By STEVE LeBLANC
February 11, 2010
BOSTON – Massachusetts’ film industry is embracing a new study that finds the state’s efforts to lure Hollywood stars has transformed it into one of the nation’s fastest-growing locations for film and television production.
The University of Massachusetts study released Thursday found a 117 percent growth in motion picture and video production jobs in the state between 2005 and 2008. Post-production jobs jumped 126 percent.
Those new jobs have helped fill an employment gap at a time when the state’s jobless numbers climbed steadily.
“Some of this job growth has helped to offset job losses in particularly hard hit trades like construction and transportation, as workers from these sectors have found work in film and television production,” the study found.
Industry officials in Massachusetts seized on the study, saying it bolsters the state’s decision to offer lucrative tax credits. They said it also argues against a proposal by Gov. Deval Patrick to scale back the tax credit program.
Joe Maiella, president of Massachusetts Production Coalition, an industry group representing film, video and television production companies, said for every dollar the state loses on the tax credit it bring in $9 in new spending.
“We don’t believe a program that curtails the influx of new jobs and spending in the state is the way to go when you’re trying to dig yourself out of a recession,” he said. “Would you rather have someone working or someone on unemployment? It’s a no-brainer.”
Patrick, who signed the expansion of the tax credits during his first year in office, said he still supports the credits but believes they need to be capped at $50 million a year as the state tries to recover from the recession.
“This temporary reduction in funding will allow us to continue to grow jobs in this field while also balancing the budget in tough economic times,” said Kofi Jones, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
But Maiella said even a reduction will send the wrong message and turn away film companies, especially during a time when states are competing with ever more generous film tax credits.
“Once you start to scale it back, you create uncertainty,” he said. “If you want to attract films to Massachusetts, you want to attract big films.”
In recent years a flurry of A-list stars have been spotted throughout Massachusetts, including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson.
The proposal to scale back the tax credit was included in Patrick’s version of the state budget for the new fiscal year.
It’s unclear if the proposal will make it into the final budget. The House and Senate must craft their own versions of the budget before settling on a compromise spending plan to send back to Patrick.
Neither Senate President Therese Murray nor House Speaker Robert DeLeo have said whether they would support Patrick’s plan to trim the tax credit.
The program has done more than just attract top stars to the state.
The UMass study found that nonfiction television and post-production companies have experienced dramatic growth in recent years, generating new career paths for local college graduates.
The report also found that the growth in local film and television production has stimulated growth among a cluster of local film service companies that support these productions and has lured some larger national film service companies to the state.
The state is particularly strong in nonfiction and documentary television in part due to the presence of WGBH, which produces shows including “Nova,” “Frontline,” “Antiques Roadshow” and “Arthur.”
“This history … provides Massachusetts with a unique strategic advantage in the production of nonfiction cable and public television shows as well as growing opportunities in post-production,” the study said.