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Thursday, 29 September 2011 14:45

New England: the Northeast Cornerstone

Written by  Nathan Hoturoa Gray
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Nestled in the northeastern corner of the United States is the New England Region, including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. While some states continue to excel, others are struggling in an intense cinematic showdown with the rest of the country to cement their slice of home as an ideal location choice. P3 Update takes a closer look at what this region is enticing filmmakers with.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

With hundreds of white-steeple churches, this quintessential New England township blends her everyday charms with historic mills, working-class factories and quick-paced urban settlements to give filmmakers many options that range from colonial times to post-war Americana. When you add the state’s high-tech centers with a healthy tonic of towering mountains, pristine lakes, rolling green farmlands and quaint fishing villages, you’ll have a myriad of locations to choose from –– all within an hour’s drive. 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. And 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. In fact, the state has become somewhat of a haven for independent filmmaking.

newengland_newhampshire_fall-nh-2“New Hampshire is still without a tax-credit program, although we now have a group of industry folks exploring this further,” states Matthew Newton, director of the New Hampshire Film & Television Office. “But, the lack of that incentive has put us at a disadvantage when it comes to feature films. And yet, we’ve seen an increase in smaller shoots — primarily photo shoots, cable documentaries and short films.” According to Newton, the Film Office is up nearly 25 percent in production inquiries from last year as they focus on promoting the state to advertising agencies and commercial production companies. “So, while the feature projects have dropped off a bit, we’re still staying very busy with everything else, and our crew base has expanded from last year with lots of people from Los Angeles looking to make their way back east.”

The small state is nestled amongst some of the bigger players on the filmmaking circuit, which adds to the allure of New England given that it’s so closely knit as a region. This means that there are always projects within reach. Just four hours from New York City, the New Hampshire Film & Television Office is dialled into numerous state-government agencies and associations, making it a one-stop shopping affair for an entire production. “There’s always a flurry of activity just south of us in Massachusetts, and we have a good deal of New Hampshire-based crew working on those projects,” says Newton. “And if New Hampshire folks are working, I’m happy.”

CONNECTICUT

The Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media is the primary contact for state wide film, television and media production, providing a range of indispensable support services targeted specifically to the digital media and motion picture industries. With an online Production Resource Directory and Location Library, the Film Office serves as a clearinghouse for information, economic incentives and services that make Connecticut an ideal production location.

Location Manager Michael Nickodem says that the Connecticut Office of Film Television & Digital Media offers unparalleled support, and he’s very complimentary of the spectacular location surroundings. “The state’s real attraction, however, is its people,” says Nickodem, who managed Connecticut locations for the Wes Craven film My Soul to Take. “Friendliness and enthusiasm are the norm, so when considering where to shoot, Connecticut should be at the top of everyone’s list.”

Such praise is echoed by Tracie Wilson, SVP of programming and development for NBCU’s Stamford Media Center. “Today, with 18 months of production under our belts, we are thrilled with our decision to relocate to Stamford,” says Wilson. “The continued support we receive from state and local officials, residents and the business community is astounding and we make every effort to maintain this relationship by utilizing local vendors and services.”

Currently, a 10-percent credit is available for minimum qualifying local spend of $100,000 to $500,000; 15 percent for expenditures of $500,000 to $1 million; and a 30-percent credit is available for expenditures greater than $1 million. “Productions must also now meet a 50-percent local principal-photography requirement or 50 percent of postproduction costs or spend not less than $1,000,000 in the state on postproduction costs to fulfil the tax credit’s requirements,” states Ed Ruggerio, tax credit administrator for the Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media. Minimum spend for an interactive Website is $500,000 per year.

“The Jerry Springer Show,” “The Steve Wilkos Show” and “Maury” are all shot in the film-friendly state along with the television series “The Big C,” “Are We There Yet?” and “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee.” Recent films shot in Connecticut include Kiss of the Damned, We the Peeples and the Cannes Palme d’Or-nominated We Need to Talk About Kevin. Producer Jeff Most, recently completed postproduction on the feature film Officer Down, which shot in the state. “Filming in Connecticut is definitely an experience I would happily recommend and one that I intend to gladly repeat,” says Most.

MASSACHUSETTS

newengland_mass_provincetown_church_tim-grafftmottAccording to recently appointed Massachusetts Film Office Director Lisa Strout, the state has become busy once again, with several majors in play at the same time. Here Comes the Boom (starring Salma Hayek and Kevin James) has recently wrapped while Ted (with Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg) and I Hate You, Dad (starring Adam Sandler and Leighton Meester) are currently shooting at locations around the Commonwealth, including Boston, Cape Cod and Salem. “This year’s Academy Awards also looked favorably on the films shot in Massachusetts, including Oscar nods for The Social Network, The Fighter and [Ben] Affleck’s The Town,” states Strout.

Massachusetts has become a tried-and-true location choice, with a bipartisan film tax-credit law that provides a 25-percent credit on payrolls, 25 percent on production, and an exemption on sales-and-use tax. Eligibility thresholds are low: A $50,000-minimum spend is required overall and, for the production credit, 50 percent of the total production cost or 50 percent of the principle photography days. With no caps and only a $50,000 minimum spend, the benefits of the film-tax credit are extended to small independent and documentary films, large-budget Hollywood blockbusters and everything in between. According to Strout, Massachusetts is servicing more productions than ever with its talent and postproduction pool and crew base, which is currently four-deep.

RHODE ISLAND

Blessed with a wide range of scenic cinematic locations, the smallest state in the New England area is renowned for having one of the greatest backlots. With quaint beaches, vibrant cities and colonial-styled townships, the Ocean State houses some of the most spectacular mansions in the world — many perched majestically upon rugged cliffs pounded by surging white surf. One also cannot bypass Providence’s extravagant capitol building replete with an elaborate interior decor for filming and a healthy range of administrative and authoritative connections to help ensure that film projects progress seamlessly through all phases of production.

newengland_rhodeisland_waterplace park in providenceThe Rhode Island Film Office 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, TV series, commercial or video game productions must be shot in-state to qualify, and there’s currently a $300,000-minimum spend under an annual cap of $15 million. Since the tax incentive program’s inception in 2005, the state has attracted a huge range of films that have brought in over $250 million in recent years. These films and TV projects include Hall Pass, 27 Dresses, The Proposal, Dan in Real Life, Tell Tale, Inkubus, Loosies, Showtime’s “Brotherhood” and ABC’s “Body of Proof.” The state has recently hosted the productions of the Farrelly brothers’ The Three Stooges and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton).
Given the ongoing challenge to attract films in this highly competitive America market, it’s good to see examples of crewmembers having the ability to cross state borders in the New England region to find work where jobs are more prevalent. There’s a lot to look forward to in the months to come, and it’s hoped that upcoming productions will continue to cater to the next generation of filmmakers well over the next decade.

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