Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Fisherman tends his nets before he goes after the next movie for Maine

I spend a tremendous amount of time reaching out to people in the media business, telling the story of Maine and why Maine is wonderful place to produce a media project.

Getting a response is rare and when you do get a response you need to protect that contact and make sure that you develop a healthy relationship with them without sending too much information and, in a sense, over fishing the contact.

I rambled around my house the night after Christmas. My two youngest children were visiting their mom and my oldest was visiting friends. With a little time to myself I grabbed a beer and sat down with my computer and began the monotonous process of checking contact information for media industry decision makers and sending notes to each one.

It reminded me of how my mom used to force me to write thank you notes after Christmas each year. Who wants to do that? It is one of those things that you dread doing and then feel much better after it is done.

In the title of each email I wrote: “A little guy from Maine looking for advice” In the body of each email I wrote “I am a film advocate for the State of Maine ( We are trying to pass additional media incentives and I am wondering if your company offers any type of assistance for this type of advocacy.”

I sent the emails one by one. I deleted the ones that were undeliverable while I saved the deliverable addresses in my blog contact list.

This small time internet phishing is very much like the process that the hardworking fishermen of Maine do and have done for hundreds of years. I was tending my nets, looking for holes, mending them, navigating to where I thought the fish would be and throwing the nets overboard to see what I could catch.

I went to bed after midnight and I let my emails to the trawling. In the morning I had an email from an important member of the motion picture industry. We exchanged emails and set up a conference call. His organization is willing to mentor me and others in Maine as we sail through the rough economic waters ahead and try to have a positive impact on every citizen, business and town in Maine.

It feels good to use the same work ethic that Maine fisherman use everyday as I try to be a part of making a non-traditional industry a tradition in Maine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Franklin County Decides to become Film Friendly

On Thursday night November 13th I had the pleasure of speaking to the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at their annual member meeting held at the University of Maine at Farmington.

I had been invited to speak by Matt Wotton, the chamber President, after I had sent an email suggesting that the Chamber support the passage of additional film incentive legislation during the 2009 legislative session.

It had been about 10 years since I last visited the Farmington area and the local development has changed dramatically over that time. I was expecting an audience of maybe 40 or 50 people and I was surprised to walk into a full banquet room at the North Dining Hall at UMF.

I was a little nervous because I didn’t have a set speech prepared. So I headed for the cash bar, bought a Maine made Shipyard ale and walked around the banquet room introducing myself and getting a sense of the people in attendance.

It reminded me of the stories my dad would tell of town meetings and grange hall get-togethers’ in his hometown of Surry, Maine. There was a lot of camaraderie and I could tell that everyone there really cared about Franklin County.

I was seated at a table toward the front. Everyone at the table was kind and interesting and when I introduced myself and told them that I would be speaking about film and film incentives they all had a positive, interesting story to tell.

As I was introduced to speak, my nerves dissipated. After all, I was speaking to my new, old friends. My story was simple as I spoke about the current economy and how I was there to deliver some good news.

I told how my friend Paul Tukey had approached me after I bought a small casting agency and asked me to help him produce a television show called People Places & Plants. We shot the pilot and then I contacted over 500 television station and got very used to the answer “no”. Those “no’s” caused me to dig deeper and keep calling, emailing and writing like some possessed character from a Stephen King novel. Eventually we were picked up by twenty-three broadcast stations around the country and the show was broadcast to thirty-five million homes.

As we produced 46 shows we made sure that we highlighted Maine in nineteen, five and half minute segments showing some wonderful Maine businesses, landscapes and people that make Maine unique and special.

At the end of two years of losing money we decided not to produce any more new shows. Because of the relationships I had built within the industry during those years we were able to sell the show to HGTV where it was broadcast to ninety-one million homes for a year and a half.

We broke even on the show and the State of Maine enjoyed a tourism marketing boost worth 1.8 million dollars during the three and half years that the show was on the air.

I talked about the movie “Tumbledown” that was written about Franklin County by Desi Van Til and how a film like that can drop millions into a local economy impacting restaurants, motels, resorts, lumberyards and virtually every local business in the short term and how movies like “Empire Falls” and “Peyton Place” continue to have a marketing impact on towns like Camden, Skowhegan and Waterville long after the movies have been produced.

Using the Franklin County Chamber’s website as a good example I talked about how counties and municipalities can make themselves more film friendly and I encouraged everyone to talk to their local legislator and senator and ask them to support further film incentives because they can have an immediate economic impact with no upfront investment.

I guess I did a pretty good job because many people approached me after the banquet and gave me their cards and had many questions. A few days ago a received an email from Matt Wotton that contained the following quote:

“I know it will take a great deal of work to make Maine into a state that would encourage directors and producers to bring there products here, but I for one would like to see it happen. Lorna (The Executive Director) and I have spoken and we want the Chamber to start this ball rolling and see what may happen. I'd like to see a major movie filmed in Western Maine within the next 2 years. Who knows if this is a realistic goal, but I only know one way to find out.”
I have a tendency to set goals that aren’t realistic. It makes life interesting. The Franklin County Chamber has given me the energy to pursue an idea that my unrealistic, friend Barney Martin had a few years ago. I’d like to speak to every chamber in Maine, get them excited in regard to the positive economic impact that film incentives can have on every citizen, business and town in Maine and help them become more film friendly. I believe that we can build a nice network of film advocates in all 16 counties that are ready and willing to take a producer by the hand and show them what makes Maine and their local county special.

I’ll start with the Franklin County Chamber and if you know some local chamber that would like to have Barney and I come and speak just let us know. We’ll do our comedy routine and make you laugh while we do something good for the State of Maine and its economy.

Monday, September 15, 2008



WHAT: Filmmakers' Roundtable to Discuss Maine Film Tax Incentives Legislation

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 2008 10:30AM

WHERE: Farnsworth Art Museum Auditorium,
16 Museum St.
Rockland, Maine

WHO : All interested parties are invited to attend. Free admission.
WHY: Tax breaks to attract film productions have created an economic boom for the media industry as well as other industries in those states which pass such incentives. In 2006 the Maine legislature passed the Maine Attraction Film Incentives bill which called for the return of 10% of a production's budget to the company. Maine is now competing with other states which return up to 40% -- a prime reason why Maine hasn't seen a major production since Empire Falls in 2003. This group is meeting to find ways to support a stronger film tax incentives bill that will benefit Maine's media industry as well as the Maine economy as a whole.

SPONSORS : The Maine Film & Video Association, the Portland Media Artists, and the Camden International Film Festival are co-sponsoring this event

Rockland, ME The Filmmakers Roundtable meeting will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 10:30-11:30 at the Farnsworth Art Museum auditorium as part of the Camden International Film Festival. Maine's media industry leaders will be in attendance to work towards a solution to how Maine can become more competitive against other New England states which are profiting from stronger tax incentives. Louise Rosen, board member of the Maine Film & Video Association, will moderate. The discussion will continue over lunch at the Black Bull on 420 Main Street, Rockland.

"There is abundant economic research that suggests that a production can dramatically benefit tourism for many years after its initial release." Economic Impact study on Maine's film industry conducted by EcoNorthwest, June 2008

"With total production costs of $28.5 million, Empire Falls was a major project. Spending in Maine accounted for nearly half of the total cost." Economic Impact study on Maine's film industry conducted by EcoNorthwest, June 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Maine Film Coalition announces a casting call for the most dynamic State Senator and State Representative

August 14th, 2008

The Maine Film Coalition announced today that it will be casting for the most dynamic, honest and creative Maine State Senator and Maine State Representation to lead the process of drafting new media incentives.

The individuals who are cast for these parts must be open to new ideas, be honest, non-partisan, smart, funny, willing to laugh at themselves, willing to attend several industry rallies and star in several videos promoting Maine as a film location and all around good place to live.

Casting will begin the week of August 18th with locations throughout the state.

If you are interested please send your resume by email to: or

For further information you can also contact The Maine Film Coalition by phone at 207-807-7406.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Youtubing Down the Maine Media Promotional Slope

I started the Maine Film Blog almost a year ago. As I look back on my posts they reinforce my original goals. The feedback has been wonderful and the communication from people outside of the film industry lets me know that I am having the type of impact that I originally intended.

For a long time I have wanted the Film Office to post streaming video from their website. They have chosen not to do this and I believe they are missing out on an opportunity to promote Maine and communicate to potential filmmakers in a way that will truly connect with the way that filmmakers think and view the world.

A few years ago the New Hampshire Film Office resurrected an Orson Welles narrated video highlighting New Hampshire. It is a beautifully shot and narrated piece. Lead by the New Hampshire Film Office, a group came together and volunteered their time to reedit and shoot new video to bring the piece into today’s production standards. The video has been viewed by almost 8000 people and potential filmmakers.

I have also been posting goofy home videos on youtube for awhile and it is a wonderful way to connect and share experiences with family and friends and bring everyone closer together in today’s hectic world.

Last month I decided to write a script for a youtube video. As we celebrated my niece’s birthday at our family camp on Crescent Lake in Raymond, I asked my sister to videotape me walking along our neighbor’s dock inviting filmmakers to Maine and asking Maine citizens to educate themselves in regard to the positive economic and marketing benefits that film tax incentives can bring to every citizen, business and town in Maine.

My sister did a good job with the videotaping but when I got home to download the video the sound and picture quality were terrible. I uploaded it to youtube and forgot about it.

A few days later I received an email from Roy Finch. Roy and his wife Susan Landau Finch own “Wildwell Films” and they produced and directed the independent film “Wake”. Most of the film was shot at Roy, Susie and Roy’s mom’s house in Bath in 2003. The movie starred Gale Harold, Blake Gibbons, Martin Landau and Maine actor John Philbrick.

Somehow, through the pixilated images and crappy sound, Roy understood and liked what I had to say and he offered to shoot and direct a new piece using the same script. I was thrilled to think that someone of Roy’s skill, experience and talent would be willing to invest their time for free to help me produce a professional quality video promoting Maine and film production in Maine.

Roy spent many idyllic summers in Maine on Moosehead Lake as a kid and he has several projects written for Maine that he would love to produce in Maine. He was more than willing to use his equipment, bring in his close friend Joe DiGiorgi to handle the sound, shoot other locations, take photos and collect photos from friends because he wants more films and media production to take place in Maine.

That is the simple point of this post. If we simply take the time to reach out with honesty and enthusiasm to promote an industry that can truly help all Maine citizens live a better life, people will not only take the time to read what we have to say, they will actually come together to collectively deliver a positive, proactive message.

After a few weeks of emails and working on schedules Roy, Joe and I got together twice to shoot. The first time was at Town Landing in Falmouth but there was just too much traffic. The second time we met at Roy’s house and drove over to Merrymeeting Bay where we spent 2 hours on a beautiful Saturday morning shooting the bulk of the video needed for the piece.

I invite you to spend a minute and forty seconds watching the results of our collective efforts at:

Afterwards, imagine what we all could accomplish, with no cost to the State of Maine, if all the organizations that work to promote Maine like The Maine Chamber, The Maine Tourism Department, The Maine Innkeepers Association etc., got together and had a competition to see who could produce the best youtube video promoting Maine. We could make it a year long competition and the video with the most views would be the winner. If each organization put out a couple of hundred dollars we could even have a cash prize or maybe the winner could earn a part in Roy’s next Maine based film!

Whatever your background is you have a distinct reason for living in or visiting Maine. Don’t be afraid to grab your own video camera and tells us all why you love Maine. I’ll even help you out and stream it from my youtube account at:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How a film brought fame to Camden

Email to Maine Citizens
From: Cameron Bonsey []
Sent: Sunday, June 10, 2007 1:17 PM
To: ''
Subject: How a film brought fame to Camden

I read the June 9th Portland Press Herald Article “How a film brought fame to Camden” with great interest. Film and television production in Maine can have a tremendous economic impact and Peyton Place is a perfect “home town” example. 50 years after its release people are still traveling to Camden so see where the film was made. This phenomenon is known as set-jetting and is never accurately calculated into economic figures for film and television production.

I have copied 2 quotes from the article that highlight these points. All of you on my list including legislators, business people, producers, cast members, actors, film commission members and Maine citizens who are concerned with the future of the Maine economy can take a look at the past to see that we should all be coming together to do everything we can to insure that more great films are shot in Maine.

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."

Maine is a unique place and we need to promote and market it to the best of our combined abilities.

A Downeast Idea

From: Cameron Bonsey []
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2007 12:57 PM
To: ''
Subject: Talk of Maine/Stealing the Show

I read the May 2007 “The Talk of Maine” section of Downeast magazine with great interest. The piece was written by Joshua F. Moore and it was titled “Stealing the Show”. In short, it highlighted past film projects that have been produced in Maine, their positive economic impact, the current film incentives that Maine has in place and how they are not enough to compete with the film incentives that have been passed in other New England states and states across the country.

The current incentives would never have been passed without the immense efforts of citizens outside of the film office and film commission. Barney Martin, an actor and performer from Scarborough Maine, invested hundred’s of hours in research and relationship building with legislators to educate them on the benefits of film production. Without his efforts, and the efforts of other citizens, Maine would be bereft of film incentives.

So here is the sobering and empowering news in regard to film and television production in the state of Maine. It will only get done when individuals, like Mr. Martin, have the belief in Maine, its locations, its people, their creativity and the heart and soul to pull it all together.

Four of those people were mentioned in the “Stealing the Show” article. Stephen King, Richard Russo, Todd Field and Patrick Dempsey have all had a positive impact on Maine television and film production.

Imagine bringing all their talents together under a non-profit designed as a sustainable organization to employ and educate Maine residents in the media production industry. Any profits from any production would be returned to the non-profit to invest in future productions and education.

The first project could bring the intellectual collaboration of Stephen King and Richard Russo, the creativity and directorial talents of Todd Field and the celebrity and acting ability of Patrick Dempsey together in the first production that could be titled, “The Shining Empire Falls”.

With that type of star power, funding for pre-production, production, post production, distribution and marketing would be assured. The goodwill and excitement would be immense and an entity would be born that would continue to grow and help expand and improve the standard of living for citizens throughout the state of Maine.

You may say that I have an imagination bigger that Mr. King’s and Mr. Russo’s combined but I don’t think so. It will just take a bunch of heart, soul and drive……I think I’ll give Mr. Martin a call.

Yours truly,

Cameron Bonsey

Falmouth, Maine

A King Sized Idea

I've been trying to get this idea off the ground for a few years. I thought you'd appreciate the thought process.

From: Cameron Bonsey []
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 8:27 AM
To: 'Marsha DeFilippo'; 'Dale Duff'
Subject: Maine Film non-profit

Dear Marsha,

Thank you for the follow up and letting me know that Mr. King has other issues directly before him right now. I am not in a hurry and I want to make sure that I respect Mr. King’s time.

The idea of this non-profit is to set up a sustainable organization to employ and educate Maine residents in the media production industry. Any profits from any production would be returned to the non-profit to invest in future productions and education.

In a recent article in the LA Daily Times by Greg Hernandez and Lisa Friedman it was noted that movie making in the U.S. provides 1.3 million jobs, $60.4 billion in revenue and $10 billion in state and federal taxes. The article starts with the quote, “With filming taking place in almost every state in the U.S….”

The unfortunate part of this story is that Maine is not one of those States. I believe that we can change that.

Because of Stephen King’s success, respect and fame, a non-profit with the rights to one of his stories, and the mission to employ Maine citizens in the theatrical production of said story, would attract the money and talent needed for pre-production, production, post-production, marketing and distribution.

“Horror is the most profitable film genre around. Each new film can almost be guaranteed a large slice of the teenage-boy market, the last demographic devoted to spending Friday nights at the movies,” writes Richard Corliss in an October 2006 article on .

A Stephen King story produced in Maine would attract not only the very best talent from Maine (there is a deep pool) but some tremendous, established Hollywood talent with extremely strong ties to Maine.

With an experienced producer and the tremendous goodwill that would develop through this non-profit the movie could be shot inexpensively, by Hollywood standards, and maintain a very high quality.

Mr. King has certainly done more than his share in giving back to the state. By donating the rights to one of his current or future stories to this non-profit he would be helping to establish a new portion of the Maine economy that would continue to grow and help to expand and improve the standard of living for citizens throughout the state of Maine.

At some point, when it is convenient for Mr. King, I would like to meet with him face to face to further explain this concept and hopefully convince him of the value and potential that it represents.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Funding the Maine Film Office, How does Maine Compare?

On December 29th 2007 I shared the stage at the Bangor Film festival with the Assistant Director of the Maine Film Office, Greg Gadberry. Greg had been invited to speak because of his position in the film office. The brothers who started the film festival, Josh and Seth Gass, had invited me to speak because they had read my blog.

Greg introduced himself by saying “ My name is Greg Gadbury. I am the assistant director of the Maine film office, which is not the smallest division of state government but its real close. There are two of us and a group of volunteers and a budget that would probably embarrass most high school marching bands. Umm..”

I interjected and said “That’s two hundred thousand, right?

Greg responded by saying “That’s …well that’s.. no actually a hundred and ninety seven thousand dollars. Two people and thirty thousand dollars operational funds. That’s a little bit less than some film offices have for marketing alone. So needless to say we’re.. like a lot of things in Maine.. tourism other things.. terms of funding we’re in the fourties in comparison to other states.”

I have posted this clip on YouTube and I would encourage you to click on the link and listen to it yourself:

As Greg introduced the idea of Maine in comparison to other states it is fair to actually list the budgets of film offices with state populations that are comparable to Maine’s. Here is the list by state, population ranking and population:

Nebraska, 38th, 1,711,263
Idaho, 39th, 1,293,953
Maine, 40th, 1,274,923
New Hampshire, 41st 1,235,986

I contacted each state film office and ask them for their budget information. Here are their responses


From: Laurie
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:52 PM
Subject: Re: Maine Film Office

Cameron. Feel fortunate! The Nebraska Film Office budget is $37,000. This includes salary, Locations, Cineposium and our direct marketing post card campaign, sent out 4x year.

Laurie Richards

From: Peg Owens
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 9:52 AM
Subject: RE: Film office size and budget

Hi Cameron,

Our budget is about $200,000 – divided roughly in half for salaries/benefits and marketing. We have two people – actually 1.5 because I manage the film program and several areas in tourism while Kat is dedicated just to the film office.
Peg Owens
Idaho Tourism
Idaho Film Office

New Hampshire

From: Matthew Newton []
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 8:08 AM
Subject: RE: Film office size and budget


Not sure our data will help you any - my total budget is $100K. I am currently the only employee in the office. Half of my budget is used for salary and benefits. I apply quite a bit of Yankee ingenuity in utilizing the other half for promotion, expenses, etc.

Matthew W. Newton
State of New Hampshire
Film & Television Office

In regard to population base, it is clear that Maine is at the top in funding its film office. They are also at the top in regard to the percentage of the funding that goes directly to salaries and benefits and at the bottom in regard to percentage of funding used for marketing.

I would like to see Maine at the top in regard to creative use of the funding that is available. Like New Hampshire, let’s use some “Yankee ingenuity” and really start marketing Maine as a film production destination.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Building Media Leadership in Maine”

On May 4th I had the honor of being the master of ceremony for the premier of the Maine based Dibacco brothers film “Willows Way”. It was an opportunity to celebrate the film’s international distribution and at the same time celebrate film in Maine.

With a beautiful ballroom at the Wyndam Hotel in South Portland, smelling like movie theater popcorn and a crowd of over 300 enthusiastic attendees, I had the opportunity to talk about the same thing that I write about in this blog. The importance of media, media production and media distribution to the State of Maine, it’s economy, it’s ability to market itself and most importantly the benefit to all Maine citizens.

It also gave me an opportunity to pull out my tuxedo and interact with the crowd instead of sitting behind my computer and writing.

Just before I was about to step out and address the crowd, I listened to the mix of songs that played as the still production photos from “Willows Way” flashed on the screen displaying the moments of laughter, intensity and creativity that are common in the process of most media production. As “We Are Family” slowly faded I nervously stepped to the center of the room in front of the big screen.

I am certainly not a professional emcee and I haven’t received a call from the Screen Actors Guild to host the 2009 Academy Awards. What I do possess is a passion and conviction in my personal belief that media production is good for Maine and we need to do everything in our power to create a culture that attracts and inspires media producers to create their projects within the boundaries of Maine.

So there I was standing in the middle of the banquet room with 300 enthusiastic audience members staring at me waiting to be entertained. As I usually do, I said the first thing that came to my heart and mind, “We are family. That is what it is like to be part of a film crew. You are about to witness the work of a family on the screen behind me. We are also a part of a bigger family that is the film production community in the State of Maine. If you like what you see here today and would like to see it happen again and again in Maine, then I am asking each and every one of you to contact your legislator and your senator and ask them to vote for further film incentives in 2009.” I stopped and held my breath for a moment as the crowd responded with applause.

It is easy to achieve applause and agreement in that situation. In order to actually pass further incentives we will need to improve our structural and individual film industry leadership.

Currently there is a state run and funded film office, an advisory film commission, a non-profit association that was formed in conjunction with the film office in the 90’s called the Maine Film and Video Association and Portland Media Artists, an independent group that shares information with an online forum and meets informally in the Portland area.

If you could take the energy generated by these groups and funnel it into one voice you would generate more power than any group of offshore, wind powered turbines ever could.

It would make sense that the Film Office would be that voice. Unfortunately, the current system and staffing doesn’t allow for that voice to come forward.

When the Blethen newspapers published a misleading article in regard to LD2319, a bill authorizing a tax credit for the Maine based film “Tumbledown”, Barney Martin, a dogmatic film industry advocate, immediately wrote to the film office imploring them to contact the newspaper and request specific corrections. No retraction occurred.

During the legislative process in working on the bill there was no voice from the film office because they simply couldn’t speak .The Baldacci administration had not publicly endorsed or opposed the bill.

Under the current structure, the Film Office cannot advocate for the media industry unless the particular administration that is in place at the time is willing to truly advocate for the media industry. This type of structure does not give the media industry a true voice.

If you visit the Film Office website you’ll find this statement “The film office helps bring film, television and other media projects to Maine; works to expand and improve Maine's in-state production industry; and helps all Maine made media productions succeed.”

“Tumbledown” is a project that wanted to come to Maine, would expand and improve the in-state production industry and could have used the film office’s help in succeeding in those goals.

If we go back to the idea that “We Are Family” then the media industry needs to have a family meeting. As my parents and sisters will tell you I never have a problem presenting my ideas in a family meeting.

If we can put a meeting like this together I’ll be happy to voice my first idea. “Privatize the film office and truly give a focused, passionate and powerful voice to the talented Maine media artists and all citizens of the state of Maine.”

I’ll even wear my tuxedo and pop the popcorn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Home Town Discount

I read April 15th Portland Press Herald article titled “Filmmakers ask state for $800,000” with great interest and great chagrin. The timing of the article, with the state legislature and the senate in the middle of cutting important state programs in order to balance the budget and the misleading title, were frustrating for those of us who believe that media production can have a positive, powerful impact on the State of Maine’s economy and Maine’s ability to market itself in tough economic times.

“Filmmakers offer State $400,000 Home Team Discount “, would have been an appropriate title for the article. Just like my favorite third baseman, Mike Lowell of the Boston Red Sox who signed for 37.5 million over 3 years to play for the Sox instead of 50 million over 4 years to play for the Philly’s, the filmmakers were offering Maine a home team discount.

With film incentives in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island ranging from 25% to 30% the additional cost to investors in the film would increase up to another $400,000 to shoot in Maine. Why would any investor spend another $400,000 on a project when shooting it in Maine doesn’t add any return on investment value?

The answer is simple. Desi Van Til, who wrote the script, titled “Tumbledown”, grew up in Franklin County and the story takes place there. From an emotional and artistically accurate standpoint it is important to her and her husband, Sean Mewshaw, that the film is shot in Maine.

Filmmakers are emotional, passionate people who will sacrifice money for their art and their beliefs. They will go to great lengths to court their investors and then fight like hell to make sure their project is geographically and historically accurate.

In this case Desi and Sean were simply trying to bring the financial numbers close enough so that they would have a shot at success when they made the pitch to their investors to have the film produced in Maine.

Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, sponsored legislation that would reimburse 20% of the film’s expenses.

While the Red Sox felt that they needed to offer Mike Lowell a contract that was 75% of what the Philly’s were offering, Desi and Sean felt that getting Maine’s incentives to 67% of what Connecticut could offer was enough to get their investors to agree to a home town discount.

The bill made it through the legislature with the help of some intense viral marketing and education by film advocate Barney Martin who sent email after email making sure that all the legislators and senators had the best chance to understand what they were voting on.

When the bill went before the senate, Senator Paula Benoit from Phippsburg made an impassioned plea, “The film industry is waiting right on the cusp – they’re right on the edge. They keep coming into the state. They get a little piece of work here or there, but nothing that they can really call a film industry in Maine. And I’m not sure why the film commission wasn’t down here lobbying quite frankly. I’m very disappointed in them. I think they should have been right here working with us on this and helping us understand if this group went to them first, why they were not here working on it with us….and why they were turned away if they did do that. It’s my understanding that they tried to go through the avenues that we have available and they were either not returned their calls, they were ignored…”

Initially the bill passed the senate by a 24 to 9 vote. Sean and Desi momentarily thought they had their shot at bringing “Tumbledown” to Maine. Then the lobbying from Senator Libby Mitchell of Vasselboro began and the bill was brought back to be voted on again. This time it was defeated 21-12.

What brought Mike Lowell Back to the Red Sox was the camaraderie and the leadership provided by the coach and the management.

Right now, as Senator Benoit pointed out in her speech, the film industry has no official leadership in Maine. Until there is true leadership, bills like these will continue to fail and projects that have the potential to impact Maine in an economically uplifting way will continue
to be shot where they can save the most money with Maine having no chance to enjoy “The Home Team Discount.”

Next blog subject: “Building Media Leadership in Maine”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From Republican to Democrat, Maine is ready for “The Next Generation” of Film Incentives

I watched the January 31st broadcast of the Fox Morning News with great interest. Jonathan Frakes, Cmdr. William Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a Belfast resident, was being interviewed by Ray Richardson in regard to the potential positive impact that additional film incentives can have on the struggling Maine economy.

During the interview Ted Talbot points out that Ray Richardson endorsed Chandler Woodcock for Governor, Jonathan jokingly stands up like he is going to leave and yells “Are you kidding me?” At the same time Ray points out that Jonathan was raised as an Adlai Stevenson, liberal Democrat. They both laugh and get back to talking about film incentives and how they can have a positive impact on everyone in the State of Maine regardless of your political leanings.

I encourage all of you to follow the link below and watch the 4 part interview. It is interesting, funny and informative:;jsessionid=24DE6AC8FB677F12D6855C173984FC5E?contentId=5640198&version=3&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1

Secondly, I have enclosed a link to an interview with Stephen Bowen, of the Maine Heritage Policy Center and a former legislator, who explains the state budgeting difficulty in passing further film incentives and his thoughts that the Film Office and the Department of Economic Commerce and Development are not effective. He feels that the DECD should be completely cut from the state’s budget:;jsessionid=022747221791F0E14CA76A3EBE701C74?contentId=5873096&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1

In 2007 one hundred and two film, television and photo projects were produced or partially produced in Maine. None of them were large enough to qualify for our current incentives and they would not be large enough for the potential future incentives that are designed to bring large scale projects to Maine.

If we lose the Film Office and the DECD what will the impact be in attracting these small to mid-level projects?

An interview I did with Scott Paddor from the Scripps show “If These Walls Could Talk” that shot in Maine in 2007, gives us a sense of what the impact would be. “A handful of newspapers and local chambers did play a big role connecting us with the historic homes we filmed,” wrote Scott. “Those include The Bangor Daily News, The Gray Newspaper as well as the Camden Chamber, Freeport Chamber, and Yarmouth Chamber.”

I asked him “Did the Maine Film office assist your efforts and to what degree?” he wrote back, “No, but the newspapers and chambers I mentioned assisted us in finding homes to film.”

As Scott points out, it was the communities and the local businesses that made his project successful. This is an empowering statement because we all can impact the economy in a positive way when it comes to attracting film and television productions.

I encourage each of you to talk to your legislator. I would also be pleased to talk with anyone who would like to get involved in the effort to pass additional film incentives. You can simply email me at

If we all work together on “The Next Generation” of film incentives we can have a profound, positive impact on the State of Maine’s economy in the mist of tough economic times.

That is the type of legacy we could be proud of leaving to our children.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Senator Mitchell and One Smart Young Lady help to Promote Maine

On Sunday night January 6th I sat and did something that 15 million other people around the United States were doing at the same time. I watched an inspiring story about a Maine family that was filmed in Maine.

At the same time that ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was telling the wonderful story of the Ray-Smith family of Milbridge, Maine, approximately 30 million viewers were also watching CBS’s 60 Minutes as Roger Clemens denied the allegations of steroid use that were part of the Mitchell report prepared by Maine’s legendary Senator, George Mitchell.

A total of 45 million people tuned into two of the three major networks to watch stories that were generated by Maine’s greatest asset…its people.

As I watched Extreme Makeover I was proud of the way that the people of Milbridge and the surrounding communities came together to help in building the Ray-Smith family’s new home. I was impressed by Brittany Ray, her husband Ron Smith, and the way that they have worked together to overcome the enormous challenges that life has thrown at their family over the years.

To me, the biggest star of the show was Brittany and Ron’s 11 year old daughter, Bayley Ray-Smith. Several times during the show Bayley was shown giving her impressions and thoughts on the things that have happen to the family over the years and how the process of getting a new house would impact her and her two autistic brothers. She was articulate, intelligent and thoughtful and it made me think of what a positive light her personality was shining on the entire State of Maine as those 15 million viewers watched.

It also made me think of another articulate, intelligent and thoughtful Mainer whose work was being challenged at the same time on 60 Minutes. George Mitchell may be Maine’s single, most important human asset.

When a group of us were working in 2005 and 2006 to help the Maine Film Office and the Film Commission pass the first round of film incentives, I wrote to Senator Mitchell asking him to endorse the incentives and to write a letter that we could pass along to all state senators and legislators. To my surprise his response was swift and we had the letter in our hands in no time. It became an important piece of the pie in getting the incentives passed.

In May of 2006 during a meeting with the film office and the film commission in which we were discussing ways to promote the newly passed incentives to potential producers who might consider shooting their film in Maine I suggested getting a celebrity, like Senator Mitchell, to shoot a video that could be streamed from the film office website welcoming producers to Maine and would briefly highlight everything that Maine has to offer a production company.

At the time Senator Mitchell was also the Chairman of the Board of the Walt Disney Company. It seemed to make perfect sense to me that he would be a great person to approach for this project. He encompasses everything positive about Maine from honesty and integrity to hard work, creativity, incredible relationships and a great sense of humor. These are attributes that every producer is looking for when producing a film.

Without prior film commission approval I approached Senator Mitchell with a script I had written and again he said yes. When I informed the film commission and the film office that Senator Mitchell had agreed to shoot the piece they turned it down. They felt that streaming the video from their new $20,000 website would be too costly, that the piece would not fit within their larger marketing plan, that there were other people like Paul Newman and Glenn Close that would be a better fit and that potential producers might be confused by Senator Mitchell’s presence because he was an important executive at Disney, a company that hadn’t shot a film in Maine.

Well, I didn’t agree. Having streamed video from websites before I knew the cost would be pennies, I couldn’t understand how it could have a negative impact on any marketing plan and having Senator Mitchell streaming from the film office website would bring more awareness of Maine to the other executives at Disney -- giving us a better shot at getting one of those multimillion dollar Disney projects.

So in October of 2006 I went with my friend, Barney Martin, to pick up Senator Mitchell from a fundraiser in Cape Elizabeth and we brought him to the WSCH studios to shoot the piece. He was exhausted after spending several days in Europe on a business trip. What was amazing to me was that as soon as the cameras started to roll he came alive and simply nailed it.

I gave a dvd to the film office and almost a year and half after shooting the piece it sits on a shelf somewhere at the state offices. So far there is no Glenn Close or Paul Newman video.

So now I have another thought, how about Bayley Ray-Smith welcoming producers to Maine? She certainly is smart enough, hardworking enough and 15 million people around the country are already familiar with her.

I think I’ll give her a call. The worst thing that can happen is that the film office and film commission will say no and I’ll know that I did my best to help promote Maine as a wonderful place, with imaginative, hardworking to people to shoot any film.