Magazine article Variety

Bay State's Boom Based in Tax Breaks

Magazine article Variety

Bay State's Boom Based in Tax Breaks

Article excerpt

Film producers rarely sound like cheerleaders, but just ask them about working with Lisa Strout, director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

"I would award her a gold medal if I could," enthuses "Grown Ups 2" exec producer Barry Bernardi. The Way, Way Back" producer George Parra adds: "I was happy to see her come to Massachusetts. She's good for any state."

Having Strout back in Massachusetts feels fortuitous for all involved. Strout got her start, in Boston in 1982, working on "The Verdict," then left to pursue location work in California. She ultimately spent 10 years in the New Mexico film office, returning to Massachusetts just last year.

The state, meanwhile, has seen improvement in production numbers ever since the 25% tax credit (no annual orper-project cap, with sales exemptions for qualifying productions) was instituted in 2006. Nearly 40 films shot in the state in the ensuing years. Now with Strout on board, Massachusetts seems poised for a real renaissance.

It may have already begun: The Ryan Reynolds starrer "R.I.P.D.," which shot in 2011, was the state's biggest-ever production, employing 950 crew and 3,300 extras, with a total spend of $108 million. Last year's total direct spend was $222 million.

But Strout recognizes that there's still work to be done. In her first year on the job she implemented two key databases - one for crew, support services and vendors, and one for locations - that now make up the meat of the Film Office's revamped website. Strout's background is in locations, and her knowledge of the state is just one factor that makes her valuable to productions.

"This is a place that has a lot of texture,' she says. "Pretty much every town you go into has its own personality and character, and even the urban looks have a patina."

For a long time, locations were pretty much all that the state had to offer, and there were no traditional stages set up for production. Public TVs WGBH has had small facilities in Allsten and Brighton over the years, but they were of tittle use to TV series or large film productions. Retrofit situations and warehouses aside, Massachusetts has been thirsty for soundstages for years.

"Having stages would afford the opportunity to mount a film production in the wintertime," Bernardi says. "Having a physical plant would be a great thing. …

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