It’s not LA or NYC, but Massachusetts is a top destination for the film industry. In 2013 alone, 22 productions were made in MA, 7 of those feature films. The impressive list included Oscar-nominated “American Hustle,” which was filmed in Worcester and “The Judge” which was filmed in Shelburne Falls. The impact of these and other productions on the state’s economy is immense, especially in economically-challenged areas, which tend to be top filming destinations. According to Lisa Strout, Director of the MA Film Office, while you might not think about it at first, these are the areas with the most empty storefronts, the most empty halls, and thus, the best opportunity for the films to take full control.
Speaking at a recent MassEcon Members Meeting, Lisa touched upon this, and many other factors affecting how the film industry is positioned within the state of Massachusetts. While you might at first think that most of the filming is happening solely in and around Boston, you’d be wrong. According to Lisa, it’s “not about Boston,” which due to its density, population, lack of parking and several other factors, can often be one of the most difficult places to shoot. Instead, it’s about the whole state of Massachusetts. Since 2012 alone, shooting has taken place in 70 different cities and towns across MA, from Pittsfield to Peabody and Millbury to Marblehead.
So why is Massachusetts such an attractive destination for the film industry? For starters, we have the necessary infrastructure. New England Studios, located in Devens, includes four 18K SF soundstages, a mill, production offices, and storage buildings. We also have the talent. According to Lisa, there are 2,200 Screen Actors Guild actors within New England. There’s also a ton of up-and-coming talent at the college level, who are skilled in many of the technical positions required in film-making. Fitchburg State is just one example of a local University that is training students to work in this industry. And finally, we have the tax incentives. Massachusetts provides filmmakers with a highly competitive package of tax incentives including but not limited to: a 25% production credit, a 25% payroll credit, and a sales tax exemption.
To get a better idea of just how much the film industry (and particularly the MA Tax Incentive Program) has impacted the state’s economy, take a look at a recent study commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America. The study found that for every $1 of film tax credits awarded, $10 in spending was generated in the Commonwealth. The study also noted the impact of films that prominently feature MA locations on the state’s robust tourism industry, estimating that it would have cost $70M in TV advertising to achieve the same number of audience impressions generated by exposures of identifiable MA locations in just 5 local productions (The Fighter, Grown Ups, Moneyball, Ted and The Town).
Undeniably, the film industry, which Lisa noted falls under “manufacturing,” is a major contributor to the Massachusetts economy. To learn more about what Lisa had to say, you can view her presentation here, or check out the state’s Film Office website.