Tell Tale, Tanner Hall and the award-winning documentary Home Across Lands. “Currently in production we have the new ABC television series ‘Body of Proof,’ starring Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan, and the feature film Loosies, directed by Michael Corrente,” says Feinberg, who’s happy with the year’s progress. “Future [film] productions include Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman and the sports drama Paz.”

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2010 with so many creative endeavors coming out of the New England Region, and it is hoped that upcoming productions will continue to keep the next generation of filmmakers well catered for over the next decade.

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