‘Maestro’ Among Surge of Productions Using Incentives, New Facilities in Massachusetts

When people discuss busy U.S. production hubs outside of Los Angeles and New York, they tend to namecheck Georgia and New Mexico. But since Massachusetts enacted a 25% film and TV credit in 2007, the commonwealth has quietly established itself as another top destination for Hollywood, attracting a large volume of high-profile projects, including the franchise-spawning
hit “Knives Out” and best picture Oscar-winners “CODA” and “Spotlight,” as well as current awards contenders such as Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” and Alexander Payne’s comedy-drama “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa.

The most significant impact on the local production community has been from the influx of streaming projects, including the series “The Perfect Couple,” starring Nicole Kidman and Liev Schreiber, for Netflix, the second season of Julia Child bio-series “Julia” and the comedy feature “The Parenting,” starring Brian Cox, for Max.

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“The streaming phenomenon happened in such a big way. We’re so much stronger now,” says veteran location manager Charles Harrington. “We’re six to eight crews deep, where we were three or four deep before, and the gaffer that was a best boy has now done three big movies.”

The state’s production infrastructure has also grown to meet the demand with a pair of new production complexes launched under the Marina Studios banner. The first opened in 2021 in Quincy, 12 minutes away from Boston’s Logan Airport. It has a 19,700-square-foot soundstage, 15,000 square feet of multi-use production offices and a three-acre backlot. In July 2022, a second facility opened in Canton, 15 miles southwest of Boston, with 29,000 square feet of studio floor and a one-acre backlot.

“They hustled to get the first stage in Quincy ready for us,” says Jeff Kalligheri, producer of the Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” the initial film to shoot at Marina Studios. “The power was turned on the first day of production.”

Massachusetts also has 11-year-old New England Studios, 44 miles northwest of Boston in the town of Devens, giving the state three major soundstage complexes. And there could be more to come.
“We’re looking at another studio in Boston and then another one or a few in Rhode Island, just over the border,” says Marina Studios CEO Marina Cappi.

Massachusetts also offers filmmakers a wealth of picturesque practical locations, including a long list of historic universities, architecture dating back to the 1600s and the urban diversity of Boston, along with the ability to travel from coastal New England fishing villages to the Berkshire Mountains in under three hours.

But Massachusetts’ big selling point is still its 25% payroll and production tax credit. It became even more enticing for those interested in long-term investments, be they series or infrastructure projects, when its scheduled January 2023 sunset date was removed in 2021. At first glance, the raw percentage is not particularly impressive relative to other states, but this is one of those rare instances where the fine print reveals pleasant surprises. The payroll credit applies to salaries for above-the-line talent, as well as below-the-line crew, which is a rare feature in the production incentive world. But portions of above-the-line salaries over $1 million only qualify under the production credit, which requires that you spend more than 75% of the total budget or base 75%-plus of the principal photography in Massachusetts. Another rare feature is its lack of a per-project cap or an annual cap for the program.

“There’s not $300 million going into a pot and X amount of productions fight for it,” says John Alzapiedi, assistant director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “If we get 40 features or five features, they’re all eligible for the incentives.”

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