Politics

June 13, 2013

Bill would woo movie, TV production companies with tax break

Financial incentive sought to augment state's natural beauty, unusual quality of light as lure for production companies

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 5)

click image to enlarge

Eric Matheson is working to convert the South Portland Armory, seen here on May 22, into a movie sound stage.

Maine Sunday Telegram photo by John Patriquin

"Large studio features, smaller independent features, television commercials, catalog shoots and music videos all have different budgets and productions needs -- and they all look at state incentive plans differently. Determining which type of project the state wants to attract is the first step in tailoring an incentive program that is a good fit for the state and the media productions."

We have a better movie set

With its current incentives, Maine attracts low-budget independent filmmakers, as well producers of serial TV shows, Carberry Warhola said. Three TV series are filming now in Maine, including "North Woods Law," which airs on Animal Planet. "Eel of Fortune," also on Animal Planet, is in production; and a pilot is under way for a new reality TV show based on life in Jackman, called "You Don't Know Jackman."

Jessica Winchell Morsa, executive producer of "North Woods Law" for Engel Entertainment, said her company has filmed in Maine for almost two years and finds the state welcoming and friendly. "The tax benefits are modest, but they have been good for us," she said.

She appreciated that Maine is "uncharted television territory." The state is underexposed, which appeals to viewers. It looks fresh on TV.

"Alaska has been celebrated with a lot of TV shows. Louisiana has been celebrated. But Maine is not a place people know a lot about," she said.

Engel Entertainment has enjoyed its experience in Maine so much, the company is developing another series to be shot outside Bangor for another network. She declined to provide details other than to say, "It's a very positive story with a wonderful family."

Garrett Fennelly, producer for the independent feature film "Bluebird," premiered his film this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan. Shot in and around Millinocket in the winter of 2011-12, the movie is about a depressed rural Maine logging town and the fallout after a young boy inadvertently is left on a school bus in a hypothermic state.

Fennelly said he was surprised and impressed that Carberry Warhola attended the premiere, adding that shooting in Maine "was a super-positive experience. The local support we had was unbelievable."

For creative reasons, the movie team opted to shoot in Maine despite what Fennelly called the state's insufficient incentive package.

"Twenty-five percent is what you need," he said. "That's what Maine needs, ultimately. The hits that Maine has taken from movies that didn't get shot there and elsewhere, like Louisiana, is huge, just huge."

Strunk, the producer of "Anatomy of the Tide," hopes the incentive package will be improved.

"We could offer less than competing states, because we have a better movie set. We have such an incredible place to shoot, movie producers want to work here," he said. "If we get it to 20 percent, that might be enough. Twenty-five percent is excellent, but 20 percent gets us in the ring."

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