Interviews | Local Industry

New Hampshire on the Map

1 Oct , 2007  

Written by Scott R. Caseley | Posted by:

In the midst of aggressive tax incentives, how does “no tax” New Hampshire compete? Matthew Newton of the New Hampshire Film Office responds to the tough question by discussing his office's approach.
Film offices have come and gone, and some have been restructured many times.  New Hampshire is no exception.  In the past few years, many changes have taken place.  Originally from Hallowell, Maine and returning from several years in Los Angeles, Matthew Newton came on board in a part-time capacity with the New Hampshire Film and Television Office office in 2002.  He stepped into the role of film specialist, managing the office in June 2005. 

Newton has a lot of ideas to keep the doors of the state open to outside filmmakers and producers.  He also keeps his office door open to lend an ear of support to the local crop of creative minds.  He even has his own pet projects in development.  But for now, the film office makes up a good portion of his life, and he is determined that New Hampshire “gets on the map because there’s so much going on here that people don’t even know about.” 

Scott Caseley:  What is the mission of the New Hampshire Film Office? 

Matthew Newton:  This mission is twofold.  We’ve taken this two-tiered approach because a lot of other film offices are set up as solely economic development agencies.  Our mission is to promote New Hampshire as a filmmaking destination and bring in production from outside of the state while, at the same time, support our New Hampshire filmmakers.  Those two approaches go hand in hand.  You can’t promote a state as a filming location unless you have a handle on the industry in-state.  That’s why in the past couple years we’ve made a concerted effort to really get to know our own base of talent. 

SC:  Much has been said about bringing productions here, what can be done to develop them here? 

Newton:  Our office looks at all films the same.  It doesn’t matter if they are student films, independent films, or studio films — in-state or out-of-state — they all receive the same level of attention.  If you take a look at our online production directory, you’ll see crew and services listed from all walks of life and of varying levels of experience.  We’re always working to promote our seasoned professionals while finding ways to bring our less experienced crewpersons up to the next level. 

SC:  How can the New Hampshire Film office help filmmakers find funding? 

Newton:  That’s always the big question, and it’s one that we have been looking at for some time.  There are plenty of ideas in the hopper.  Perhaps we develop a network of investors.  Maybe we create some sort of film fund.  There’s still a lot of discussion to be had.  Of course, every film is different, and where the money comes from is always different.  Just as today’s independent filmmakers are becoming more innovative in producing and distributing their projects, they are also getting creative with their financing.  I think the Internet has a lot to do with that.  On our end, there are some grants available to artists through our State Council on the Arts, but it is limited. We’ll certainly give filmmakers some guidance to finding alternative sources. 

SC:  Being that New Hampshire is such a small state, can one still hope to find local investors in their projects? 

Newton: Like anything in this business, it all comes down to who you know and who you can get excited about your project.  I do come across people who are interested in investing in film.  Sure, there are pockets of the state that have considerable wealth.  But you can’t simply compile a list of names and have instant financing for filmmakers.  It’s all about the right project and the right people on the project.  It’s about connecting with each other and having complete faith in a project.  I’m surprised at the number of times I’m asked by local filmmakers if I know anyone who would be willing to help finance their film.  It’s a tough question to answer.  I do know a handful of people who might be interested, but is it my place to make that introduction when I know very little about the project?  Is it the job of a film office to make that introduction, in the first place?  How do you help a project along without showing favoritism toward that project?  Again, it’s something that our office and our film commission have been discussing for some time.  We need to figure out how to build that infrastructure so we can make those sources available. 

SC:  With tax incentives cropping up in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and some other states, what makes New Hampshire different? 

Newton: Another tough question.  We’re really in the beginning stages with all of this.  I spent the morning putting together packets for our film commission about the incentive programs from the other New England states.  Looking at the big picture, it really sets New England up to be a dynamic, film-friendly region.  Let’s face it, when shows come into Massachusetts or Rhode Island, New Hampshire people are working.  That’s the most important thing.  Still, what can New Hampshire do to play in the game?  We’re working on that.  However, there’s a delicate balance between bringing in more production and protecting our resources here in the state. 

Incentives, especially good ones, do bring in production.  Our film office is still in the stage of educating and providing outreach to our communities with regards to filming in the state.  We are here to promote the state, but we also act as a buffer for our towns and cities.  I’ve talked to a good number of people in a number of states who feel that they’ve been overrun by production since film incentives have been enacted in their jurisdictions.  What good is having an incentive that opens the floodgates of production when communities become upset about the inconvenience of it all?  It can be exciting to some and not so exciting to others.  People take great pride in our quality of life here in New Hampshire and we need to be conscious of that as we look at incentives. 

SC:  What are your short-term goals as a film office? 

Newton:  Our website will have a new look, shortly.  I’m working to implement more web-based communication methods.  Communication is key with me.  If you’re not effectively communicating with your industry, you’ve lost half the battle.  Our quarterly filmmaker roundtables have been successful and we plan to continue to do them.  But, I think the most interesting thing we’ve been doing right now is incorporating sites like YouTube and MySpace into our marketing.  Our primary target audience is the independent filmmaker.  What better way to reach them than by using the same tools they’re using.  Sure, we’re still courting Hollywood.  That’s always important.  But, I’d say 85 percent of my calls are from independent filmmakers, reality television and photo shoots.  That’s our bread and butter. 

I’ve always felt that there is far too much emphasis placed upon the studio picture as a barometer for success for a film office.  That may have been true 10 or 20 years back, but now the rules have changed.  The format has changed.  The distribution has changed.  Our film office is adapting to that change. 

Live Free or Die
A still from the NH-made feature, Live Free or Die.
[Click to enlarge]

SC:  What kinds of successes have you found so far with this mission for the state of New Hampshire? 

Newton:  Over the last couple of years, we’ve really had success with the independent films that have shot here.  When I talk about success, I’m talking about success during production and how the crew enjoyed working in New Hampshire.  I’m talking about success with our communities and how the towns really embraced the production.  The Sensation of Sight and Live Free or Die are two perfect examples of that success.  We’ve also seen incredible success in rallying the troops, so to speak.  We’ve had to start from scratch and discover our industry from the ground up.  We’re coming in contact everyday with more people who work in film and television in New Hampshire.  The film office and our industry are really starting to take shape. 

SC:  What incentives do local filmmakers have to stay in New Hampshire that being in California or New York may not afford them? 

Newton: Our biggest sell, of course, are the incentives already built into New Hampshire’s economy.  It certainly can’t compete with the aggressive filming incentives from our New England neighbors, but, believe it or not, I still get frequent calls from filmmakers interested in our no-tax structure. 

SC:  What kinds of films do New Hampshire crews primarily create? 

Newton:  Many of the films made here have a lot of heart.  In many cases, the filmmaker that calls me looking to shoot his project here is not just looking for that New Hampshire location.  He’s looking to experience New Hampshire while making the film.  They come to New Hampshire because they feel the creative atmosphere that’s so much a part of our state.  It’s quiet and reflective and a place that an artist can really work.  A lot of my calls are from filmmakers who already have some sort of connection to the state.  Maybe they vacationed here, once or on a regular basis.  Perhaps they used to reside in New Hampshire and now want to reconnect.  There’s always that connection somehow. 

That said, I suppose there is a dark side to New Hampshire, as well.  August is what I call my "Cabin by the Lake" month.  Every year, I get calls from filmmakers, in-state and out-of-state looking for that perfect isolated cabin or a spot in the woods where they can shoot their low-budget horror films.  Perhaps we should be flattered.  [Laughs.]

SC:  How many registered filmmakers do you have in the state? 

Newton:  At present count, there are 390 registered crew and services in our online production guide.  I know there are more out there.  And, we’re always in the process of connecting with filmmakers either new to the state or have been here all along.  They’re coming out of the woodwork. 

SC:  How easy is it to become registered as a filmmaker in the state? 

Newton:  Give me a call or shoot me an email, it’s that easy.

Forty-five area film and television professionals gathered for a roundtable on September 13th to share info, resources, and offer ideas for how the NH film office can better serve the industry. To learn about this and other meetings, check out http://nhfilmoffice.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-hampshire-film-office-round…. Matthew Newton can be reached at (603) 271-2220 or by e-mail at film@nh.gov. The New Hampshire Film Office’s website is www.nh.gov/film.


Forty-five area film and television professionals gathered for a roundtable on September 13th to share info, resources, and offer ideas for how the NH film office can better serve the industry. To learn about this and other meetings, check out http://nhfilmoffice.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-hampshire-film-office-round.... Matthew Newton can be reached at (603) 271-2220 or by e-mail at film@nh.gov. The New Hampshire Film Office’s website is www.nh.gov/film.