Film industry gives local businesses a boost

By Anna Rice
The Huntington News
October 8, 2009

A few years ago, Angela Peri ran Boston Casting in a small, one-room office. She worked mainly on commercials, industrial training videos, some theater and some print advertising. But when Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a 25 percent film tax credit in July 2006, Peri said she knew everything was about to change.

“The day that the governor signed the tax incentive I said to the person next to me, ‘There goes my life as I know it,’” she said. “I had a hallway that I had to make into an office.”

Peri said she has supplied talent to most of the big budget feature films made in Massachusetts over the past three years, and her revenue has increased by about 30 percent. Over the last two years, she worked on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” starring Kevin James, “The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock and more.

She said she is working with some of the movies currently filming in Massachusetts but could not disclose information about them.

Other businesses supplying necessary services to the film industry have also seen growth since the tax credit. In July 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue reported new direct spending on film and television production generated by the film tax credit since 2006 was $676 million. When the “ripple effect” on local businesses and people was factored in, the total economic output was more than $870 million.

“The film tax credit is in place until the year 2022, so I think we can anticipate that Massachusetts, in a very short period of time, will be the Northeast center in the country for film, television and digital media production,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, which assists filmmakers with location scouting, tax credit information, crew referrals, permitting and more.

Paleologos said the film industry has provided new jobs for thousands of Massachusetts residents and utilized the services of many hotels, catering companies, restaurants, makeup artists, hair salons, art galleries, security companies and more.

Movies currently being filmed in the Boston area include “The Zookeeper” starring Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler and James, “The Untitled Wichita Project” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and “The Town” starring Ben Affleck and Blake Lively.

Dave Talamas, owner of Talamas Broadcast Equipment Inc. in Newton, said his business has nearly quadrupled since the tax credit went into effect by supplying two-way radios, monitors, props, and other audio and visual equipment to films.
“We’ve become the go-to people for two-way radios,” Talamas said. “It’s also increased our business in general production because word gets around.”

Maria Lekkakos, owner of M. Lekkakos Salon, Spa and Boutique in Wenham, which specializes in providing spa services to movie productions, said that since June, she has worked regularly with three of the productions filming in Massachusetts. She said she has had the opportunity to work on celebrities like Salma Hayek, Brooke Shields and Maya Rudolph.

“Someone hears about my background and it goes by word of mouth,” Lekkakos said. “And the production will call me and put me on. That makes someone want to come get a facial by me or try me out.”

Lekkakos said she plans to work with future films doing work in Massachusetts as well.
Businesses directly related to films are not the only ones benefiting from their presence. Some local business owners said they have seen a boost in sales after word spreads that they have celebrity clients. 

Megan Wood, owner of Brookline-based Olive Green Apparel, gave Diaz a pair of her mittens while Diaz was filming for “The Untitled Wichita Project”, which is slated to be released in theaters in the summer of 2010, at Gaslight Brasserie in the South End. Wood said she has already seen an increase in online business due to coverage in the Boston Herald’s Inside Track, a section covering celebrity gossip and entertainment.

“We’re definitely hoping for People Magazine or US Weekly to get a shot of her wearing them [the mittens],” Wood said. “It would be great for business.”

Christina Bartkus, owner of Pure Chocolate in Quincy, said her chocolate has been given as gifts at wrap parties and on the sets of “The Zookeeper” and “Grown Ups,” starring Sandler and Hayek. The films provided a boost to her business during an otherwise slow summer season this year, she said.

Bartkus said Steffiana De La Cruz, wife of James, was the one who discovered her shop and decided to use her chocolate as gifts.

“It’s been great because I’m able to hit a demographic that normally people pay thousands and thousands of dollars to hit through public relations firms and gifting lounges,” Bartkus said.

Like Olive Green Apparel, Pure Chocolate’s online business has increased due to coverage in the Boston Herald’s Inside Track, and Bartkus said people have stopped by the store after hearing about her new celebrity following. Members of the cast and crew who live on the west coast have also told her they will continue to place orders online, she said.

“I’m not sure if I would ever have had exposure like this if it was not happening in my own backyard,” Bartkus said.

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