This state’s got star quality

Hollywood film boom a boon for the North Shore

By Ethan Forman
Salem News
February 25, 2009

Filmmaker Erik Nikonchuk of Marblehead stood in a long line with his business card at the ready, waiting to meet the star of yesterday’s North Shore Business Expo. It wasn’t a movie star the 27-year-old producer of commercials, weddings and events wanted to shake hands with at the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort in Danvers, but Nick Paleologos, a former Woburn state representative, now the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. Paleologos, as well as a tax credit put in place in 2006, helped bring a boom of blockbusters being shot on locations all over the state, including many on the North Shore.

The film work has pumped hundreds of millions directly into the Massachusetts economy. “The filmmakers find their way out to Taunton and Medfield and Burlington and Rockport and Beverly and Gloucester and Woburn and Lowell and Lynn,” Paleologos said. “So the more they are here, the more they find, the more money they spend.”

*Kate Hudson could be seen in Salem during the shooting of “Bride Wars.”

*Sandra Bullock shot scenes from “The Proposal” at Beverly Airport, Rockport’s Bearskin Neck and in South Hamilton at the Myopia Hunt Club, according to the film office.

*”Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” used the Crane Estate in Ipswich and parts of Beverly as backdrops.

*Producers of the “The Joneses” shot scenes in Peabody, among its many North Shore locations.

Nikonchuk, like others waiting to meet Paleologos, wants a piece of this action. “I thought it was very good to hear what he had to say,” Nikonchuk said, “As a local filmmaker, it validated my decision not to move to New York or California.”

Paleologos credited the state’s film tax credit for the recent spate of filmmaking. With it, studios get a 25-cent tax credit for every dollar they spend here, Paleologos said. From just one movie and $6 million in direct spending in 2005, Massachusetts saw 13 projects totaling $359 million in spending last year, according to figures Paleologos cited from the state Department of Revenue. With the help of the tax credit, Massachusetts has an economic stimulus package all its own, he said.

What’s more, Massachusetts no longer only serves as a backdrop for films set in the Bay State, like “Fever Pitch,” “The Departed,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Mystic River” and “Jaws,” Paleologos said. “‘The Proposal’ is an example of a movie that has nothing to do with Massachusetts, and yet it was shot right here on the North Shore and it’s coming out in a couple of weeks with Sandra Bullock,” he said.

Last year, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” used the Burlington Mall as its backdrop for a mall in New Jersey. Locations in Boston, Bedford and Winchester stood in for Paris and Rome in 2007 for “Pink Panther 2.” “That means millions and millions of dollars being spent here that would have been spent in Vancouver or New York or Connecticut of somewhere else,” Paleologos said.

Last summer for two weeks, the Bruce Willis film “The Surrogates,” staged at North Shore Community College in Lynn, said the college’s president, Wayne Burton, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce chairman. Burton declined to say how much the producers paid to rent the campus for two weeks.

The North Shore may also have some added clout in the state’s budding movie industry as Paleologos lauded the choice of state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, as the new chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development on Beacon Hill.
“John will end up being the most important person on Beacon Hill for our industry, the film industry, as well as the tourist industry in Massachusetts,” Paleologos said as the standing-room-only crowd applauded. “It’s a hugely important responsibility, and they couldn’t have picked a better guy for it.”

For Marblehead’s Nikonchuk, the hope is the film industry will continue to call Massachusetts home once the contract dispute between the Screen Actors Guild and the major movie studios is settled. “It won’t be as sporadic, it will be more consistent in the near future,” he said.

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