Head of state movie office expects busy year in wake of new SAG contract
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
May 08, 2009
BOSTON — After a temporarily lull in major motion picture work, the head of the state’s film office expects a busy year for movie production in Massachusetts now that the Screen Actors Guild board has approved a contract with the major studios.
“When there’s a slowdown, everybody suffers,” said Nick Paleologos, the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “I think everybody’s happy to be back to work.”
Massachusetts was humming with film work in the first six months of 2008 as studios rushed to complete filming before a previous contract with the Screen Actors Guild expired on June 30. The threat of a possible strike prevented many pictures from moving forward after that date.
Paleologos said there were at least eight major motion pictures filmed here in the first six months of 2008, including “Bride Wars,” “The Surrogates,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Ashecliffe.”
However, in the second half of 2008, production was limited to independent flicks – such as Mel Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” – and TV pilots – such as “Bunker Hill” and “War in ’04” – because the union and the major production houses hadn’t reached a contract agreement.
The failure to get a contract became a divisive issue for the Screen Actors Guild. The union’s board narrowly approved a two-year contract last month, and is mailing the ballots to union members this month for a vote.
Paleologos said production companies are moving forward because they realize that the union doesn’t have enough votes to go on strike, even if the contract isn’t ratified.
For example, filming began recently on “The Company Men” – a movie starring Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner – once it became clear the labor issue would be resolved, Paleologos said. The film’s crew has visited numerous Boston-area communities in recent weeks, including Quincy, Framingham and Marblehead.
Paleologos said he hopes the state will see four to six major film projects before July. Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, is planning to return here to shoot “Lake House” following the company’s success with “Mall Cop.”
“There’s already a bunch of projects scouting around for the summer,” Paleologos said. “The end of the SAG (issue) has really removed the only remaining restraint on the production pipeline.”
This state has become a hotbed for film production after the Legislature passed lucrative tax incentives for the industry in late 2005 and sweetened those incentives in 2007. Other states have raced to keep up, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a modest tax incentive bill in February to try to stem the exodus of productions from California.
Jon Chesto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.