"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.
- 1 History of Filmmaking in New England
- 2 Resources for New England Actors
- 3 Resources for Filmmakers in New England
- 4 References
History of Filmmaking in New England
New England, specifically Boston, played a prominent role in the dawn of the film industry at the turn of the 20th century. After Thomas Edison’s Vitascope projector was debuted in a commercial setting in New York City on April 23rd, 1896, it was soon thereafter debuted in Boston by Benjamin Franklin Keith on May 18th, 1896 at Keith’s theater on 547 Washington street.
The technology received rave reviews from local media, with the Boston Herald writing, “The Vitascope is going to be the greatest drawing card of the season. Its possibilities are unlimited. Just think what it means. The scenes shown are full of life and action, simply lacking in vocalization. To describe the enthusiasm aroused would be impossible.”
As motion pictures grew in popularity, so did the local and regional film production community. Filmmakers during this time period typically created short films based on either real life or based on stories or entertainment. Roxbury, Massachusetts born G.W. “Billy” Bitzer rose to prominence during this early age of motion pictures, and created two pictures set in Boston: Seeing Boston in 1905, a picture consisting of a series of scenes from Boston, and Midwinter Bathing, L Street Bath, Boston, also in 1905. These two pictures are thought to be two of the first ever shot in Boston.
As motion picture production evolved, so did its themes. Shortly after the silent shorts, filmmakers began adapting novels to the screen. Adaptation material in New England was especially rich with so many well-known novels being based there. House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter are two such novels based in New England and adapted into motion pictures, and two films that played a role in shaping the cinematic themes that would become part of New England film’s identity for the entirety of the 20th century.
According moving picture archives Northeast Historic Film (NHF), these themes include Development of Yankee Characters, Smalltown Life Contrasted with city Values, Seafaring Tales, Family Secrets, and Haunted New England. These themes, rooted in centuries of New England culture, are complemented by the region’s diverse natural landscape and architecture, from the Atlantic Ocean and brilliant fall foliage to church steeples and skyscrapers.
After the motion picture’s introduction to New England in the late 1800s, the region saw a boom in film production in the 1930’s and 40’s due to the spread of talking pictures or “talkies.” Classic movies set in Boston from this era include Captain Courageous (1937), Boomerang (1947), Lost Boundaries (1949) and Our Town (1940). The number of movies produced in Boston between the 1950’s and 1980’s averaged 10 per decade, including box office hits Boston Strangler (1968) and Jaws (1975), until the 1990s when film production in the region exploded thanks to new and improved filming infrastructure. This upward trend continued in the 2000s, due in large part to tax incentive programs put in place by regional governments to attract filmmakers and production companies. One such example is the Massachusetts Tax Incentive program. Many T.V. series were also filmed in New England during the 20th century, the most well known of them being Cheers, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
All in all, 352 TV series and films have been produced in Boston since 1900, with a number of them winning Academy Awards: Goodwill Hunting (1997), Jaws, (1975), The Departed (2006), The Fighter (2010). The area has also produced many film and television stars, including but not limited to Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Carell, Ruth Gordon, John Krasinski, Edward Norton, Mark Wahlberg, and Matthew Perry. A full list can be found here, and a listing of notable films and television series produced in the area here.
History of the term Hollywood East
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.
Resources for New England Actors
New England is ripe with resources and opportunities for amateur and professional members of the film industry alike.
Women in Film & Video New England
An affiliate of the national Women in Film organization, Women in Film / Video New England was founded in 1981 with the mission of “working to promote proactive images of women to the public and to empower all women in film and video to achieve their professional potential.” WIFV/NE offers membership to professional and aspiring female filmmakers, the benefits of which range from job leads and discounts on media related services to networking opportunities and health coverage.
Of much value to regional actors and other film industry professionals is WIFV/NE’s free networking night that occurs on a monthly basis and is open to both members and non-members, women and men.
The organization has accomplished much since its founding and has received praise from major New England-based media outlets like the Boston Globe, who in December 2005 said “For all the big-name organizations that put an indelible stamp on the area film scene…local film offerings wouldn’t be quite as rich without the less acknowledged venues and groups that also play a crucial part, including Women in Film & Video New England, for supporting the aspiring and established female filmmakers alike.”
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.
New England Actor
NEActor.com (owned and moderated by Bradley Van Dussen) is “self service” website designed to connect film industry professionals and actors & voice artists looking for work. Actors are encouraged to build profiles on the website that accurately reflect their acting abilities with media such as reels, head shots, and credits. Industry professionals can then search the talent pool using criteria that best fits the talent they are seeking such as sex, union, age, physical attributes, performance skills and more. Anyone can apply to be listed on NEActor.com, though all applications are screened and approved by site staff.
The New England Actor’s Workshop is based in Boston and trains actors in the Meisner technique using a professional conservatory style. Workshops are instructed by Meisner Technique trained actor Richard C. Bailey and open to actors willing to commit to classes for an ongoing basis. The New England Actor’s Workshop’s stated mission is to “create an environment where dedicated actors and artists can continue to hone their skills in a safe, supportive community as well as help one another advance their careers and contribute to the Boston and New England Film, Theater, and entertainment community.” In addition to weekly classes, NEAWorkshop frequently hosts industry workshops and networking events.
SAG-AFTRA New England
One of 25 SAG locals, SAG-AFTRA New England is based in Boston and represents members of the film industry working in Eastern Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. SAG-AFTRA New England members receive access to local resources including casting calls, training and informational seminars, a credit union and more.
The following universities are located in New England and have strong theater programs according to collegeexpress.com.
Bennington College (VT), Boston University (MA), Brandeis University (MA), Emerson College (MA), Hampshire College (MA), Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MA), Trinity College (CT), Tufts University (MA), University of Massachusetts Amherst (MA), Wheaton College (MA), Yale University (CT).
The bourgeoning acting talent pool has results in an uptick of community theaters as well. Many websites, such as NEtheater411.com whose mission is to “serve community, equity and non-equity theaters in the New England area,” provides information about “local New England area community and professional theaters, including information about upcoming productions, audition calls, special announcements, and other happenings in the New England theater scene.”
Due to the recent surge in films being made in New England, there are a number of talent agent companies looking to place local actors and actresses in films. However, due to the market not being large enough for a talent agency to support itself entirely on the placement of actors in film, many also double as talent agencies for models as well.
Model Club Inc
With offices in Providence, Rhode Island and Boston, Massachusetts, Model Club Inc is a talent agency that represents children & adult models & actors. The agency hosts open calls on a regular basis and has placed its actors in numerous motion pictures ranging from regional indie films to nationwide blockbusters.
The Cameo Model and Talent Agency has been based in Boston since 1969 and is known for working with talent that has a multi-ethnic, all american look. Their clients include Fortune 500 & 1000 companies, casting directors, commercial photographers, and ad agencies throughout the United States and globally. Cameo accepts submissions from adults and children via mail and email.
New England Models Group
The New England Models Group (NEMG) represents child, teenage, and adult models, actors, and makeup artists. Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, NEMG has been in business for 20 years and in that time span placed talent in large markets ranging from LA to Barcelona and in a variety of formats ranging from infomercials to feature films. NEMG is regularly involved in hosting workshops, model showcases, talent conventions and more. The accept submissions from aspiring models and actors through a variety of channels, but require all models and talent to audition in person for agency consideration.
CP Casting is a full service casting company with offices in Boston’s South End neighborhood and with clients spanning across all of New England. CP casting is highly regarded in the industry, having won 3 C.S.A Artios Awards and cast talent for a wide variety of projects such as feature films, commercials, corporate videos, national film searches and television. CP Casting accepts submissions from new talent in the forms of mailed pictures and resumes from union & non-union actors, talent agents, and managers.
With 60,000 union and non-union actors in their database, 6 casting directors, a department exclusively for casting extras, and 3 studios, Boston Casting is the largest casting company in New England. Founded and owned by Angela Peri, Boston Casting specializes in casting principal roles and extras for feature films, commercials, industrials, web videos, voice-overs and reality television shows. Boston Casting does not hold open auditions or accept physical submissions. Instead, interested actors must fill out an online application that Boston Casting will keep “on file” until an opportunity they feel you are appropriate for becomes available.
Christine Wyse Casting
Christine Wyse Casting is a full service casting company based in Boston and specializes primarily in casting commercials. Though CWC is based in Boston, its founder Christine Wyse spend years in the casting business in New York City and maintains an intimate knowledge of the talent pool in that market to this day. In addition to their commercial credits, CWC also casts independent feature films and innovative television.
Between Gigs Casting
The Between Gigs Casting Agency is based in Manchester, New Hampshire and owned by John Campanello. According to the agency’s website, they specialize in web and TV commercials, corporate videos and print. In addition to matching actors with projects, Between Gigs Casting is also capable of finding other resources for projects including hair & makeup artists, photographers, location scouts, costume & wardrobe specialists. The company is known by regional actors for having an extensive mailing list that’s been responsible for initiating many professional relationships.
LDI Casting has been representing union and non-union talent since its founding in 2001. Based in Warwick, Rhode Island and created by Anne Mulhall, LDI works with a wide range of clients and budgets, from large productions to student films and all that falls in between. In addition to their casting work, LDI offers coaching and classes for actors of all skill levels, as well as referrals to local crew, soundstage, unions, animal casting, locations and more.
South Shore Casting
South Shore Casting is a full service casting company focusing on the coastal cities south of Boston, Massachusetts, an area locally referred to as the “south shore.” The casting company was founded by Jodi Purdy, a freelance casting director who’s been working with clients in New York, New England, and Hollywood since the early 1980s. South Shore has placed talent for films such as Mystic River, The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, The Game Plan, Pink Panther 2 and Bride Wars.
Resources for Filmmakers in New England
With the influx of films created in New England over the last decade, the region's infrastructure for professional filmmaking has been greatly enhanced with production studios, tax incentives, and offices dedicated to aiding film production in the area.
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.
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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