A Retrospective from the Publisher’s Letters Over the Early Years

When I first considered the concept and created IMAGINE Magazine in 1998, I meant for it to be an example of what could work for the production community in New England as we knew it at the time, to connect the dots and champion the industry and the people who work in it. I believed it would be regarded as needed and I believed
it would be successful. I didn’t believe I would be its publisher for all these years. I was certain accomplished publishers and editors would emerge to lead an industry magazine that clearly, in my estimation, had a future, meaning both the industry and the magazine. Initially, my personal efforts, in part, were dedicated to providing some financial underpinning for the then media group called the Mass Media Alliance (MMA) and I spelled imagine to reflect that iMMAgine. Some still refer to IMAGINE that way.

In my first Take Two, my Letter from the Publisher, I began with the idea that things really are as we imagine them to be, and that imagination is the most powerful tool of creativity. And that we tend to forget that the life we make for ourselves and
for the world is shaped and limited only by the perimeters of our imagination. And so, I said, we need to be educated in imagination…. We…can help with the ongoing education in imagination by creating complex images and engaging stories for the theaters of the mind and the edification of the soul, and by resisting temptation to be merely clever or technically effective.

Maureen Foley, Director of AMERICAN WAKE and
Actor/Activist Alec Baldwin attending reception
for the film during the 2004 Democratic National
Convention in Boston. Photo by Robert Pushkar.
Alec Baldwin was on the cover of the very first issue. It was an outsized newsmagazine consisting of twenty pages. He would appear on another cover of IMAGINE in 2004 when in Boston for the hosting of a party celebrating Maureen Foley’s premiere of HOME BEFORE DARK and attending that year’s Democratic National Convention. Baldwin subscribes to IMAGINE to this day and has sent me notes over the years about what he likes and calls about what he doesn’t. There are advertisers that were in that first edition that are still advertising with IMAGINE in our 200th

I remember hearing from well-intentioned members of the community that others had attempted launching similar publications in the past only to succumb in their very first year of publication. So, I was determined to make it to our first anniversary, which we did and celebrated at the House of Blues when it was still in Harvard Square. Christy Scott Cashman was on IMAGINE’s first Holiday Cover and she’s been on the cover of our holiday edition ever since. It’s easy to explain that decision, ask me.

“As you sow, so shall you reap,” We always attract into our lives whatever we think about
most, believe in most strongly, expect on the deepest level, and imagine most vividly. Consciously having an idea or thought and holding it in our mind is a process that tends to attract and create that form on the highest material plane. There you have the process, as I see it, that has produced…, a whole year of the magazine. We did believe it before we could see it. And it happened. Now it is time to celebrate and remember what we have done.

I wrote, “We wanted to put balloons, confetti and champagne inside each issue for each of
you. Needless to say, we couldn’t figure out how to keep them from falling out before they got to you. It’s the thought that counts! And we are definitely, deliciously and deliriously thinking of you, our precious readers, advertisers and our vendor support team. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for a wonderful year!”

I wanted IMAGINE to be a clear and strong voice for the industry. I mustered up my courage and suggested that this magazine would be a clear and strong voice for the industry it represents. I asked that, “We imagine New England celebrated the world over for its abundance of creative talent (it is educated and mentored here), its desirable locations (they’re here everywhere), its user-friendly labor pool (here), its cost effective and award winning production capabilities (still imagining some of this infrastructure, seeing works in progress).”

My letter to the Massachusetts Legislature
I remember writing, “Imagine all that and a financial community to support and invest in
it. Together, we can make it happen!” Exactly one-year later we began “together” with Local Sightings and with the support of others, New England’s first film investment forum.

The Forum also sounded the alarm that economic expansion and its benefits to our region will not develop, will continue to erode, unless and until we identify, nurture and grow a New England based investment community that supports our creative resources and processes. Otherwise, they and their profit potential for our region, our promise of economic expansion, along with our vested interest, will move to New York, London, Dublin or LA. And, then we can read about how well they are doing someplaceelse. Our states might miss all those taxes paid to other states.

The list of evacuees is endless, I wrote at the time. Yes, we’re proud of them, but we want them back. Here is just a few recent cases in point: Brad Anderson (gone to New York), Brad Jacques (left in January for LA), Glenn Phillips (NY and then to LA, read about him in WWW), Coni Perry (NY), Allen Piper is next. Yankee ingenuity must unleash its imagination; there’s much to tackle here! We (speaking regionally) invest in technology, guard it carefully, when we do share it, we make significant returns on
our investments and guardianship. Take Avid as an example. What can we learn here? Does
anybody get the picture? The red flag is out.

And with that, we began our second year and bravely soon after entered the new millennium. We endured that some or all computers may crash turning over from 1999 to 2000 and other anomalies. But we were gathering momentum and pretty much on a roll. Advertising sales were good and readership was growing fast.

Then, the unthinkable, 9/11/2001. The following year was dreadful. Politics were erratic and a year later we were all still weary. I wrote for our September 2002 edition: “This
month holds the first anniversary of our grief as a Nation after the terrorist attacks on our Country. A year later Ground Zero has been cleaned, the funerals have ended, and we’ve struggled with our rage and denial. I’m still mad. I can find no distraction from it. September 11 called all of us in an individual way that will serve to change us
as a people more than any other event in our lifetimes and beyond.”

The dramatic impact on our industry from September 11 ranges from an economic one,
to one of artistic expression and content considerations. While most of us have struggled
with the financial realities of the time includingreduced budgets to no budgets, the summer of 2002 boasts the largest box office bonanza in its history having sold $3.16 billion worth of movie tickets over this critical season. What can we make of it? Mostly, I believe, that epic and upbeat efforts sell well in times like these, when our spirits need a lift. The concept that we are a recession proof industry was manifest.

Most of us have to answer for ourselves the question, “What shall we do with our grief?”
In the midst of pain and suffering, thousands of Americans have reached out to help those whose lives will be forever emptied of a loved one. Most of us are honoring our grief, still grieving in our own time and special way; and most of us are coming back to life, truly tested after being horribly blindsided.

In 2002, July 26th IMAGINE marked the closing of the Mass Film Office amidst the speculation that it was purely machinations and not at all the fallout of across the board budget cuts for the Commonwealth. The office closure was most untimely in light of Malpaso Productions’ decision to locate MYSTIC RIVER in Boston where Dennis Lehane’s story is set. IMAGINE had Clint Eastwood on the cover and we got his only local interview.

I have two items to address with our readers here as a result of this untimely and unpredictable closing of the Massachusetts Film Office.

Our industry had absolutely no political clout on Beacon Hill (remember this was 2002), to save a vital function and outreach of our industry that as the Hub, actually serves all of New England. It was not a matter that we didn’t have enough clout; it’s a matter that we had no clout, none at all.

Representatives Wallace and Coughlin out of the Red Sox dugout, getting ready to step up to the plate on the set of FEVER PITCH at Fenway Park. Photo by Claire Folger.
So that we as an industry don’t get caught powerless in the future, it is time to identify and help elect lawmakers that will support and endorse our industry, not only for a film office, but also in support of tax relief, tax incentives, and other industry enhancing matters like a public/private film fund that will encourage independent production. This will take time, money, and effort, but it is imperative that we get started now. A good candidate’s party affiliation is not so important to this effort. It’s the candidate’s mind set, understanding of the industry and its needs, and the candidate’s willingness to stick up for us. Other industries do it with matter-of-fact successes. We can too.

Bobby Farrelly, who testified at Rhode Islands
Film Incentive hearing and publisher Carol Patton
discuss the need for incentive legislation in New
England. An IMAGINE Photo.
To that end, in this issue, IMAGINE has identified candidate Brian P. Wallace. Read about him in this issue in FOR YOUR PRIMARY CONSIDERATION. He is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for a House seat in South Boston. He’s one of us, a writer with a big film coming up in Boston. He needs our help to win the nomination. There is no incumbent nor is there opposition in the general election. So the chances for Brian are good. Vote if you can, contribute if you can! Money is good, but so is effort. As we identify other viable candidates, I’ll let you know….

And with that, IMAGINE took on its political nature in September 2002.

n March of 2003 Massachusetts was one of only wo states in the United States that did not have film office. I wrote:

Massachusetts with its mysterious coastlines, sparkling seafront villages and towns, beautiful Berkshires, evocative Freedom Trail for its architecture and history, institutions of higher learning, technology and inventiveness the whole world would die to possess, as many seasons as any location could hope for, an International Airport in its hub city, is still without a film office. Yet, this great State from a Hollywood point of view has literally crawled up to the curb and said, “no thank you, we don’t want millions of dollars for our economy from a non-polluting cash cow of an industry that could make us popular, famous and attractive to more people and dollars for our State Treasury. We don’t want revenues to balance the budget, nor do we want a tax based economic development initiative, putting talented and creative citizens (writers, directors, producers, technical and creative artists) to work rather than their moving to New York or California to find opportunity to pay their taxes.

I have to ask, where is the vision? I’ve got to ask, who will come to a place with such few marketing and outreach skills? And, who will stay here to create, invent, work and export when we have no “device” to accommodate them? Who do they call? There has been no answer for over six months. The pipeline is almost empty.

It’s imperative to connect with the people that can make House Bill 303 a reality. Look it up on the Internet (it hasn’t been printed yet), let your Senator and Representative know that you expect their support, send them an email, letter, or fax. Let Governor Romney know that this is a tax-based economic development issue that he cannot afford to overlook or ignore. We want the work. And, if Governor Romney wants the revenue for the Commonwealth, he has a legion of the best educated, most talented, savvy, creative, highly technical, productive human beings on the planet at his service.

… .Could 48 other States in the U.S., 300 Countries and Cities in the World who have government supported film offices and commissions that vie daily for the business, be wrong? I believe not.

The industry as a whole in Massachusetts has never been effectively organized, there are
scores of groups, organizations, institutions, businesses, and individuals that make us up and we can come together on this important and vital issue. We can work for House Bill 303 and we can work to get our State Film Office reconstituted.

This month, I don’t want to consider how difficult the economy is, that talented people are drifting away or working elsewhere, that many industry businesses are struggling, or that last year the Mass Film Office and the Providence Film Officeclosed (both involving legal wrangling). I need a respite.

Then in 2004 the Democratic National Convention came to Boston. I wrote for in our August issue: Having a political convention in town livens us all up, perhaps not all of us for
the same reasons. While thinking of our nation and what we stand for, I am reminded of this quote from Benjamin Franklin. He said, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Okay, respite over.

Although the industry had been lamenting the woes of runaway productions as an industry nemesis, three years of economic and terrorism woes, Ben Affleck spoke out about Runaway productions, the MPAA also lamented and IMAGINE paid attention.

The US declining rate of growth of the film production industry due to an “outsourcing of
the work” incentivized by countries like Canada and enabled or ignored by our cities, states and federal governments can and must be shored up. During the DNC, Ben Affleck spoke of the trade benefit the entertainment industry brings. “It’s our single-biggest export and our last great industry that’s still here,” Affleck said. “Runaway production is a huge deal.” It’s criminal,” Affleck said of the studios’ decisions to make more and
more movies and TV shows in Canada and other countries. “It makes me sick….”

Like Affleck, Alec Baldwin told me that he would return to Boston to assist our independent filmmaking community in our continuing efforts to encourage our Administration and Legislature to enact HB 303 and accompanying legislation.

Alec Baldwin was in Boston as a Democratic activist and supporter of environmental preservation, government support for the arts, campaign finance reform and gun control, and to celebrate John Kerry and to introduce Maureen’s wonderful new film AMERICAN WAKE. Alec is also a great champion of independent filmmakers. Can you believe we had two Academy Award winners in the room and Alec although nominated for THE COOLER and winner of a number of other awards, wasn’t one of them (Chris Cooper and Michael Williams)! Alec Baldwin is again on the cover, this time along with Maureen Foley.

I began to study all the incentive programs available at that time around the world and
here in the U.S. Then in October 2004 I wrote the definitive piece of the time in IMAGINE, Incentives That Work Take Work. In it I outlined the many ways to incentivize our film industry. Governor Romney’s office called for copies.

That summer FEVER PITCH created excitement in Boston even though it was filmed in Toronto
for Boston, It was good to have FEVER PITCH shoot 9-10 days in Boston. Originally planned for only two days in Boston, many locals and state elected officials band together to make enough happen to at least extend their stay. The Directors, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, wanted to shoot the full 50-day schedule in Boston because that is
where the film is set. (Boston Red Sox home field Fenway Park). Toronto won 40 days saving the studio $100,000 per day. I’m still scratching my head wondering why Boston and Massachusetts couldn’t come close enough to those savings to tip the scale in our favor, at least for 50% of the schedule or 25 of the 50 days.

A proactive film office dedicated to the outreach and bringing in the business could have done better. IMAGINE spent time on the set with Representatives Brian Wallace and Robert Coughlin. Spending time in the Red Sox dugout, there was no doubt where their loyalties lie. Wallace and other important state and local officials were instrumental in cost saving devices that enabled the extra shooting time in the Commonwealth.

That experience turned heads, peaked curiosities about the benefits of film tax incentives, and our Governor and Legislators began to see the significance of our movement and the need for a film office and an interest in examining film tax credits. IMAGINE had been in business for nearly seven years at this juncture.

Our October cover reflects the light on the faces of some of the “key” elected officials who are ready to open the gates for filmmakers in Massachusetts. After two years of marketplace confusion in the state we are fortunate to have such supporters, and judging by the number of other elected officials who stopped by to say hello, they are not alone. Our cover includes State House Leadership Majority Whip, Representative Thomas Petrolati, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Commerce and Labor Senator Jack Hart and Representatives Jennifer Callahan, Brian Wallace and Robert Coughlin.

On December 1, 2004 Representatives Thomas J. O’Brien of Kingston, Brian P. Wallace of South Boston (who filed HB 303), and James B. Leary of Worcester filed their petition for PROVIDING INCENTIVES TO THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY. House Docket 1428 spells out relief
for motion picture production companies from the payment of state sales and use taxes,
employment tax credits, and cost free use of state owned property. The proposed legislation appears to follow some of the guidelines of the Louisiana model and designates that the commissioner of the Department of Revenue shall promulgate rules for the implementation of the tax advantages. Productions will be required to designate a member, or representative, of the motion picture production company to work with the Executive Office (Secretary of Economic Development) and the Department of Revenue on the reporting of expenditures and other information necessary to take advantage of the tax benefits. It’s a great place to start the process!

I have observed support for incentives in the Governor’s Office and in the State Legislature. We have also noticed that the industry’s interest in such matters is growing as we see the industry standing up for itself, posturing to be heard. Finish Editorial’s Don Packer and Element’s Eran Lobel attended the Governor’s Holiday Gala to make their views known, for example. IMAGINE also attended.

Lest we get the “cart before the horse” in Massachusetts, which is what it would be if we
had an incentive bill pass without an officially and clearly designated, underpinned, and
sanctioned state film office, let’s get that part established.

The State Legislature has made it perfectly clear that the Massachusetts Sports & Entertainment Commission (read “Opening Doors for Film in Massachusetts” by Laura Bernieri on page 23) is the place for one-stop-shopping. The Governor and the Legislature have approved an additional $200,000 dollars (budget now totals $450,000) for that office to tackle these responsibilities.

Granted it wasn’t the perfect solution from my point of view, but it’s what we got and we made the best of it. The icing on the cake is that a Film Incentive Tax Credit program passed in the very next legislative session…. It’s interesting to note that IMAGINE is the only regional industry trade magazine of its type in the country. Please continue to support it. It’s more than a magazine. It’s been a movement since 1998.

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