EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 15, 2013

N.H. lawmakers to consider tax credit for filmmakers

State still reaps rewards from 'On Golden Pond'

By John Toole

---- — Two movies made in New Hampshire are among the “603 Reasons” people say the Granite State is special.

The Academy Award winning “On Golden Pond,” filmed at Squam Lake and starring the Fondas — Henry and Jane — as well as Katharine Hepburn, ranked No. 68.

“Jumanji,” the fantasy adventure filmed in Keene and starring Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst, came in at No. 238.

“I can send you a list of 10 states with tax incentives that can list 100 movies,” said Tim Egan, New Hampshire Production Coalition president.

Egan and the coalition are now advocating New Hampshire join 46 other states in offering tax incentives to lure filmmakers to the Granite State.

The proposal has the support of the New Hampshire Film and Television Office.

The House Ways and Means Committee is studying the issue, which is expected to go before the full Legislature next session.

“Film is about economic development and it’s about jobs,” Film and Television Office director Matt Newton told the panel in testimony last winter. “We’ve lost a lot of them.”

He pointed to “Labor Day,” a film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, coming out this holiday season.

Primarily made in Massachusetts, “Labor Day” included a single day of filming at Canobie Lake Park, Newton said.

He gave lawmakers an accounting of what the production company estimated it spent on filming and related services such as hotel rooms, as well as a count of local hires.

“So there’s $13 million and 300 jobs that went south on a film that is about New Hampshire, written by a New Hampshire author, Joyce Maynard,” he told lawmakers. “That was our film, that was our baby.”

Egan reflected on the lost opportunity last week.

“When the movie ‘Labor Day’ comes out, it could be someone’s memorable movie — one about New Hampshire, from a book by a New Hampshire author — but unfortunately all but one day was shot right over the border in Massachusetts,” Egan said. “Even a small incentive could have given New Hampshire some memorable locations and the revenue.”

Egan maintains films provide economic impact beyond the set, bringing benefits to businesses that aid them.

“I think we’re missing out,” he said.

The state also has been at a disadvantage landing films starring Adam Sandler, who grew up in New Hampshire and attended local schools.

Newton related to lawmakers how the film office had provided photos of New Hampshire landmarks to the production company for one Sandler movie.

The company then showed the photos to other states, ones offering tax incentives, and asked what they could do to match the New Hampshire locations, he testified.

“That’s what we’re up against,” he said.

The discussion is not just about the direct economic effect a movie might have on New Hampshire.

Newton told lawmakers there are tourism dollars at stake, too.

He pointed to what “On Golden Pond” has meant for the state.

“Thirty years later, I’m still getting calls from people who want to come to New Hampshire just to see where that was filmed and experience that,” he said.

Filmmaking can be a tourism tool for the state, Egan said.

“I call it a postcard for the state,” he said.

Encouraging the making of movies in New Hampshire also can keep talented young people who want to work in the field at home, instead of leaving for other states, Egan said.

“On Golden Pond” has so much meaning to people because it is uniquely New Hampshire, Egan said.

“They connected the story with the geography,” he said.

“On Golden Pond” remains the only major motion picture filmed beginning to end in New Hampshire, Newton said last week.

“Jumanji” also filmed in Canada.

More typical New Hampshire film experiences are movies like Steve McQueen’s “The Thomas Crown Affair,” which had him landing a glider in a field in Salem.

“Once Around,” starring Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter, included scenes filmed in the Wolfeboro area.

“We’ve had a lot of scenes filmed here,” Newton said.

Some smaller, independent projects have spent more time in the state.

Screenwriter and producer Josh Whedon’s “In Your Eyes,” an independent movie, filmed in Windham and other communities last year, Newton said.

Those advocating for a tax credit for filmmakers see it as something that only will benefit the state.

Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, questioned Newton at a hearing about whether a tax credit would make a difference.

“I think it would be successful,” he told Sapareto.

Newton maintains the state won’t get blockbusters, but still could pick up movies with mid-sized budgets by attracting them with a tax credit.

Without a tax credit, New Hampshire may have to settle for those Academy Award memories from “On Golden Pond.”

“We’re at a disadvantage without one,” Newton said.