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Massachusetts Film Industry
Win or lose, this year's Academy Awards belong to Massachusetts.

The Social Network, with eight nominations including Best Picture, taught the world how Facebook started here at Harvard. Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter performed an even greater feat — up for seven trophies including Best Picture, the portrayal of Lowell boxer brothers Dick and Micky Ward spotlighted parts of Massachusetts outside of Greater Boston. Then there's Jeremy Renner, whose work as Charlestown nihilist Jem in The Town earned a nom for Best Supporting Actor.

It's been one hell of a run since the legislature passed delicious movie tax-credit incentives in 2005. With 54 feature films shot here between 2006 and 2009, a bustling supporting industry was spawned: the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reported a tenfold wage increase for Massachusetts members; the Boston chapter of the Screen Actors Guild grew by nearly 30 percent; Teamsters more than tripled the amount of workers servicing the film industry here.

Now, though, it seems that Massachusetts is re-earning its old reputation as a dangerously political place to make movies, and Hollywood execs are heading for the hills. Film production here dipped by more than half in 2010. This year only two studio flicks are set to shoot, and next year's not looking much better.

Major players who attracted the magic have been sidelined in a game of full-contact political football. And the state's film office — the body that once brought marquee productions here — has been steadily marginalized, first declawed and markedly defunded, and finally folded into another department. For the first time in nearly a decade, the state doesn't even have a designated film commissioner.

So on Sunday night, party like the Sox won the World Series. Just be sure to take pictures, because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


On a sketchy day in the late 1970s, masked gunmen broke into an editing room on Stuart Street in downtown Boston. Brazenly crashing a major motion picture operation, the bandits liberated stacks of film reels to hold for ransom. The thieves, later determined to be Teamsters, soon discovered that their booty had no value. But that didn't stop them from bleeding the visiting Hollywood producers for more than $1 million in payoffs.

This wasn't the side plot of a bank heist flick. It's what really happened when The Brink's Job was shot here.

Federal charges were eventually filed against five Teamsters for their role in extorting producers of the movie. But the incident tarnished the local film industry.In his 2008 book, Big Screen Boston,Harvard Program Coordinator and film critic Paul Sherman wrote: "The shenanigans surrounding The Brink's Job forever overshadow the movie . . . 'Brink's Job' became Hollywood shorthand for 'Why would you ever want to shoot a movie in Boston and put up with that, you schmuck?' "

The Brink's affair also forced the formation of a body built to guard against future embarrassment: the Massachusetts Film Office (MFO).

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This story gets a lot of things right, but I have to take issue with a few things. First and foremost is the grossly misleading headline on the front page of the print edition of the Phoenix, "THE END? Behind the Massachusetts Film Industry's Epic Fail". This headline doesn't match the content of the story which ends on a positive note and seems like yet another example of slapping a negative headline on a story because "negative sells". There is nothing in the story to indicate that the film industry is coming to an end in Massachusetts.

The other point in the story that I take opposition to is the third paragraph of this story. Here are the sentences I take issue with and why:
"it seems that Massachusetts is re-earning its old reputation as a dangerously political place to make movies, and Hollywood execs are heading for the hills"
"This year only two studio flicks are set to shoot, and next year's not looking much better".
The sentiment in the first sentence that I quoted is outdated and simply not true. Back about 12 months ago when the continuation of the tax incentive was in question it would be accurate to say that Hollywood was staying away, but now the Governor has committed to keeping the tax incentive in place as it has been and Hollywood films are coming back to Mass. The proposition to do away with or cap the tax incentive was voted down by an enormous margin and the politician who was leading the charge to do away with the tax incentive was voted out of office. So the Massachusetts government is behind the Massachusetts film industry and Hollywood execs are looking to shoot here, not running from here.

My problem with the second quoted sentence is that it says that only 2 movies are scheduled to shoot in Mass this year and next year isn't looking any better. Well, so far we had a smaller film with Parker Posey shoot in its entirety on the Cape, TED with Mark Wahlberg has already done a couple days of shooting and will be in Mass through the end of July, the Kevin James film is starting up, and the talk is that there is an Adam Sandler film most likely shooting in Mass this summer and several other big studio films are currently scouting, so that sounds like significantly more than just two films. And next year? I have been working in the Massachusetts film industry for over 12 years and no one has ever, ever known what films will or won't be shooting here a full year away. If someone says that they haven't heard of any movies coming to Mass in 2012 that doesn't mean anything. We've never known that far in advance, except for rumors, even in the busy years after the tax incentive is passed. So to say that 2012 is not looking good is just ludicrous. No one can speak with any authority on how 2012 is looking for films shooting in Massachusetts.
Posted: February 24 2011 at 10:46 AM
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