Friday, November 07, 2008

Can the Hub sustain the Hollywood East machine?

Does Massachusetts have what it takes to become a big star in the film industry?

Beryl C.D. Lipton poses the question in a well-crafted feature in yesterday's Harvard Crimson called "Projected Benefits."

“There’s always been—not a love/hate relationship—but a push-and-pull between Hollywood and Boston,” says Paul Sherman, author of the book “Big Screen Boston,” to the Crimson. “There are obvious reasons that have made Boston not necessarily one of Hollywood’s favorite locations.”

In the arts feature, Lipton focuses on the economic viability of sustaining an industry that was almost non-existent two years ago until the 25 percent tax credit for in-state spending was enacted in 2006.

One reader points out a valid flaw in the "build it and they will come" mentality of luring filmmakers to the state. "What is the end game? If the incentives work and film flourishes in the state and infrastructure follows to sustain the boom, when do the taxpayers stop underwriting the project," questions Wiredeye.

The debate continues: "When and if that happens, why won't filmmakers abandon the state for another with continuing incentives?"

Also, CommonWealth Magazine did an excellent job deconstructing the economic ramifications of using the tax break to lure filmmakers in an article called "Subsidizing the stars."

Click here for the lowdown.


Rhea said...

You might not realize it right away, but there HAS been a film industry in Boston. I was president of the New England chapter of Women in Film & Video for a couple of years recently. The group is over 25 years old and supports women who work in film. Yes, virginia, Boston has a lot of women and men who work in film, although it has primarily taken the form of commercial work, independent and documentary work, and the occasional big-budget feature. There are also casting companies in Boston and technical companies. Check out the publication called Imagine. It's the New England film industry's newspaper.

Sam Baltrusis said...

Thanks Rhea. What are your thoughts on the tax breaks to attract big-budget filmmakers to Boston?

Rhea said...

I am all for the tax breaks as long as the expenditures of the movie companies balances out the breaks somewhat. I have heard talk that they don't, but I find that hard to believe. Otherwise, why would every state be competing for the movie business?

Sam Baltrusis said...

On paper, it's a no-brainer. More movies in the area means more economic stimulus.

However, if you look at states like Louisiana that offered a similar tax credit a few years back, it was costing the state more money than the film productions allegedly were bringing in.

In 2005, for example, the credits ended up costing Louisiana $50 million. Films did boost the economy there a bit but not enough to offset costs of the tax break.

To generate revenue, some film companies actually sell their tax credits to banks or insurance companies.

Unethical? Absolutely.

While I support the idea of luring quality films into the area, I believe there needs to be more scrutiny, especially from an economic perspective.

Anonymous said...

It pisses me off that taxpayers are subsidizing movies like "Pink Panther 2," and "The Women" and other films that are made in Boston but set in places like NYC and, gasp, Paris but they have no problems cashing in on the tax break. These film groups make millions of dollars and we're basically throwing money at them to take advantage of us.

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