"Hollywood East" is a phrase referring to the growing film industry in New England, particularly in Massachusetts and Connecticut, that has served as home to the production of more than 143 major motion pictures and television series between 2000 and 2013. It is a reference to Hollywood, California, the center of the American film industry, located on the west coast of the United States. The term as used in New England was popularized in the press in 2007 as film and television productions migrated to the east coast to take advantage of the region’s scenery, culture, character, and tax incentives put in place by several state governments.
Hollywood East is a term originally used by local press in Orlando, Florida after the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios) in 1989 and Universal Studios Florida in 1990 in order to attract more filmmaking business to the region. While both are legitimate studios, they are predominantly theme parks, and although many film and television productions have used these facilities since before even the theme parks were built, Orlando was not able to retain the image of "Hollywood East."
In 2008, the name Hollywood East was used to brand Plymouth Rock Studios, a proposed movie studio that was to be built in Plymouth, Massachusetts before funding failed to materialize in 2009. More recently, the phrase has resurfaced thanks in part to the opening of New England Studios and the rapid growth of the Hollywood East Actors Group, a social media based organization for actors and filmmakers in New England.
New England Film Infrastructure
When the film industry began shooting films in New England with frequency in the early 2000s, old warehouses and office buildings were used for filming due to a lack of infrastructure in the region, leading to several groups of developers coming forward with plans to build full service studios.
Plymouth Rock Studios
Plymouth Rock Studios was a proposed film studio that was to be located in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The studios were conceived in 2006 when David Kirkpatrick, a former head of Paramount Motion Pictures, announced plans to build a $500 million studio, with 14 sound stages, an office building, post-production facilities, a hotel, restaurants, theater, visitors center and retail space. Plymouth Rock Studios began receiving considerable regional attention after passing their Plymouth Town Meeting vote in October 2008 and announcing a partnership with MIT Media Lab in November 2008 that was featured in the New York Times. The partnership was described as "a fusion between technology and the arts" that the studio and Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe will come to define Hollywood East as a movement.
However, before groundbreaking could begin as planned in late 2009, the state of Massachusetts denied Plymouth Rock’s request for $50 million in state funding that would have been used to pay for road and sewer work. Around this same time, the project’s co-founders missed the deadline to purchase the Waverly Oaks golf course that occupied the land targeted for studio construction.
In a final attempt at funding, Kirkpatrick announced that the project had reached a deal with Prosperity International of Orlando, FL, a company headed by Michael Burgess, to secure $500 million in funding. Plymouth Rock studios gave $3.5 million to Burgess as collateral in return for Burgess promising to secure the loan, however, Burgess never secured the loan and never returned the deposit afterwards. In 2011, Michael Burgess was sentenced to 15 years in prison on 42 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy.
Around the same time that Plymouth Rock Studios was beginning to experience financial difficulties, the Los Angeles based International Studio Group proposed another movie studio to be based in Massachusetts called Southfield Studios. These studios were to be built in Weymouth, Massachusetts on the former naval base there just 12 miles south of Boston. The studios were to cost $147 million and power the 600,000 square feet complex that could host all types of media production companies, including movies, television, video games, live broadcasts, satellite simulcasts, music videos and commercials. However, ground was never broken and today Southfield is home to a residential community.
New England Studios
In November 2013, New England Studios (NEStudios) opened its 72,000 sq. foot, $41 million dollar film studio in Devens, Massachusetts to the delight of the regional film community that was disappointed in the failure of Plymouth Rock Studios and Southfield Studios. Four 18,000-sq. ft. sound stages anchor the full-service television and film facility. It is NEStudios’ hope that the new, sheltered facility will attract filmmakers to Massachusetts who previously were averse to filming in the area due to the absence of production facilities and the region’s harsh winters, as well as provide an economic boom to the local film community. NEStudios Director of Marketing and Operations Chris Byers says “The facility is designed to be a "plug and play" and "a home away from home.” NEStudio’s technical capabilities are suited for productions of all needs and include nailable floors, aerial catwalks, elephant doors, as well as office space for staff and dressing rooms for actors.
Massachusetts Film Tax Incentive Program
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has incentivized the film industry to create projects in Massachusetts through an attractive tax credit law. For film production companies doing business in Massachusetts, these tax incentives include Sales & Use Tax Exemption, Transferable 25% Payroll Credit, and a Transferable 25% Production Expense Credit.
For productions created in Massachusetts between calendar years 2006 and 2011, approximately $326.5 million in total film tax credits were generated by 676 individual productions, resulting in $185.8 million in net new spending in the Massachusetts economy. In 2011 alone, the state of Massachusetts generated $375 million in economic output through the $38 million worth of tax incentives that were handed out to the film industry, or in other words, generated $10 worth of in-state spending for every $1 awarded through tax credits. This resulted in 2,220 Full Time Equivalent jobs across all industries in Massachusetts in 2011.
According to the Massachusetts Film Office, parties eligible for the tax credit include Feature-length film, video, or digital media projects (narrative or documentary);TV series (not to exceed 27 episodes); and Commercials (multiple commercials for one client may be aggregated). All projects must spend at least $50,000 and be made in part or whole in Massachusetts to be eligible for the credit.
Hollywood East Actors Group
The Hollywood East Actor’s Group is a community of amateur actors, directors, producers, casting directors, agents, cinematographers and others interested or involved in growing the New England film industry. Based in Boston Massachusetts, HEA was founded by actress/photographer Erica Derrickson on Sept 10, 2012 to fill what she saw as a void in the grassroots New England film community. At the end of 2013, the group consisted of more than 6,000 members and is responsible for countless new professional relationships and business opportunities.
In addition to holding workshops and classes featuring The New England Actors Workshop headed up by Richard C. Bailey, the Hollywood East Actor’s Group is known for holding popular industry networking events. The group’s 1 year anniversary party was held at the Middle East Downstairs on November 12, 2013, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was attended by over 400 local film industry professionals ranging from newcomers on the scene to veteran Chris Byers, founder of New England Studios. The event validated HEA as an influential industry-networking group and solidified its reputation as one of the notable grassroots communities for film professionals in New England.
MA Production Coalition
The Massachusetts Production Coalition is a membership organization representing the interests of the local film, television, and new media industries. The Coalition is widely considered to be the group most involved in working with state legislature to pass the film tax credit law in Massachusetts, a law that has made the state an economically hospitable filmmaking environment and generated millions of dollars in revenue across several Massachusetts industries.
MA Film Office
The Massachusetts Film Office is the official state agency charged with assisting movie-making, television and commercial production in Massachusetts. The organization’s website serves as a resource for productions interested in learning about filming in Massachusetts by providing a breakdown of the state’s tax incentives, a filmography of films and TV series shot in the state, a directory of filming locations and more.
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