Editorial: Roll film

Berkshire Eagle
October 6, 2009

Movies are being made in Massachusetts, just not out here in the Berkshires. Boston and its surrounding communities may always dominate Bay State movie-making, but the Great Barrington-based Berkshire Film and Media Commission and its new executive director Diane Pearlman may help the county grab a share of movie studio bucks.

Boston has been the locale for two films at a time in recent months, with local boy Ben Affleck directing a big budget film in the city now. Tom Cruise is starring in a film being made in nearby Bridgewater. With a number of Boston-based crime novels like “Mystic River” being turned into films in recent years it isn’t surprising that Boston would be the locale for many films, but the city has aggressively courted the Hollywood film community and the Boston-based Massachusetts Film Office has an eastern orientation.

A former producer based in New York City and the co-founder of Mass. Illusion, the busy Lenox-based visual effects production company, Ms. Pearlman is a Berkshire resident with connections to the film industry. The Berkshires have served as the backdrop for several (largely forgettable) films over the years, but there has never been an organization like the Berkshire Film and Media Commission, now incorporated as a nonprofit, to serve as an advocate for the region.

According to a report released in July by the state Department of Revenue, productions of film, and also television, have tangible financial benefits. Since 2006, that production has generated $676 million in revenue, with another $200 million generated in spin-offs, such as the purchase of state goods and services by film crews. The report found that the state collected $3.6 million more in taxes than it paid out in tax credits to the industry, with that money paying immediate dividends because filmmakers must spend the money first before they can receive credits. Film production also generates publicity for a locale, a benefit that is difficult to measure in dollars and cents but is real nonetheless.

Movie box office is booming, in part because state of the art theaters like Pittsfield’s soon to open Beacon Cinema have dramatically enhanced the movie-going experience. Ancillary sales of DVDs are thriving and other electronic options are expanding. The movie pie is a substantial one, and even a small slice for the Berkshires would be tasty.

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