OK, so Martin Scorsese might not have been on the other end of the phone, but Joss Whedon was. And, who knows, if the New Hampshire Production Coalition has its way, someday Scorsese might see New Hampshire as a viable place to shoot a film.
For now, there appears to be a growing niche in New Hampshire for independent films.
The newly formed Coalition isn’t necessarily about trying to attract Hollywood blockbuster filmmakers to the Granite State, but it is about promoting what the state has to offer on a film production front, as well as on a general creative front. The Coalition wants to support, bolster and grow the film, television and digital production industries in the state. The group met for the first time in November.
A fortuitous announcement came just last week that Whedon, writer of the popular television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will be producing a portion of an independent film in New Hampshire. Film crews were expected to be in New Hampshire for about two weeks beginning last week. Crews were scheduled to film a scene at the Bedford Village Inn on Thursday, March 8. The film, which was written by Whedon and will be directed by Brin Hill, is a metaphysical love story.
“That’s a sign of why the Coalition was created, because things are in the works,” said Timothy Egan, one of the Coalition’s founders.
The entertainment industry is becoming less centralized; it’s not all happening in Los Angeles and New York. People want to work in these industries but perhaps they don’t want to live in congested locales like southern California or Manhattan. In that way, filmmakers and production operations are looking for different settings, not just for filming, but to set up shop more permanently.
“Like an office that overlooks a mountain side and a river,” Egan said. “That’s quality of life in a different way.”
It’s not just about film production. The Coalition brings together the different forces of film production, television production, creative services, graphic designers — the creative economy, Egan said.
The Coalition grew legs at last year’s Portsmouth Film Festival following a panel discussion on how to build the industry. The president of the Massachusetts Production Coalition came to New Hampshire to speak to interested parties, including Egan, Joyce Cardoza of the International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees, Debra Franchi of HHG Productions, and former Red River Theatres executive director Connie Rosemont.
“It’s a mix of folks,” Egan said. “I’m from New Jersey and I’m a loudmouth. I’ll talk to everybody and anybody.”
Right now, it’s all about getting the word out. The Coalition is in the process of incorporating into a nonprofit organization, so that it can generate funding through membership fees for advertizing, lobbying and external promotions, Egan said.
“It’s a pretty simple agenda to build the Coalition so it has critical mass,” Egan said.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island have each experienced success in recent years in the growth of their entertainment industries. Egan said there is a lot of small project growth in New Hampshire.
“We need to be more aggressive like the other states have been,” Egan said.
There’s only so much the state can do, and Matthew Newton, the director of the New Hampshire Film and Television office, readily admits that.
“The Production Coalition is a long time coming,” Newton said. “It’s one of the things we needed to have on the ground. … It can market the state in a way that I can’t do in the film office.”
“I think this is really going to take off,” Newton said.
Crafting legislation that would provide tax credits to filmmakers who choose New Hampshire for filming is just one way to get the Granite State on the film production map. Egan figured the Coalition would be involved in writing legislation along those lines. Massachusetts has experienced success with its tax incentive program. Competitive tax incentives could create “a wider corridor for entertainment opportunities,” Egan said.
But New Hampshire’s tax infrastructure already has its benefits. The state has no sales tax and no income tax. The Coalition might aim to promote that reality a little more to the creative economy. The Coalition will look to partner with the business community, the state, trade associations — everybody and anybody, as Egan said.
There’s certainly an economic component that benefits the entire state when it comes to film production, since film crews are staying in hotels. They’re eating at restaurants and they’re using plenty of other local businesses in the process of making a film, Newton said.
“It’s got this wonderful little economic impact,” Newton said. “I think we’re always looking for projects that fit the state. We’re not after every project. We are a small state. But the projects that are coming through, it really benefits the state and the community....”
A piece of the Whedon film is being shot at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Newton said he doesn’t know the specific arrangement the film team and the airport made, but he’s figuring the cost to the film crew is probably substantially less expensive there than it would be at another, larger airport in say, Boston or New York.
“It came together really quick,” Newton said of the plan to film In Your Eyes in New Hampshire. He said a few members of the crew have connections to the state. “They toured around and felt like it was the right fit. More than anything, I think they were really surprised at the level of support they received from a network of folks who ... work in the industry.”
Newton said Claremont has been fantastic in dealing with the crew, opening up the city and giving filmmakers everything they need.
“They get it,” Newton said, adding he’s heard the crew has been particularly pleased with the response in Claremont. “They’re saying things like they’ve never worked with a state like this.”
The Coalition is also looking at industries like video game production, digital design and Web content design. Egan implores New Hampshire to think about its television potential. Particularly in the world of reality television, production companies are finding new and interesting content anywhere. The mountainous and environmental backdrop of the state could play a role, he suggested.
“We can’t exist in a box,” Egan said.