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Growing Momentum to Bolster Film Incentives in Maine

1 Jan , 2009  

Written by Cameron Bonsey | Posted by:

Blogger and film advocate Cameron Bonsey gives a personal take on the roadblocks and opportunities to attracting more film production to Maine.

Maine hasn’t had a major film production since Empire Falls dropped 13.6 million into its economy in 2003, stimulating and invigorating small Maine towns like Waterville and Skowhegan.

In 2006, with the work of the Maine Film Office, the Film Commission and film industry advocates Barney Martin and myself, Maine passed its current modest incentives. Those incentives proved to be too small to make a difference and have had no impact in bringing additional productions to Maine.

Martin and I never slowed in our advocacy for film. Martin was appointed to the Film Commision by Governor Baldacci because of his yeoman’s work on the first round of incentives. But he left the commission in frustration after almost a year because he felt there was a lack of urgency and follow through in approaching potential productions for Maine and working to pass further incentives.

I started my own blog promoting Maine and the Maine film community as well as producing a video promoting Maine. My posts are now delivered to legislators, business leaders, film production companies, and everyday citizens of Maine.

In addition, Martin and I have begun a road tour of local Chambers of Commerce and municipalities to help them reach into their communities and become more film friendly.

Over the course of the last few years Martin and I have frequently spoken our minds in regard to what the Film Office and Film Commission could do to proactively promote Maine, film, and film incentives. This willingness to not only speak openly in regard to what needs to be done but also to go out and do what we felt the film office and film commission should be doing caused some acrimony.

To help bring both sides together and create a union to reach out to the Maine community as a whole Martin and I arranged a meeting on December 10th at the Maple Room in Lewiston. Inviting the Film Office, Film Commission, the Maine Film and Video Association, members of Portland Media Artists, legislators, and municipal leaders to a warm, enticing, open room designed for intimately listening to world class artists perform was integral to creating an air of openness, kindness and an exchange of ideas.

I welcomed the group and invited Lea Giradin, director of the Film Office, to address the group in regard to the current campaign to pass additional incentives. She explained that Representative Tom Watson (Bath) would be sponsoring the new bill, currently a template, that will be changed and developed with input as we move forward for approval in the upcoming legislative session.

Like neighboring states, the proposed tax incentive plan would include a rebate or transferable tax credits. Incentives could escalate depending on factors such as employment levels in a Pine Tree Zone and specific on-camera coverage of Maine in the production.

Giardin also told of how producers will call inquiring about Maine and when they hear what Maine’s current incentives are the simply hang up the phone and don’t call back.

After Giradin spoke Martin had us all introduce ourselves and the open dialogues began.

Eric Matheson, Maine Area Representative on the Local 481 Executive Board — the union of professional motion picture technicians and allied crafts — reported that he and his 60+ fellow Maine union members have been kept very busy for the last two years working in Massachusetts. He told the group he has worked on five feature films during that time, saying, “The Massachusetts incentives program has really taken off and generated a lot of business for that state. It has also supported the growth of local Massachusetts production companies.”

Richard Kane, chair of the Maine Film and Video Association said, “Our industry is one that can produce real results for Maine’s economy. There is already a cross-section of state legislators, business owners, and municipalities who are convinced of this. We will do all we can to bring this message to more people and develop grass roots support for an improved media incentive program for the state.”

Auburn Mayor John Jenkins was intrigued by the dialogue and let the group know that if we can devise a concise summary of how film can positively impact a community at all levels he would be willing to be a leader in spreading the word within the community of Auburn

If Maine passes additional incentives this will also have a positive impact on the employment of film professionals in our brethren New England States as we bring more film work to the entire region.

Working with the leaders who attended this meeting and working as a unified group is the way that we will be able to convince our legislators, business people, and municipalities that film tax incentives will have a positive impact on every citizen in Maine. We plan to meet again early in the new year to generate further local support for the incentive plan and discuss other ways to bring more film and video productions into the state.

If we all work together 2009 can become the biggest year in Maine film yet!

Bonsey asks: If you are a film professional living in Maine please call your local legislator and let them know what we are doing. If you are a film professional living in New England call your friends that live in Maine and let them know what we are doing.

Maine Film Office – http://www.filminmaine.com/
Maine Film Commission – http://www.filminmaine.com/about/default.aspx
Maine Film and Video Association – http://www.mainefilm.com/
Cameron Bonsey’s Blog – http://mainefilm.blogspot.com/
IATSE Local 114 – http://www.ia114.com/
481 New England Studio Mechanics – http://www.iatse481.com
Portland Media Artists – http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/portlandmediaartists/


Bonsey asks: If you are a film professional living in Maine please call your local legislator and let them know what we are doing. If you are a film professional living in New England call your friends that live in Maine and let them know what we are doing. Maine Film Office – http://www.filminmaine.com/ Maine Film Commission – http://www.filminmaine.com/about/default.aspx Maine Film and Video Association – http://www.mainefilm.com/ Cameron Bonsey’s Blog – http://mainefilm.blogspot.com/ IATSE Local 114 – http://www.ia114.com/ 481 New England Studio Mechanics – http://www.iatse481.com Portland Media Artists – http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/portlandmediaartists/