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!


Anonymous said...

I agree. This is wonderful information. Please keep blogging!

Barney Martin said...

Cameron, thank YOU for starting this blog. We need to get the word out on this industry to everybody – especially the lawmakers in Augusta. This blog can be a great source of data to help people understand the opportunity staring us right in the face – the film industry. You and I share the same passion to not only see Maine as a critical film/tv destination, but also have this industry be a significant player in our creative economy.
It does not seem possible to be talking such numbers when talking in the millions, but the numbers are accurate and very real. It's all about advancing the Mainer mindset mindset of thinking that not only smokestacks, power grids, and potatoes can make money, but also film/tv productions. Exporting film/tv products not only generate revenues, but innately they provide marketing in perpetuity. The product that "keeps on giving"; marketing Maine every time they're played on the big screens, network/cable TV, to your own DVD player. And it's a "clean" industry ta boot.
So how is it possible to consider this apparent oxymoron, “the film/tv business, as "business"? Well, it's all about the numbers isn't it? Ask Eastport and Lubec what they thought about Fox TV’s “Murder in Small Town X” that shot from March – June in 2001.

In 2003, Empire Falls directly spent comfortably $10 million into Maine's economy within the 2 months they filmed here. Some of that money spent was in hiring personnel, hotel rooms, restaurants, grocery stores, hardware stores, gifts/souvenirs, caterers, crafts people...Not to mention some companies hired by the production needed to in turn hire more staff to meet the production’s demands... After that $10 million gets turned over a few times, people pay their taxes, etc. that $10 million easily becomes $20 million plus to Maine’s economy...
MA just changed their incentives 2 years ago and enhanced them again this past Spring of 2007. They now have (3) major productions shooting in Boston right now with combined budgets topping $150m. You think I’m crazy quoting these numbers – I know – many people do thinking "the film industry? Nah…", but it's real everyone and it's happening in a lot of places, but not in Maine. We can have this here, but it will require all citizens, legislators, cities, and towns to join together and ask what you can do to bring this industry here. To close, here's an article for you to read on MA's new film industry surge from August 25th - (2) weeks ago. Enjoy... .

Anonymous said...

Hello! Do you know how/why "Extreme Makeover" came to Milbridge? What a great opportunity to showcase Maine's attributes! Perhaps this will encourage more TV & Film companies to choose Maine!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the information about "Extreme Makeover". How refreshing that it's not always about Tax Incentives. Maine has so much to offer the film industry and it seems like "Extreme Makeover" knows it! Over $700,000 for the State of Maine???? Who else can we get to come here?

Richard Kane said...

Dear Cameron:

Just read your article on Maine Film Needs an Extreme Makeover and it is excellent!! I happened to be on the set of the Milbridge shoot as the DP for E! Entertainment "True Hollywood Stories" on the star of "Extreme Makeover" Ty Pennington. What an amazing production and person! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORIES will air November 17th at 5PM. Hope you can watch it.

I'm also involved in the Maine Film & Video Association and we're doing just the kinds of things you're interested in and could use your energy and ideas. We just had a meeting Thursday night hosted by The Workshops in Rockport. Had three fantastic speakers, faculty at The Workshops, talking about their work in the industry from a lighting director of major Hollywood films, to a director of indy features, and a producer of socially responsible documentaries who teaches African communities about media literacy helping them make films about community issues. Fascinating discussion. The reception and dinner afterwards were great too.

The next meeting is January 10th at Space Gallery in Portland (to be confirmed) and the topic is TV Distribution.

Our June meeting would have been terrific for you as it was about the importance of storytelling in features and documentaries. We had four great producer writers showing segments of their films and talking about their experience with developing stories that were compelling, the elements that led to success.

And you must know that we are involved in lobbying the legislature to create much better incentives for film companies to come to shoot in Maine. Not particularly successful so far, but we're moving in the right direction. Hannah Pingree, legislator from North Haven who penned the Maine Film Incentives legislation is a friend of the organization and very supportive of moving the legislation forward to help Maine compete against Mass, Rhode Island and Connecticut which all have far better incentives than we have. We hope to have her speak to our next meeting about what the next steps should be. It's efforts like yours that will help make this a reality. And Greg Gadberry, who has been the Vice President of our board for years, is the asst. director of the Maine Film Office whose job it is to move these incentives ahead. So we welcome your involvement and leadership as demonstrated by your excellent article.

Perhaps you'd like to join us and lead a renewed effort to lobby the legislature. Check out our website and let me know your thoughts.

All my best,

Richard Kane
Maine Film & Video Association Board member

Anonymous said...

Cameron, excellent interview on WLOB! As a neophyte I could not quantify the payback (or even get a sense of it) when a film is produced in Maine. Now I understand what you have been "preaching", that this state needs to "Make The List" of preferred locations, and try to be attractive to the industry so more movies will be made in this great state. Please keep carrying the flag, you are tireless....I hope the legislature listens and invests with gusto. Thanks, Shawn