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"If you build it, they will come."
No, that's not just a phrase that gets whispered to Kevin Costner as he wanders
through a cornfield. That's also the dream of would-be entertainment
entrepreneuers everywhere. They sincerely believe if they build a
state-of-the-art soundstage somewhere other than Hollywood,
filmmakers who are tired of dealing with the high costs & hassles of
shooting in Southern California will flock to this new
Copyright 2013 New England
Studios. All rights reserved
That's certainly what the folks behind New England Studios,
the $40 million film & television production facility which recently opened
in Central Massachusetts, think. They believe that the
combination of this studio's four brand-new 18,000-square-foot soundstages as
well as all of its IT underpinnings (EX: 75 miles of fiber optic run through NE
Studios & its support buildings with 42 separate WiFi networks, which are
capable of speeds up to 10 GB, the highest in the industry) will be too good to
resist. Especially when you factor in all of the tax incentives that the Bay
State offers production companies
who do business in Massachusetts
(i.e., A 25% credit for payroll expenses AND a 25% credit for production
Mind you, since New England Studios was actually built at Fort
Devens, the army base that I was
assigned to during my 4 year stint in the service ... Well, I just had to go
check the place out. So when I heard that they were having a special
holiday-themed open house (i.e., if you came by NE Studios this past Saturday
and either dropped off canned goods for a local food pantry ...
Photo by Jim Hill
... or donated a toy to Toys for Tots ...
... you were then allowed to enter this new very-secure
... Nancy and I swung by Target, purchased some canned goods
& toys and then drove on down to Massachusetts
to take a quick tour of the place.
You enter New England Studios through its three story-tall, 30,000
square-foot production support building. Here there are 14 dressing rooms for
performers plus hair & make-up areas. There are also several "star"
suites which feature their very own private passageways to the soundstages to
accommodate any aloof A-listers.
But as the four soundstages ... They're each 120-by-150-foot wide and their
walls are quilted with insulation as well as 70 miles of sound-proofing
material. As a direct result, New England Studios' have a noise curve rating of
Noise reduction was a big concern during the design &
construction of New England Studios. This is why all of the soundstage's
catwalks and light staging areas were constructed out of Douglas
firs from Oregon. By doing that,
not only is this production facility far more "green" than others
around the country, but using wood rather than metal up in its catwalk areas,
New England Studios then get to avoid that unfortunate "ping" sound
you sometimes get with steel when it heats up or cools down.
Best of all, if you throw open the three 42' x 24' interior elephant doors
which separate the four soundstages, you then wind up with 72,000 square feet
of feature film and television production space. Which should be enough to accommodate any ambitious
picture or TV series which decides to shoot in Central Massachusetts.
Then when you factor in the 20,000-square-foot mill &
storage building directly behind these soundstages where crew members could
then assemble the sets -- plus space on the second & third floor of the
production support building which could then be used for offices, conference
rooms and cubicles -- New England Studios has all of the proper pieces in place
should Hollywood ever come a-calling.
The only problem is -- even though New England Studios has
been officially open since mid-September -- Hollywood
hasn't come a-calling. Not yet, anyway. To hear the folks who were running
Saturday's tour talk, there have been definitely some inquiries. And -- with
luck -- New England Studios may have some very big news to announce by this
time next month.
The circus scene for "Oz
the Great and Powerful" circus being shot at Raleigh Michigan Studios in Michigan
back in 2011. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
But here's the thing: Thirty-seven states around the country
offer tax incentives to movie and television production companies. And these
days, the powers-that-be in Hollywood
tend to steer most of the work toward those states which offer them the
greatest financial advantages. Take -- for example -- North
Carolina, where the films from "The Hunger
Games" series have been shot, and New Mexico,
which is where large portions of "Marvel's
" was shot.
And God help the state that dares to tinker with the
financial incentives that it offers Hollywood.
Michigan learned this the hard
way when it slashed the production rebates it was offering to companies that
came to Pontiac to use Raleigh
Michigan Studios. Where once "Oz the Great and Powerful
" made use of
all seven soundstages at this facility in 2010 (thanks in large part to the $40
million film tax credit that Michigan
was offering at that time), when the state revised its incentives in 2011, Hollywood's
interest in using Raleigh Michigan Studios basically dried up. As a direct result, this studio missed several
scheduled debt servicing payments and then -- in August 2012 -- defaulted on a
$630,000 payment on its construction bond.
Michigan Motion Pictures
Since that time, Michigan's
state legislature has revisited the whole idea of financial incentives for film
and television productions. And given $60 million in production rebates were
made available in 2013 ... Well, is it any wonder that -- come 2014 -- Zack
Snyder's "Batman Vs Superman" will be shot at Raleigh Michigan
Studios (now renamed Michigan Motion Picture Studios).
And it's not as though there aren't already films and TV
series being shot in Massachusetts
right now. Even as you read this, "Business Trip" (a comedy starring
Vince Vaughn), "The Forger" (a crime thriller featuring John Travolta
and Christopher Plummer), and
"Olive Kitteridge" (a TV mini-series that has Bill Murray
& Frances McDormand in its cast) are shooting and/or have just wrapped up production in the Bay
State. So there is still genuine interest
out there in using Massachusetts
as a place to produce films & television
But then when you consider that The Walt Disney Company and
MCAUniversal both tried to turn Orlando into Hollywood East in the late 1980s /
early 1990s and even these two entertainment giants ultimately failed in that
endeavor ... I'm afraid that New England Studios has some very real challenges
ahead of it.
But even so, I wish the folks behind this
state-of-the-production facility the best of luck. If only because I know so
many folks here in the Northeast that would love to go work at a place like New
The line is: 'if you build it, HE will come', not 'they.'