Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Kingsized Economic Impact

I went to the movies over the Thanksgiving weekend. My girlfriend wanted to see “Fred Claus” but her son and my kids wanted to see Stephen King's “The Mist” We decided to see “The Mist”. If you are going to pay $8.00 per person to see a movie it might as well partially benefit a Maine legend and natural resource.

We walked in a little late but I could immediately feel my stomach tighten, my blood pressure rise and my pulse quicken. Oh, it wasn’t the suspense and horror of the movie that had me squirming in my seat. It was the thought that Louisiana was being passed off as Maine right before my eyes through movie magic and that the $17,000,000 budget for the movie was sucked out of Maine and blanketed Louisiana like “The Mist” because Louisiana has better incentives and infrastructure for film production.

Because most Stephen King stories are based in Maine I started thinking, “What would the economic impact have been to Maine if every Stephen King movie had been shot here?” After a little research I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. King is one of the states most important, renewable economic resources.

I found 72 Movies based on Stephen King stories at:

Of those 72 movies I found the budget estimates for 38 of them. I totaled that the budgets for all 38 films. This came to $605,200,000. I then used that average of $15,926,316 per film to estimate the total budget for the remaining 34. That total came to $541,494,737. Combining both amounts gives us a total budget, for all Stephen King based films, of $1,146,694,737.

You have to kind of stop and catch your breath at this point to be able to think clearly when the numbers get this big, like the protagonist stopping to collect himself in a King movie.

The Association of Film Commissioners International estimates that on a medium sized feature film 1/3 to ½ the budget is directly spent on the local economy. The percentage increases when a state has more facilities and trained professionals to support film production. Maine does not have a sophisticated film infrastructure so I used the lower figure of .33 to estimate that, minus the money from King films that were shot in Maine, the state has missed out on $378,409,263 in direct spending on the Maine economy from Stephen King based films.

As I write this I am imaging people all over the State of Maine reading this information and literally having their heads explode because we have missed out on a huge economic opportunity created from the mind of one man.

Mr. King has done everything he can to help the State of Maine realize its economic potential from film and television production. I hope we can all agree that the state would certainly benefit from this type of economic activity and that the next Stephen King is ready to leave the State of Maine if the economy doesn’t improve.

I think I’ll propose my story idea to Mr. King’s office and maybe we’ll be able to film real Mainers, in Maine with their heads exploding as they read my blog. At least it will be good for the economy!

*Below is a chart of films based on Stephen King stories with there release dates and estimated budgets.

Film Year Budget
The Mist 2007 $17,000,000
1408 2007 $25,000,000
Apt Pupil 1998 $4,300,000
Bag of Bones 2006 Estimated
Boogeyman, The 1995 $20,000,000
Carrie 1976 $1,800,000
Cat's Eye 1985 $6,000,000
Children of the Corn 1984 $3,000,000
Children of the Corn II: 1993 Estimated
Children of the Corn III 1994 Estimated
Children Of The Corn IV: 1996 Estimated
Children Of The Corn V: 1998 Estimated
Children Of The Corn 666: 1999 Estimated
Children Of The Corn: Revelation 2001 Estimated
Christine 1983 $4,000,000
Creepshow 1982 $6,500,000
Creepshow 2 1987 Estimated
Cujo 1983 $5,000,000
Dark Half, The 1993 $15,000,000
Dead Zone, The 1983 $10,000,000
Desperation 2005 $7,500,000
Dolan's Cadillac Estimated
Dolores Claiborne 1994 Estimated
Dreamcatcher 2003 $68,000,000
Firestarter 1984 $15,000,000
Firestarter: Rekindled (Miniseries)2002 $10,000,000
Ghosts 1997 Estimated
Golden Years 1990 Estimated
Green Mile, The 1999 $60,000,000
Hearts in Atlantis 2001 $31,000,000
It 1990 Estimated
Langoliers, The (Shot in Maine) 1995 Estimated
Lawnmower Man, The 1992 $10,000,000
Mangler, The 1995 Estimated
Maximum Overdrive 1986 $10,000,000
Misery 1990 $20,000,000
Needful Things 1993 Estimated
Night Flier 1997 $4,300,000
Paranoid (1990) 1990 Estimated
Paranoid (2001) 2001 Estimated
Pet Sematary (Shot in Maine) 1989 $11,500,000
Pet Sematary II 1992 Estimated
Quicksilver Highway 1997 $4,300,000
Rage, The: Carrie 2 1999 $21,000,000
Return to Salem's Lot 1987 $12,000,000
Revelations of 'Becka Paulson, Th 2000 Estimated
Rose Madder scrapped Estimated
Rose Red 2002 Estimated
Running Man, The 1987 $27,000,000
Secret Window 2004 $40,000,000
Salem's Lot 1979 $4,000,000
Shawshank Redemption, The 1994 $25,000,000
Shining, The 1980 $19,000,000
Shining, The 1997 $23,000,000
Silver Bullet 1985 $7,000,000
Sleepwalkers 1992 Estimated
Sometimes They Come Back 1991 $3,000,000
Sometimes They Come Back.. Again 1996 $3,000,000
Sometimes They Come Back..For More 1998 Estimated
Stand By Me 1986 $8,000,000
Stand, The 1994 Estimated
Storm of the Century 1999 $30,000,000
Strawberry Spring 2001 Estimated
Stud City 2000 Estimated
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie 1990 Estimated
Thinner (Shot in Maine) 1996 $14,000,000
This Is Horror From the Archives
of Stephen King's World Of Horror 1994 Estimated
This Is Horror II From the Archives
of Stephen King's World Of Horror 1994 Estimated
Tommyknockers, The 1993 Estimated
Trucks 1997 Estimated
Woman in the Room, The 1983 Estimated
World of Horror 1989 Estimated
Total of 38 films with budgets $605,200,000
Average Budget $15,926,316
34 Films multiplied by $15,926,316 ave. $541,494,737
Total Budget for all 72 King Films $1,146,694,737
Direct Spend on local economies $378,409,263

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Foster Care System for Maine Film

Victoria Rowell was born in May of 1959 as a ward of the State of Maine. Her unmarried, aristocratic and mentally ill mother was incapable of taking care of her and her unknown black father was simply not around. This beginning, in and of itself, has been the demise of many children born into the system of state appointed care.

For Vickie it was actually the first of a series of events that on the surface seemed tragic and in the end proved to be lucky turning points that would ultimately converge to enrich her life in a way that very few of us are fortunate to experience.

Today at 48, Victoria Rowell is an award winning actress and author who credits the deep love and commitment of the foster women who raised her for building her self-esteem, so that she could not only tolerate her foster care life, but revel in it and excel because of it.

As I spoke with Victoria in November of 2007 it was clear that, even over the phone, I was talking to a passionate, intelligent woman with great focus that has a deep drive to tell her life story so that other children in the same situation can dream and believe in themselves.

The promotional tour for her award winning book “The Women Who Raised Me” has kept her on the road for almost 200 days since the book’s release in April of 2007. The results have been amazing as over 100,000 copies have been sold. “The Women Who Raised Me” is also published in Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria and a paperback version set for release in the spring of 2008 guarantee that her inspirational story will be told again and again around the globe.

Home Box Office is currently considering the book to option the movie rights.

Sounds like this would be a great movie to shoot in Maine, hire Maine people and tell a wonderful Maine story. Unfortunately, as much as Victoria would love to see that happen, she will have little control over where the film is shot. If HBO chooses to option the story they will have complete control over where the film is shot and the construction of the story.

Because Maine can be replicated through movie magic in states that have passed deeper incentives, even Victoria’s drive and passion to have the potential film shot in Maine will have a limited impact.

When Victoria was born a group of concerned citizens came together over the course of her life to advocate for her. Today there is a group of Maine citizens advocating for the film industry in Maine and ultimately for Victoria and her story. They are negotiating for additional film incentives so that we can ensure that beautiful, empowering stories like “The Women Who Raised Me” can be filmed over and over again in Maine, employing Maine citizens in well paying jobs and branding Maine as the wonderful place that it is to live and raise a family.

I would challenge you to purchase of copy of “The Women Who Raised Me”, read it and ask yourself if this story embodies the independent and supportive spirit of Maine people. Then think about what a tragedy it would be if the film version is shot in another state. Hopefully, this process will prompt you to call or write your state senator and legislator encouraging them to vote for additional film incentives.

If we all chip in we can accomplish the same thing that Victoria Rowell’s foster parents accomplished with their love and devotion to Victoria.

We can all become the foster parents of film in Maine and help to build the self- esteem and economic stability of every citizen in Maine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Maine Needs an Extreme Makeover!

Daisy Wight received the call out of the blue. The gentleman on the other end asked all kinds of questions in regard to Broughman Builders and their capabilities. Daisy thought it was just another sales call with someone trying to sell her some type of service.

The gentleman at the other end of phone was the Associate Producer of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, and when he finally informed Daisy who he was she almost fell over. Come to find out he already knew a lot about Broughman Builders and their reputation for quality construction and great work ethic. He knew from his research that Broughman Builders was the right company to help bring a community together to rebuild a home for a deserving family, in less than a week.

The Associate Producer let Daisy know that she had 24 hours to make the phone calls and decide whether or not to get involved with the project. Daisy knew when she hung up the phone that she and her husband, Mike, wanted to get involved and 4 hours later she had made the contacts with her friends, business associates, suppliers and business competitors. They were all ready and willing to donate their time, knowledge and product to make the next “Extreme Make Over: Home Edition.”

Here is the beauty of film and television production. Motivated, caring people are brought together for a short period of time, with each taking on a specific task. Each of them is dependent on the other to complete their task and the timeline is short and intense. On a well run production the result is great bonding and camaraderie. That is exactly what happened with “Extreme Make Over: Home Edition”

The Ray-Smith family of Milbridge received a direct benefit when “Extreme Maker: Home Edition” chose their family to receive a new home. The entire State of Maine will receive a less direct but still powerful benefit, worth more than the $700,000 the new Ray-Smith home is valued at, when the show airs on ABC later this year. The State could never budget for this type of marketing.

I believe that reaching out and solidifying relationships with producers who have shot in Maine is integral to Maine’s future media production success. So, I did a little research and found the contact information for Diane Korman, the Senior Producer for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Diane was kind enough to respond to the questions I asked. Her answers were terrific and hopefully, they will help us to understand how we can bring more productions to Maine and help to build another sustainable portion of the Maine economy.

What did you enjoy most about producing a show in Maine?

Meeting the community and joining with them to recognize a local hero was the best part of producing Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in Maine.

Everyday neighbors worked together, sacrificing their time to help a stranger. Like Cary Weston of Sutherland Weston, who didn’t sleep for a week to help with both media and pr and project manage the build. It is that kind of dedication that makes this show possible.

Were you able to find and access the necessary local help to produce the show?

Over 850 volunteers came out to help make this project possible. The Chamber of Commerce provided invaluable help in bringing the local resources together. For example, Wal-mart provided 8 pallets of water, gave $8,500 in designer gift cards, and stocked the house full of groceries

Would you, as a producer of any show or film, come back to Maine to shoot again? Why or Why not?

The Ray-Smith show marks our second time shooting in Maine, and if this show is picked-up for a sixth season, we certainly would come back to help another deserving family.

Did the Maine Film office assist your efforts and to what degree?

Because we were shooting on private property we did not require much assistance from the film office. However, they did provide us with excellent iconic locations to shoot the EMHE Bus driving by like the scenic lighthouses.

Will the show qualify for Maine’s current incentives and does your production look at the incentives each state offers in making a decision in regard to shooting in a particular state based on the incentives they offer?

Unlike most film shoots, our TV show follows the nomination of deserving families, and secondly looks at locations and the obstacles or incentives they provide.

In your opinion what is the best thing that the State of Maine can do to attract more film and television production in the future?

In traveling the 50 States, I have seen many types of incentives to attract Hollywood productions and I believe an aggressive economic development policy, which provides security, first-responders and user-friendly permitting is the key to attracting more entertainment business to the state of Maine.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Economic Inspiration

Maine offers many great opportunities and a wonderful setting for raising a family.
Unfortunately, Maine has not developed into a great setting for economic opportunities. I am hoping that this blog can become a part of helping to create change that will improve the economic environment in Maine.

Film and television production can become a clean, sustainable and consistent part of the Maine economy. As evidence of this we only have to look to our brethren New England States.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut all have passed film production incentive plans that are among the most progressive in the United States and 2.5 to 3 times more than the incentives that Maine passed in the spring of 2006.

Those states are reaping millions in economic reward. Just to back this statement up, here is a link to a recent article on Massachusetts and its new incentive plan:

There will be people who argue that additional film incentives will cost the state money. The simple fact is that money from film production that comes into the state ignites the economy first before any money is returned to the film project. If no films come to Maine to shoot we haven’t lost a penny. If we do not have additional incentives, Maine will lose out on most of the possible film projects that express interest in shooting here because even though Maine has some incredible, distinct locations, they can be replicated or faked through movie magic in states with the best incentives.

Any feature film we do get will come when someone like Richard Russo (Empire Falls) or Todd Field (In the Bedroom) who has a deep commitment to Maine, reaches down and fights to bring the film project here. Thank you to both of you.

I think we all can understand the immediate positive economic impact of film production relating to employment and sales of goods, lodging and food. The magic of film is how it keeps giving back to the economy long after the production crew has left town.

50 years ago Peyton Place was shot in Camden. In the June 9th Portland Press Herald there was article celebrating the 50th anniversary. It contained the following quotes:

"After the movie was released, tourists flocked to Camden in search of the places where "Peyton Place" had been filmed. A half-century later they're still coming, and Camden has pricey real estate and high incomes.

"If there was a seminal event that changed the mind-set of the people here, this was it," Bregy said. "Having a major motion picture made here made people think this must be a unique place."

There are still people coming to Camden because Peyton place was shot there.

The most recent feature film shot in Maine was the award winning Empire Falls.

Kerry Pomelow , who purchased the “Empire Grill” in Skowhegan with her business partner Tom Miller after the film was shot, says that she estimates that 30% of her overall business comes from people curious about the grill because they saw the movie “Empire Falls”.

These are real, down home Maine examples of economic development because of film production. There are hundreds of these same examples from these two great films and from other films that have shot in Maine. The true, positive economic impact can’t be accurately calculated because the information can’t be tracked but the results are real and they escalate into millions of dollars that Maine never would have seen if those films did not shoot here.

Every citizen in Maine will benefit if we are able to pass the additional film incentives and bring more film production to Maine.

In the meantime we need to reach out to Maine’s in-state residents and invite them to get involved. At the same time we need to aggressively market Maine as a beautiful state to live and produce movies in.

That is the simple point of this blog. I invite you to post your opinion and please invite your friends. We can make great things happen!