Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Idea to Stimulate the Maine Visual Media Economy

I finally did it. After more than 2 years as the Director of Marketing for Coast of Maine Organic Products, I was able to convince our founder, Carlos Quijano, to hire a professional videographer to shoot some training videos for our high end, organic soil line.

Carlos has done a brilliant job of marketing Coast of Maine products with beautiful images of our bags and wonderful relationships with the independent garden centers that carry our products.

I’ve spent the last 2 years shooting some amateur videos and streaming them from youtube with links through our website. My point with Carlos was that in today’s world we need to make our products come alive and use the videos to deepen our relationships with the independent garden centers that we work with.

In addition to marketing “Coast of Maine” I was also able to take a small step in helping to stimulate the local Maine Visual Media Economy. I hired Brett Plymale who was the videographer for the HGTV series, "People, Places & Plants" and director, editor, videographer and jack of all trades for “A Chemical Reaction”

Like everyone in the visual media business in Maine, Brett is working hard to create work and work with others to make a days pay. Thankfully, I was able to work with Brett so that he would have a couple of days pay.

So how can I help Brett get more work and continue my mission of making Maine a better place to work in the visual media industry? Simple. As the Marketing Director for Coast of Maine I have constant contact with thousands of garden centers and hundreds of companies throughout Maine and across the United States. I am constantly talking about visual media to them and now I have some simple, professional training videos that they will be watching and I’ll be encouraging them to contact Brett and other Maine visual media producers because I believe that Maine has the talent to compete with visual media producers across the country.

This also spurned an idea.

Many of Maine’s most successful companies hired visual media talent from outside of Maine. Why? Because, the visual media industry doesn’t do a good enough job of constantly marketing itself to the companies that could ultimately hire them.

I plan on doing everything in my power to change that. Here is a small but vital start:

The Hire Local Maine Visual Media Talent Facebook page. I have started to create the page and I invite all of you to participate. I created events from different organizations in Maine and please don’t hesitate to voice your positive ideas.

I will use the page to refer companies too, that are considering producing visual media.

With some input from other talented Maine visual media producers maybe we can all market each other to produced a few extra days of work and stimulate the visual media economy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Letter to the Maine Joint Standing Committee on Taxation

From: Cameron Bonsey []
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 9:46 AM
To: Joe Perry (SenJoe.Perry@legislature.maine); 'Lawrence Bliss'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'L Gary Knight'; 'Brian Langley'
Subject: Film Incentives

To the Taxation Committee ,

To those of you who don’t know me my name is Cameron Bonsey. I have been a visual media advocate for the State of Maine since I first wrote to Angus King in 2002 asking for more proactive communication from the State Funded Film office.

I worked very hard on the first round of incentives that passed in 2006. I was very pleased with the work that Tom Watson did in regard to incentives this past spring. His follow up and work ethic are outstanding.

As you look at incentives for the future it is important to look at how the current incentives have worked for Maine.

I was very diligent back in 2007 in trying to simply get the information from the film office on projects that had qualified for incentives . It took months of writing and follow up ( I was told that the request came under the “Freedom of Information Act”)and finally I received a bunch of pages taped together obviously printed from some excel spreadsheet. What I simply wanted to know, as someone who had worked to pass the incentives, was “did they work?”

This December I found out through Jennifer Rooks, the host of Maine Watch, that Linda Valentino was taking over the push for incentives and that Lea Girardin, the Director of the Film Office, was delivering new language to her. I requested that information and I did receive it. In addition I again asked for the projects that had qualified and I took the time to build an excel spreadsheet based on the paperwork that I had received in 2007 so that Lea would know exactly what I was looking for.

As a result of that information here is a summary of how those numbers breakdown:

53 projects the applied for the tax credit. The projects were submitted by 5 companies. In alphabetical order those companies are Blair Schmidt productions, Compass Light, L.L. Bean Inc, Lonewolf Documentary Group and Post Office Editorial.

The totals for those projects were: Total direct spend $10,962,014, total direct spend in Maine $8,295,865, total certified wage $2,938,225, non-Mainer wages $73,196.25 , Mainer wages $2,865,029. Based on these numbers the tax credit liability totals $351,123 .

L.L. Bean received over $134,000 in tax credits. It is a great company that promotes Maine but did that credit lead them to shoot more projects in Maine? Did they put that money directly into stimulating the economic visual media landscape?

Since the last incentives passed we have spent approximately (06 through 09) $800,000 in operating the film office and another $350,000 in incentives for a total of $1,150,000 and an average of $287,500 per year. Can we use these numbers to negotiate grants or funding to go directly to some deserving Maine based projects?

The first thing that we need to look at is “Are we doing the most with the resources that we currently have at hand?”

I hear the mantra over and over again that the film office doesn’t have the resources. This simply isn’t true. I can provide you with a list of states that do more with less.

I have tried since 7-31-09 to get a complete breakdown of the film office budget. In New Hampshire I can click on a link and see the entire breakdown of how their film office budget is being spent.

Open and proactive communication is the key to the success of most private business. In working with the media industry it is even more important because the industry is built on communication.

I asked the film office for years to do a blog. I finally did one myself. When I post something I also use it as a newsletter and distribute it to others that I feel might have an interest. Most of you have received at least one email from me with a blog post.

We also need some video promoting Maine. In 2005 I convinced George Mitchell to do a video promoting Maine to other producers. At the time he was the Chairman of the Board for Disney. We shot the raw footage at the channel 6 studios. The film office and the film commission turned it down. With a little editing and adding some beautiful Maine locations it would have been a powerful piece. George was amazing.

I also produced a video promoting Maine with Roy Finch in 2008. Roy shot the film WAKE in Bath in 2002. The link will bring you to an article in MovieMaker Magazine (Published by Maine native Tim Rhys) explaining why Roy shot in Maine. The video that we shot was very basic and concise. At the end I promoted the Film Office, The Maine Film and Video Association, Maine and Company and the Portland Media Artists. I sent the link to the FO and the Department of Tourism. I received a call from the Department of Tourism saying that they would like to stream it from the FO website if I could reedit the piece and take off the endorsement of those other organizations. I said no. Those organizations are important to promoting Maine media and bringing business to Maine. I have no idea why anyone would want to delete them from the list.

The film office spent $20,000 on its website during the 2005/06 fiscal year. The structure of the website is good. The updating of information is bad. The listing of media professionals has needed to be updated for a very long time. In a meeting that Barney Martin and I hosted for the MFVA and other media professionals back in December of 2008, Barney spoke to Lea in regard to “evergreening” the information. It is now 2010 and any producer interested in hiring Maine crew to work on a project is going to get information that is 4 or 5 years old. This is not fair to the media professionals that the FO is supposed to be promoting.

I see that I have already written too much and yet, there is so much more to tell. I love Maine. I know how hard the media industry is to survive in, especially in today’s climate. I don’t work in the media industry anymore but I have traveled the state speaking to municipalities and economic development groups, mentored young people interested in the business, published a blog, produced two videos promoting Maine, along with Barney Martin I brought the “Bag of Bones” director and producer to Maine to meet with the Governor and I have developed relationships with producers around the country who want to shoot in Maine and more importantly with producers in Maine who want to shoot their projects in Maine.

What has been the cost to the taxpayers of Maine? “$0”.

The taxpayers of Maine deserve a Film Office that makes the most of the resources at hand. My direct, analytical experience tells me that the resources are not being used properly. If we are going to do what is best for every citizen in Maine we need to make sure that the system is working properly before we simply put new tax incentives in place.

I would be happy to talk to any of you at any time if you feel my voice has value. You can reach me at 807-7406.

I appreciate the fact that each of you have taken the time to give back to the State of Maine. Have a wonderful day and know that your efforts do make a difference.

Yours truly,

Cameron Bonsey