Quincy the new Tinsel Town?
When Quincy’s State Representative Tackey Chan [D-Second Norfolk] spoke at a community forum in Chinatown last month, one topic that surprisingly got his adrenaline pumping was the Kevin James film “Here Comes the Boom,” which is slated to shoot in Quincy this spring.
Chan, a member of the Screen Writers Guild, believes that movies can hugely benefit the local economy.
“To give you an idea of how the movie industry affects the economy here: This movie “Here Comes the Boom” is going to require 9000 extra workers, in terms of background actors. These are people who work for two days, get paid a couple hundred dollars for shortchange work. If you think about how much that’s in payroll taxes, $100 for 9000 people, $ 9 million plus the payroll taxes and everything else. That’s $20 million before you know it. That’s just background actors, not the stars, not the principals, not the caterers, not the electricians,” Chan illustrates.
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has in fact signed a deal with Columbia Pictures that will see “Here Comes the Boom,” shot inside the former Quincy High School in exchange for at least $80,000 that the Mayor plans to dedicate to the Quincy Public Schools music program.
“I can confirm that we’ve worked out an arrangement with the production company to use the interior of the old Quincy High School, and that the City will be compensated for the use of the vacant building,” Koch says in a statement. “We’re putting to use an otherwise vacant building and getting paid for it, and we expect to see a nice boost to the City’s economy with the number of people associated with the movie who will be spending time – and money – in Quincy. It seems like a great fit.”
Mark Carey, the head of the Chamber Of Commerce’s Quincy Film Bureau, says he is working closely with the production company in an effort to maximize the film’s economic impact on Quincy.
“For an industry that flies in and out of any given city over a very short period of time – maybe a couple of months at most – the impact on restaurants, hotels, real estate and other indicators can be huge,” Carey says. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure those dollars are spent right here in Quincy.”
Boston-based actor Albert M. Chan concurs.
“The film and TV industry is a collaborative effort. In addition to actors and crew members, there are those who are indirectly affected as well–hotels, restaurants, car services, lumber yards, equipment rental houses, businesses used as locations, etc. The businesses that rent, sell, or provide services to production companies pay taxes and employ additional workers who are in turn paying taxes and purchasing goods and services,” the actor says.
Albert Chan has been involved in two movies that were filmed in the Bay State.
“In MA, I’ve worked on “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “21.” For “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” I was hired as a principal (i.e. speaking) actor for over five weeks, which was very unusual. Historically, local actors are normally hired for a day or so for principal roles,” Chan says.
“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner, was filmed at Crane Estate in Ipswich, Elm Bank Reservation in Wellesley, Needham, Sudbury, and various other locations in MA, while “21”, starring Kevin Spacey was shot at Boston University, downtown Boston, Cambridge and Quincy.
Albert Chan explains that a “local” actor is someone who works as a “local hire,” and is not compensated for travel and per diem since they can commute to the set each day.
“If a movie hires an actor from LA or NY to work on a film shooting in Massachusetts, it costs the producers more because they have to fly the actor to MA, put them up in a hotel, and provide meals,” the actor says.
Union minimum for background actors on films is $139 for each day, where a day is up to 8 hours. Once overtime, which happens quite often, kicks in, background actors can expect to get a pretty hefty paycheck at the end of the filming session.
“The 9th and 10th hours are payable at time and a half, and work beyond the 10th hour is payable at double time. Beyond 16 hours, the rate is one day of pay for each hour,” he explains.
A recent report released by UMass Boston concludes on film and television production having a positive effect on the Commonwealth’s economy and creating jobs during the economic downturn. The report, titled “Film and Television Production in Massachusetts: 2010 Industry Overview and Analysis,” finds that Massachusetts is among the fastest growing locations for film and television production in the United States, according to data from the Motion Picture Association of America as well as national data on employment and wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The report also finds that some states with more generous credits have not experienced as much growth as Massachusetts. Furthermore, the combination of desirable locations, a large university community, tax incentives, and Boston’s status as a world-class city that is desirable to talent has put the Bay State in a unique position to become a new hub of film production.
The increase in major studio productions has allowed some of the local actors and crew members to continue to live and work in Massachusetts, Albert Chan adds.
Joseph Maiella, president of the Massachusetts Production Coalition, says in response to the report, “The film tax credit has been responsible for the creation of more than $1 billion in new direct spending and new jobs, according to the state Department of Revenue.”
“This has helped to offset job losses in particularly hard-hit trades such as construction and transportation,” Maiella says.
The film tax credit pays movie makers 25 cents for every dollar they spend in the Bay State. If a movie maker spends $4 million, the state gives them back $1 million in the form of a tax credit. The tax credit currently has a sunset date of 2023.
While some see film tax credit as an economy boost for Massachusetts, others see it as a Hollywood handout. At the same time that movies in Massachusetts are bringing jobs and money to the state, they are also costing taxpayers.
Governor Deval Patrick has proposed in his 2011 fiscal year budget plan to cap the tax credits at a much higher $50 million a year, which means the state’s 25 percent tax credit could subsidize no more than $200 million worth of production activity each year.
Some business analysts fear that the uncertainty about the potential tax credit changes might make it tougher for film producers to pull together financing or make the case to their superiors and financiers that they should shoot a movie in Massachusetts. The uncertainty might result in filmmakers taking their productions to another state while they might very well be filmed here.
The neighboring Ocean State might be taking a more drastic measure. In early March, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee announced his plan to end the state’s film-tax credits in order to help eliminate a budget deficit. Rhode Island provides the production companies with tax credit equal to 25 percent of their Rhode Island production costs if they spend at least $300,000 on items “directly attributable to activity within the state.”
“We need to be vigilant and protect our film tax credit…the various stakeholders including acting unions, IA [the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees] locals, and the Teamsters need to affirm that support to defeat the Governor’s proposal,” Albert Chan says.
Movies filmed in Quincy:
• The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972), starring, Robert Mitchum
• A Civil Action (1998), starring John Travolta
• The Departed (2006), starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon
• The Invention of Lying (2009), starring Jennifer Garner
• Gone Baby Gone (2007), starring Morgan Freeman
• 21 (2008), starring Kevin Spacey
• The Company Man (2010), starring Ben Affleck
Albert Chan recently released a new fundraising video for the Chinese-American film, “Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future,” which he writes and directs for. As part of an underrepresented ethnic minority in film and TV, Chan wanted to tell a meaningful story from his own cultural perspective as the son of Chinese immigrants. The campaign’s promotional video can be viewed at http://descendantsofthepast.com