Sunday, January 20, 2008

Massachusetts Targets NM w/ Incentives, Job Training & CGI

From Boston's Patriot Ledger:
MASS. MARKET - Mass. film boom a challenge to local production crews

By JON CHESTO
The Patriot Ledger

...As you may have noticed, movies have been landing in Massachusetts at a near-breakneck pace since lawmakers sweetened the state’s tax incentives for the industry last summer.

The increase in production work has caused membership levels to soar in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 481, which represents many film workers in the area. Local 481 business manager Chris O’Donnell says the local will have about 575 members by the end of this month, up nearly 50 percent since the first round of state tax credits took effect two years ago.

But even with that growth, O’Donnell says it’s starting to get tough to provide enough local workers for all the productions slated to come here this year. He says he knows some union members who haven’t taken a vacation in nearly 18 months.

So leaders in the state’s once-struggling film industry now face a new challenge: adequately expanding the local work force to keep up with the newfound demand.

The problem, of course, is a good one to have. The state used to be fortunate if it landed one to three major motion pictures a year. And, in most cases, those crews just did a few weeks of location shooting here.

The climate started to change when the Legislature passed a set of tax breaks in late 2005, and movies like ‘‘The Game Plan’’ and ‘‘Gone Baby Gone’’ showed up in 2006 for extensive shooting. The change became far more pronounced last summer after lawmakers lifted a $7 million cap on the tax credits, and gave filmmakers the option to get rebates instead of selling the credits through a broker. Almost overnight, we had two or three movies shooting here at the same time.

The tax credit allowed production companies to get at least $22.5 million back if they spent $100 million in the state on a picture. While many other states have ratcheted up their own incentives, few are as generous as the tax package offered here. As a result, the state posted record levels of production work in 2007. Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, estimates that production companies spent at least $125 million last year, largely after the tax credit changes in July. And at least four major motion pictures will be shot here during the next few months, including Martin Scorsese’s ‘‘Shutter Island’’ and ‘‘The Surrogates,’’ a sci-fi flick starring Bruce Willis.

Now that Paleologos has successfully lobbied for the tax breaks, he’s focusing his attention on expanding the local work force. He’s working with union leaders such as O’Donnell, local colleges and local film industry executives to address the issue.

Film producers have a natural incentive to hire local crews. By keeping it local, they can save money on transportation and hotel expenses that add up quickly when workers are imported from another state.

Paleologos says the numerous colleges in the area provide a key source of potential workers, and industry leaders plan to consider new ways to connect young graduates with the movie companies that need them. O’Donnell says he is planning to closely study New Mexico’s workforce training program, which has added hundreds of workers to that state’s film industry during the past several years to accommodate the growth seen after the state passed its own film tax credits.

John MacNeil, president of the Moody Street Pictures production company in Waltham, says this state has benefited to some extent from the writers’ strike, which has halted most TV productions in California and prompted many workers to travel across the country to find work in New England.

But MacNeil says more needs to be done to tailor local college curricula and expand internship opportunities to ensure that budding craftspeople can get the training they need to be a professional gaffer, makeup artist or camera operator.

David Kirkpatrick, one of the lead developers of the Plymouth Rock Studios project, says the studio complex that his company wants to eventually build in South Plymouth would include a section devoted to training that would help meet the state’s growing demand for crews.

Kirkpatrick also has more immediate needs, as he is planning to launch a computer-generated imagery studio in Plymouth next month. Kirkpatrick and his colleagues have already started to reach out to local colleges in Southeastern Massachusetts to help build a local CGI workforce that can develop visual effects for movies and TV shows.
...
Read more at: MASS. MARKET - Mass. film boom a challenge to local production crews

No comments: