Saving the Mass Film Tax Credit

MADE-In-MASS
First the good news: I am happy to report that my surgery early in March was a complete success! Cancer free and pathologies negative. It has been a long battle for me, but failing has never been an option in my mind. I still have radiation to go, but for now, I’m feeling great and have rolled up my sleeves to defend the Massachusetts Film Tax Credits against H62.

You may recall that IMAGINE Magazine introduced Film Tax Credits to New England in the early 2000’s and I wrote the first definitive piece on why we should pass film tax credits in 2004. As soon as that issue of IMAGNE hit the street, my office got a call from the Governor Romney’s office asking for twenty copies. That changed the nature of our struggle. The rest is history, we were able to introduce legislation, educate all the elected class and pass the Massachusetts Film Tax credits in 2005; and we made them better in 2006!

Since our inception in 1998, film tax credits and growing this industry has been our #1 mission. We have been defending them ever since. It’s a 24/7/365 responsibility, which is why IMAGINE has a full time Director of Government Relations. We need to know where our elected officials stand on our issues all the time.

We have always known that overnight our main attraction of major productions, both studio and independent, to bring their work to our state can be challenged. A recent case in point is Connecticut when in late June in 2013 the Connecticut’s Film Office awoke one morning to find the state’s tax credits for film had been suspended for two years!

Many people do not understand what tax credits are designed to do. What they are not designed to do is easier to understand. Tax Credits are not designed to put money directly into government coffers. Period. The end! Why is it always judged on that misconception?

Tax Credits, and particularly Film Tax Credits, are designed to pour money into an existing economy; money that would not otherwise be available with the purpose of, in our instance, of creating an industry, stimulating job creation and other desired results that hugely benefit the Commonwealth. For example the Commonwealth could not afford to buy the attention, awareness and attraction of the really special visitors to our state, including the productions themselves that create the industry of tourism. Countless new businesses have arrived. I wish we knew how much collectively they paid the state to do business here.

When a production buys, rents or hires everything it needs here, cast and crew, talent trailers, equipment of all kinds, lumber, paint, hardware, hotel rooms, catering, transportation, waste management (yes, waste management, it’s a big ticketed item), chiropractors and much more, too numerous to mention, the desired results are achieved. The point being that every dollar the production spends ends up being business or personal income that will be taxed by the Commonwealth. In addition much of that money will be re-spent here creating more taxes for the state, cities and towns. Ultimately, all those dollars end up in a federal, state, or municipal coffer.

Consider this: As a result, Massachusetts has many very famous new taxpayers.

The film R.I.P.D spent a boat load of money here. Whether or not the film was a success or failure at the box office has nothing to do with the success of Tax Credits. The production was on location in and around Boston for six months, sometimes with five or six crews shooting at once. R.I.P.D. spent more than any other production in the Commonwealth’s history; they also didn’t break anything, they didn’t pollute or use any social services. They paid for everything before they left. Everyone who worked on R.I.P.D., no matter where they are from, paid taxes in Massachusetts! That includes Ryan and Bridges.

There is no exact formula for calculating the worth of a film tax credit. But, we are getting pretty close to being able to do that. I take great exception to being judged by anyone who apparently doesn’t understand what a tax credit is designed to do, particularly those who use the glamour of our industry to write head turning headlines, especially when they have no appreciation of the thousands of names in the credits at the end of the film, the countless businesses that provided services, or just how hard and yes, unglamorous, it is to make a film.

In my estimation there is no doubt we can prove our worth.

The next edition of IMAGINE puts a spotlight on this issue and we’ve designed a special section dedicated to our industry’s success and our importance to the state and region. I believe I am writing another definitive piece – a big one.

If you have an industry related business that began in MA after the tax credits were incepted or you are an individual that moved to MA or moved back to MA to work in this industry because of the tax credits, please drop me a note – I’d like to include your experience in our special section.

We are also focusing on NAB and the Massachusetts high tech industry that exhibits at NAB in Las Vegas April 11th – 16th. We’ll be there with a gigantic bonus distribution and huge presence. And we have Film Festival Previews for you.

If you would like to advertise in this edition please contact me. Ad Copy deadline is Monday, March 30, 2015. Please book space now.

Our latest edition of IMAGINE – the one that includes our New England Production, Resource and Location Guide is online. It isn’t too late to be a part on our online guide. You can do that by going to http://imaginenews.com/production-guide/submit-your-listing/ and if you haven’t renewed your 2015 subscription to IMAGINE in print delivered to your home or office visit www.imaginenews.com/subscribe.

Oh, yes, Happy Spring, and please feel free to forward this message to an interested friend.

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New England Production Industry Leaders Share Their Predictions for 2014

Every year IMAGINE gathers some predictions from industry leaders. They are thoughtful and sometimes extremely clever. However, most of these 2014 predictions tell us what the future of our industry may look forward to. Our predictors say the future is promising, exciting, interesting and that the region has positioned itself for a big pay-off.

Part of the optimism is hinged to the opening of new studio facilities in Massachusetts, but most of it is still banking on the regions attractive Film Tax Credits – hard won, but not yet nearly well enough promoted or advertised.

We present submissions that made our cut alphabetically here.

Obviously, again this year we will have to learn something new. –PUB

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.21.50 AMBecki Dennis, Actor, Producer & Owner of Talent Tools

I predict that we will have the busiest year ever for film production in Massachusetts and land our first TV series.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.27.44 AMSteven Feinberg, Executive Director Rhode Island Film & Television Office

I predict that there will be an amazing IMAGINE Magazine party in Providence in 2014!

I predict that INFINITELY POLAR BEAR, starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana, filmed entirely in Rhode Island, will win critical acclaim and some awards in 2014!

I predict that there will be an ongoing major television show filmed in Rhode Island in 2014!

I predict that an Academy Award-winning cinematographer will film a feature in Rhode Island in 2014!

I predict that 2014 will be a banner year for independent filmmaking in Rhode Island!

And I predict that three local talents will each have break-out years and be catapulted into the stratosphere of the movie heavens, and their stars will shine very brightly.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.38.38 AMSteve McGrath, Senior Broadcast Sales Engineer HB Communications, Inc.

I think 2014 will be the one of the most transitional years in recent memory. People will be eager to push things up to the
cloud, but if 4K gets off the ground, that won’t happen. (Read Steve’s explanation about 4K here) So people will have to make a decision if they want to pursue 4K or not. Storage companies will be pushing 4K as it sells storage. Cloud service companies will be dismissing 4K because current network speeds don’t support it in the cloud. People will have to make decisions to re-invest in storage to support 4K, or go with cloud storage. And while on the topic of 4K, non-linear editing systems will start to support 4K with compression like ProRez or DNx.

Another big change will be to choose the new Mac Pro or keep their PCI cards and move to PC.

With the new MacPro, people are going to be buying a lot of Thunderbolt adapters to accommodate their old PCI card based infrastructure. People say the new MacPro looks like a trash can, but I think it will look like an octopus once all the Thunderbolt adapter cables start dangling out of it.

I will also go out on a limb and say that 2014 will be the beginning of the end for video editor rendering. I think people have been editing long enough where it should be expected that rendering can be done in the background now. Autodesk Smoke will render in the background today, but by the end of the year, I think that ALL editing programs will render in the background.

Steve also regularly contributes to our TECH EDGE column. You can read more of his writing here.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.52.10 AMSusan Nelson, Executive Director SAG-AFTRA New England

New England is trending as one of the best filmmaking destinations in the country. The region has been enjoying a wave of production as filmmakers come to take advantage of our unique history, culture and architecture, wide range of shooting locations, and our deep pool of skilled talent. And it looks like the momentum is only building.

Just a few examples of the high-profile productions that have filmed here recently include THE HEAT, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy; AMERICAN HUSTLE, starring Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence; THE JUDGE, with Robert Downey Jr. (SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard also appears in THE JUDGE); THE FORGER, starring John Travolta; and THE EQUALIZER, with Denzel Washington.

A significant motivating factor for producers has certainly been Massachusetts’ compelling film tax incentive, which provides a twenty-five percent production credit and a twenty-five percent payroll credit for qualifying productions.

While critical in drawing productions here, when combined with our ever-increasing local resources, it often tips the balance in our favor. In fact, this year we were successful in convincing a major feature film to choose Massachusetts over Louisiana where they also offer a tax incentive.

New England’s terrain is another plus: Picturesque seaside towns, urban environments, rural settings and unparalleled historic
streetscapes are all within easy travel. With the opening of New England Studios, state-of-the-art production facilities will be in easy reach, as well.

Another exciting trend for our union members is a significant increase in principal roles cast locally, as producers become more familiar with our local talent and realize that they can save costs by hiring true professionals locally. We predict this trend will continue.

Asked for my predictions for the upcoming year, I would say that all signs point to a banner year for local production in 2014, topping a fabulous 2013. SAG-AFTRA will continue to support local talent and promote favorable legislation. Our goal is to keep this area a destination. It’s a great time to be an actor in the Northeast.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 9.00.24 AMDon Packer, Co-Owner and Senior Editor Engine Room Edit

2014 is upon us. 2013 is in the rear view mirror. However, I have a large sign on mine that says “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” in that Jurassic Park sort of way. Brrrr…. So, it ain’t over yet. But I see the light.

We have a new Mayor in Boston. The old one was pretty good. But this one made a lot of noises about the arts community here and I predict it’s going to happen in a large way. Even to the point of embracing filmmaking in town. What a concept. All boats rise on the tide.

I predict that the tax incentive battle will stupidly rise again. And once again statements like “ … lets spend the money elsewhere” will be bandied about. I predict that the people who make those statements will once again fail to realize that, THERE IS NO MONEY. Sorry for the all caps. It’s a tax INCENTIVE. But I also predict that in the end, with sound reasoning and for the fact that hotels, restaurants and tourism have all seen a huge boost due to movie making in our town, that it will continue unimpeded. You know, those guys in Devens didn’t stick thirty million in the ground just because they didn’t know what to do with their money.

I predict that I will once again write a script that isn’t worth reading, but I will be entertained by many that are. Among
them will be some that will actually happen because people have great ideas for shooting in Boston and they’ll continue to.

I also predict that this will be the year we find out that both Kanye and Kim K are aliens. Face it. They named their kid a direction. They did an Imovie edit that they think looks good. They walk around in T shirts in freezing cold weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started to say they were from France and loved fried eggs and beer. Wait… Aren’t they getting MARRIED in France??!!!

I predict I’ll finish what I started. Which is a VERY good documentary from Rough Water Films about beer and well, I’ll try to not to put on any weight doing it.

I predict that the replacement for Dona Somers at SAG, Sue Nelson, will be wonderful and well liked by everyone. Not that we didn’t love Dona.

And finally, I predict a big TV show is finally coming. It has to. We’re primed. Why not? I’m not talking a reality show but a drama that will work. That will be based here. Shot here. Edited here. Come on, even a dog gets a bone once in a while.

2014. I’m going to love you like a long lost brother.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 9.19.14 AMJohn Rule, President Rule Boston Camera

2014 will be a very exciting year from a technology perspective. Due to advances in electronics and a global supply network, innovators and inventors now have ready availability of all manner of motors, sensors, and specialized processors, which will bring forth a tidal wave of new camera dynamics products of all imaginable types. We’ll see many new stabilization rigs, flying
drones, motion control rigs, sliders, cranes, jibs and dollies. Additionally, I think that the burgeoning robotics industry
will this year introduce us to the first semi-autonomous camera robot, just you wait! We may never have to endure a static shot again (kidding!). 3D printing is also coming into its own, so every key grip, gaffer, DP and AC will be able to design and build his or her own signature line of production tools. And (I am hoping) that 4K workflows as used by Hollywood will become more practical, and will start to trickle down to more real-world production environments.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 9.22.32 AMJohn Stimpson, Director John Stimpson Productions

2014 will be a big year here in Massachusetts! The tax incentive will continue to draw big projects to the Commonwealth, and our fabulous new facility, NE Studios will house some exciting productions. Some of the films shot here in 2013 will win Academy Awards. Many of our talented filmmakers and production professionals will get attention, acclaim and some big new opportunities. More of our local actors and creative talent will shine. And, with any luck, I personally, will premiere my newest film, and start production on two new projects.

Meanwhile, we will all continue to grow and change in the ever more volatile world of distribution and exhibition. The disparity between big studio projects and independent films will expand further. Television as we know it will continue to morph into a hybrid of online and broadcast content. Web based projects will be more plentiful and gain more notoriety. And binge-watchable series will start to overtake stand-alone, long format projects as the preferred form of narrative storytelling.

Have a great year! Keep plugging, stay creative, and let’s all self-generate some cool stuff here at home in Massachusetts!

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 9.30.49 AMErnest Thompson, Writer, Director, Producer Whitebridge Farm Productions

Since it’s been scientifically proven that the universe is simultaneously expanding and contracting, as in nobody can see that far but can now Tweet about it in 140 characters, it’s only fitting that film follow suit. Film in 2014 is sort of where it was 100 years ago when no one knew what to think of the medium or its potential and went about making movies anyway. The old paradigm, and this is where Einstein steps in, still works except it’s bigger. A budget of 150 million is nothing, it’s a joke, provided that it recoups in its first weekend; if it doesn’t, don’t call me. But, relativity speaking, a newer paradigm has taken root in the shadows of the skyscrapers: Independent film will become more independent than ever.

Community filmmaking, we call it, those of us probably not conversation starters at 150 mill but with stories to tell just the
same. Through my company Whitebridge Farm Productions, I’ve made two movies in the last few years, TIME AND CHARGES and HEAVENLY ANGLE. We offered them as On Location Training and more than 800 people participated. The movies’ budgets were modest, even by 1914 standards, but their collective hearts are huge and the response from the few film festivals we’ve visited has been colossal. And we’re just getting started, we nouveau pioneers. Communities will be springing up all across the frontier; we’re expanding ours and we’re not alone. In the digital age, anyone can make a movie, which means a lot of bad movies will get made – they weren’t all masterpieces in 1914 either – but great, profound, provocative films will be created, too; it’s an exciting time to be a storyteller. 100 years from now, people will look backand marvel at what we accomplished. Einstein would be proud.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 9.32.40 AMDave Talamas, President Talamas Sales and Rentals

With the impending sale of spectrum above 600 MHz, wireless microphone and intercom manufacturers will become more spectrum-efficient. While 4K has been heavily promoted in 2013, most content will continue to be created in 2K since it has more than enough resolution for commercial and motion picture production, is cost effective and is supported by the cable and network infrastructure, whereas 4K presently is not. However, 4K production can be valuable for motion picture production for future proofing, as well as for computer graphics for film and commercial production.

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Meet The AMERICAN HUSTLE New England Cast & Boston Casting Director

By Becki Dennis

Filmed almost entirely in Massachusetts last spring, David O. Russell’s recent cinematic masterpiece American Hustle has already received three awards from the NY Critics Circle, including Best Picture, and has been nominated for seven Golden Globe and two SAG Awards. This is the second time David O. Russell has filmed in Massachusetts; he filmed the FIGHTER here four years ago, which also garnered rave reviews and award season success. It is always exciting for the Massachusetts film industry, and all of the local businesses who were involved, when a major motion picture produced in New England receives so much positive attention. But as the nationwide media focuses on the stars of the movie, and which actors may or may not win an Oscar for their performance, we’re taking a moment to draw attention to all of the local stars who worked on this film. It is an amazing feat in and of itself how many New England actors landed roles in AMERICAN HUSTLE – roles that could have otherwise gone to NY or LA actors – and it’s time to recognize them and the casting directors who gave them this opportunity. Here is IMAGINE’s spotlight on our regional talent: (Spoiler Alert)

“Publishers Note: Becki Dennis has brilliantly interviewed Casting Director Angela Peri and a host of actors who had significant roles in AMERICAN HUSTLE. Here is the full compendium of her work. These responses were contributed by the actors themselves by either phone or email. Please note that there are other Boston actors who had roles in “American Hustle” who did not contribute to this article.” -PUB”
angelaperi

Angela Peri

1. What was your experience like casting this film?

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I love working with David O. Russell. He’s like Picasso. He is a cinematic genius. I knew that when I worked with him on “The Fighter.” He pushed us really hard (in a good way.) He always challenged us to bring him more options and to show him what else we have. Like with anything in life, you gel well working with some people and others you don’t. Him and I immediately gelled and have a kinship, where I can see his vision through his eyes. I knew what he wanted for this film. I’m from the 70’s and remember the time period completely. I knew the look, the feel, and the type of people he likes to cast. He loves shooting in Boston and he cast almost all of roles except the leads here. He’ll come back to Boston.

2. How many principal (speaking) roles did you cast at Boston Casting?

Approximately forty speaking roles.

3. Have you seen a trend of the numbers increasing for local principal casting, versus them casting all in NY and LA for the big budget motion pictures?

Absolutely. The SAG-AFTRA membership went from around 700-800 members in 2007 and now we are at over 3000 members (including film, television and broadcasting) because of the Massachusetts Film Tax Incentive. Everyone has stepped up their game. Everyone knows the stakes are really high. They’re taking classes and taking it seriously. Everyone preps for auditions. There was no difference between the Boston and NY/LA actors for the AMERICAN HUSTLE auditions. The only thing they have that we don’t is more options. I have complete confidence in every Boston actor to come out and do a good job. Before 2007, the films only came here to shoot exteriors for about two days and hired the local actors as extras only. It wasn’t until the movie PINK PANTHER 2 in 2007 that things changed for us.

4. A good number of background actors were upgraded to speaking roles in this film. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Don’t shun extra work. You never know what could happen, plus it’s a great way to fill your acting resume.

5. How many actors did you audition for this film, and what is the average number of actors that auditioned for each role?

Over 1000 actors auditioned in total for the film. It depends on the role, but we auditioned around 20-30 actors for each part.

6. What made you and/or David want to call in an actor for an audition, callback an actor, and cast them?

I would call in actors that look the part and put them on tape. David O. Russell and the LA Casting Director, Mary Vernieu, would make a decision as to whom to callback. I made suggestions, but David O. Russell had the final casting say.

7. What did the auditions consist of?

All improv.

8. How does it feel to give Boston actors roles in a big movie like this?

It feels tremendous.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m so fortunate to be chosen to work with David O. Russell and Mary Vernieu. The LA producers were shocked that they didn’t have to fly in talent (besides the starring roles) and that we had what they needed here. It took me a while to beat them over the head to realize that, but now they’re getting it; largely due to David O. Russell. We have cast tons of locals in all of the recent films we worked on: TED, THE JUDGE, etc. We are now on the map.
aaronflanders

Aaron Flanders

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

Arthur, Carl Elway’s Friend.

2. What scenes did you act in?

Three scenes in the museum chasing Irving (Bale,) Richie (Cooper,) Edith (Adams,) and the Sheik Plant (Taghmaoui) as they enter the museum, then following them as they head up the stairs; confronting the group and Irving, and being blown off by them, and then concluding with the scene in front of the Rembrandt painting, where I accost Irving (Bale,) and am interrupted by Edith (Adams,) introduced to Richie (Cooper,) and then again blown off rudely by the whole group.

3. Which of these scenes made the final cut and which scenes didn’t?

According to my friend, who saw the Coolidge Corner pre-screening, I think all my scenes might actually have made it! I haven’t seen it yet!

4. What other actors did you work with?

Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Said Taghmaoui.

5. What was your experience like working on this film?

Singularly unique and amazing experience, walking into such a talented group of actors, and immediately being thrown into three intense, improvised, in-your-face scenes with them!

6. How did you get your role?

Auditioned at Boston Casting.

7. What are your upcoming projects?

I’m primarily a musician and have just released a brand new album, body of original music, and band, “Aaron Flanders – The Third Floor.” Our CD Release concert is going to be on March 7, 2014, at 7:30 pm, at Johnny D’s in Somerville! For more info., please visit: www.facebook.com/AaronFlandersTheThirdFloor

8. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I live in Cambridge (Boston) because I went to music school here, and because I’m mainly a musician, and Boston is a great music town!

9. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Just to be honest and project an inner glimpse of yourself in every character that you portray.
aluracarbrey

Alura Carbrey

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

Elizabeth (Betty) Polito. Carmine Polito’s daughter.

2. What scenes did you act in?

I acted in the casino scene, the arrest of Carmine Polito scene, and a family breakfast scene.

3. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I had the opportunity to work closely with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Rohm. I also had the chance to meet Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale. As an aspiring actress, it was an exciting opportunity to work with such a talented and experience cast.

4. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was an unforgettable experience that will stay with me my entire life. I became very close with the cast and crew, and it was an emotional goodbye. Working with the talented David O. Russell was inspirational to me as a young actress.

5. How did you get your role?

I got my role through the casting agency, Boston Casting.

6. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I’m currently studying business and theatre at Endicott College. I hope to continue my acting career in the future!
ayanabrown

Ayana Brown

My role was Cosmopolitan Girl #1. Mr. David O. Russell cast me on set, and it was truly an amazing experience. DOR is a masterful visionary, intense, and knows exactly what he wants. Some would quip that his style of directing may be a bit unorthodox, however without a doubt there is a method to his madness. I am convinced he is one of the best in the business and it was truly an honor to work with him and the beautiful Ms. Amy Adams. I learned so much in that one day of shooting. The tools that I came away with under his direction are priceless. The biggest lesson: Be ready all the time. You never know when an opportunity will knock at your door….when it does you better be prepared to answer it!

I was raised in Amherst, MA where I started my acting career in the local theater circuit. I began working on films in 2007 in the Boston area. THE GREAT DEBATERS was my first film. I joined SAG in 2008; continued working in film and TV to date. I have had roles on Law & Order, Law and Order SVU, and Unforgettable. This was my first role in a feature film. I travel between NYC and Boston for auditions, television & feature film work, and am represented by Shirley Faison with Carson Adler Agency, NYC. Recently, I signed with Maggie Inc. for print modeling. Shortly after, I landed my first print ad with Keurig Coffee. Most recently, I auditioned for principal in a TV pilot. Other projects I worked on this year in the Boston area: THE FORGER, BASIC MATH, THE JUDGE, BUSINESS TRIP, Olive Kitteridge, Chasing Life, MA Lottery, Geico, & Bank of America Commercials. Currently I reside in Western, MA.
beckidennis

Becki Dennis

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

I play Rebecca, who is a friend of Amy Adams’ character. I am a nanny for the son of the Suburban Businessman, played by Jay Giannone.

2. What scenes did you act in?

I filmed five scenes and one made the final cut. I am walking with Amy Adams (Edith) and pushing the child, who I am the nanny for, in a stroller when Jay Giannone approaches us and asks Amy for a line of credit. Amy gets upset with me for sharing information with him that I shouldn’t have about her banking connections. I apologize and we walk away, with Jay calling after me “Rebecca, tell her I never missed a check… Rebecca.” (Rebecca was my name in the script, which just so happens to be my birth name.)

3. Which of these scenes made the final cut and which scenes didn’t?

My apology to Amy was cut, but the rest of the scene remains. If you listen carefully you can hear my voice at the top of the scene. Amy, Jay, and I also filmed a second similar scene, which was omitted from the finished film. I am still so grateful to have made it into the film, period. Additionally, in the original script Amy Adams’ character was from England (not New Mexico as it says now in the completed film.) I and two other female actors were playing her friends and we were all nannies. They filmed us all getting our passports stamped together at customs, traveling in a taxi together, and arriving in New York City with our luggage. We also enter the pool party scene together arm and arm. All of these scenes were cut; the pool party is in the film, but it doesn’t show us walking in with Adams. Because we were supposed to be from England, I delivered my lines with a British accent, which I luckily felt pretty confident with since I had taken a dialect course when I was a Theatre major in college. Interestingly, David O. Russell didn’t hear me speak with a British accent until the day I was to film the scene with it, so he must have just trusted that I could pull it off and I received no dialect coaching on set. Another interesting tidbit: Amy had originally filmed all of the opening scenes with a British accent, but they did ADR work in post to change her to have an American accent in this first few scenes because of the script re-write. She now only has a British accent in the film when she is conning as Edith Greensly.

4. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I worked mostly with Amy Adams and she was so awesome to be around. She was so surprisingly normal and easy to talk to and super funny. My nanny friends were played by Hannah Yun and Rachel Bartolomei, who were also great. We became close working long days together. And, of course, the day I worked with Jay Giannone was unforgettable. It went so smoothly and was of one of the best days of my life. I also had my make-up done sitting next to Christian Bale while he was getting into hair and make-up. I didn’t really get to know him, though, as he is quiet and likes to focus on getting into character, which obviously seems to be working for him given his track record of outstanding performances.

5. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was truly a dream come true and life-altering. This opportunity came at a time when I least expected it, which was the ironic part about it. Having a principal role in a major motion picture had long been a dream of mine and having it come true really rekindled my faith in my acting career. I was very nervous before it was time to film my big scene, but found myself feeling really prepared, relaxed, and in the moment once the cameras were rolling, which I surprised even myself with. On the day I was given lines, I was not given a script, and David O. Russell just fed me the lines during a rehearsal right before shooting. He is very hands-on and walked through the scene with me as if he was in it. I think my experience with improv and interactive theatre prepared me well for this type of directing, as it didn’t scare me at all. When I was done for the day, I couldn’t wait to come back for more. It really left me yearning to experience more on a film set like this with the world’s best actors and crew.

6. How did you get your role?

While I have had hundreds of auditions over the years, the amazing thing about this is that I didn’t have to audition for the role. I had first been selected and narrowed down from a bunch of pictures. I was then asked if I’d be willing to wear a bathing suit for the pool party scene, and initially hesitated, but then said I would do it if I could wear a one-piece suit since I don’t have what you would exactly call a bikini body. They agreed and I was given the role of one of the nanny friends of Amy Adams. The costume department even ended up making me a whole new bathing suit cover-up specifically for me. I was told I would be featured background with the possibility of an upgrade. The awesome casting associate, Ashley Skomurski, of Boston Casting recommended me to David O. Russell as being an actor good at improv, who could handle an upgrade. The upgrade to principal did happen and I am forever thankful to her and Boston Casting for putting in a good word for me.

7. What other work have you done recently?

I recently had a principal role in a MA Health Connector commercial, which is still airing frequently on several channels. I produced and assistant directed the short film MILDRED’S MILLIONS, which is now starting to play at film festivals. And, I am always busy running my company, Talent Tools, as well.

8. What are your upcoming projects?

I have the lead role in an indie feature film, which begins filming in March (title TBA,) which I am really looking forward to. I am also keeping my fingers crossed about other projects I am currently being considered for… Stay tuned!

9. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I grew up here, my family is here, and I love the acting community in New England. I’ve been a part of the film scene in Massachusetts since the tax incentives were first put into place and I’m invested in helping to build the industry here. I have tried my hand at the New York scene and it’s not for me, nor is LA, which I’ve visited. Boston is my home and I’m here to stay. Plus, the opportunities that I have received here would have been harder to achieve in a larger, more competitive market.

10. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Persistence, preparation, and positivity. When I decided to pursue acting as a career I had people tell me to get my head out of the clouds and to stop dreaming. I’ve also had people tell me I was too big (physically) to act for a living. If I had listened to them, I would have never had the success I have had. I have worked hard for over ten years at this. I have taken dozens of acting classes. I have auditioned for countless jobs that I didn’t get. But it doesn’t go unnoticed. Remember that when you audition, you are auditioning not just for that role; you are auditioning for all future work. If you do a good job you will be remembered, and some day, if you don’t give up, a role will come around that will be right for you and it will make it all worth it. Also, this may be obvious, but – be nice. Being nice to people goes a long way and makes you likeable. And be professional – show up on time, prepared, and ready to work at every audition and job. Likeable, professional people get hired.

11. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

The last day I worked on AMERICAN HUSTLE was the same day the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Luckily, we were filming in Worcester that day and were not in any real danger. It was a very bittersweet day, with this tragedy that occurred. Boston has had a tough year, but we have also had a great year. When the Red Sox won the World Series it was a moment for us to feel pride in Massachusetts. I feel “AMERICAN HUSTLE is another “Boston Strong” moment for our state. This is a movie for us all to feel proud of.
billyv

Billy “V” Vigeant

I did a scene with Amy Adams. I play an FBI Security officer. I escort her to a cell and toss her into a padded room. The scene was cut shorter than originally shot. I was filmed walking with her by the arm and I then approach the cell door and open it and fling her into the room. She then runs back towards the door and I close it on her. They filmed me closing the door and then just standing in the hallway after all that. The final cut shows the back of me walking with her and then throwing her in the cell, but closing the door and me standing there were excluded.

Amy Adams was a treat to work with. Very personable and very friendly. I was surprised how small she is. David O. Russell is a blast to be directed by. His non methodical thinking and creating on the fly is a treat to watch and be a part of. I was amazed how he remembered me from working on THE FIGHTER. He’s very kind and very flexible with his on set creation of scenes on the fly approach. Sadly enough I was to film a scene with Robert DeNiro and the following day, after being fitted for the scene, I was called to be told David O. Russell canceled the featured background for that day.

I’m from Rhode Island, but work mostly in the Boston Market. I have worked in New York and Connecticut, as well, but consider Boston my home base. The Boston film market is incredible and quickly becoming a Tour de force in the filmmaking industry. It has it all and I’m very proud to be a part of it and to be considered an adopted son to it.

This year I’ve worked on eleven film projects and most recently “Self Storage” and “Army of the Damned” were released to over 100,000,00 million homes, with VOD and nationwide releases in January. Also, I just finished the film KILLING KHAN, a Vendetta Motion Picture, in which I co-star as Ivan. It was filmed in Boston and surrounding towns. Next up is BLUE SUEDE, in which I graduate to a lead role as Mafia Don Franco Pizzan alongside Robert Miano, who starred in DONNY BRASCO with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. This is an epic crime drama that is scheduled to start filming in February 2014. All in all, I’m excited and proud to be a part of the Boston film community and look forward to working on the projects to come. It’s going to be a great 2014 and thank Angela Peri for the opportunities to be a part of such legendary films as AMERICAN HUSTLE.
ericamcderm-AH

Erica McDermott

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

I am a con artist/ the girlfriend of character Carl Elway.

2. What scenes did you act in?

I am in the scene when Irving is first meeting with Carl Elway to discuss plans. I burst into the meeting with Edith and Ritchie. I am also in the scene when Carl is getting arrested; I am wearing an old school slip and freaking out.

3. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I worked with Shae Whigham, Bradly Cooper, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale. It was great to work with Christian and Amy again. I had a blast getting to know Shae and Bradley.

4. What was your experience like working on this film?

I work well with David O. Russell. He is smart, funny, and is able to get the best out of me. It’s exciting to be part of his films; the stories he tells are always so captivating. The people that I’ve gotten to know and had the privilege to work with have been the best teachers.

5. How did you get your role?

Although you may not see it from the few moments I have in the film, there really was a ton of work that went into this for me from the first audition in January to the last day of filming in May. I auditioned over the course of three months. Lots of improv, character development, and taping in between. Wigs, authentic retro outfits, dialect coaches to perfect my accent, and a day of screen testing were all part of it. I was officially cast at the end of March, and I was beyond excited.

6. What are your upcoming projects?

I will be doing quite a bit of theater over the next few months, we are in early discussions with producers about a feature comedy, and I’m looking forward to a busy pilot season.

7. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

With the Mass Tax Film Credits – opportunity is here for me. Boston is my home and this incentive makes it possible for me to live here and work.

8. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Practice, take classes, stay focused, and be in the moment during auditions. My friend, Kevin Lasit, gave me the best advice and I believe it’s true: “Ask for work, not fame.”
jaygiannone

Jay Giannone

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

Jim, the Suburban Businessman.

2. What scenes did you act in?

I acted in three scenes. One with was with Amy Adams and Christian Bale; I was one of the businessmen. Two were with Amy Adams and Becki Dennis.

3. Which of these scenes made the final cut and which scenes didn’t?

One of the scenes made it in, where I’m trying to get a line of credit from Amy Adams character.

4. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was wonderful. David O. Russell treats me like family and makes it an interesting, fun experience. David and I have been close since 1999, when I first met him working on WE THREE KINGS and we have stayed in touch since… He believes in me. We have a natural, organic relationship. I thank Mark Wahlberg for putting us in contact with each other.

5. How did you get your role?

I auditioned for Mary Vernieu, the LA Casting Director, in LA. I was booked off my first audition. David was familiar with my work and liked what I did.

6. What other acting work have you done recently and what are your upcoming projects?

I recently played Joe in GOD ONLY KNOWS with Toby Jones and Harvey Keitel, written by Emilio Mauro of Boston. I have a lead role in THE WITCHING HOUR filmed in Boston, and also have acted in THE LIFE and UNTOLD. I believe you shouldn’t wait for roles and should always be creating your own work, which is why I write, produce, and direct my own films, too. I am directing a movie about Alzeimers in April with Taryn Manning and a TV show I wrote, Diesel, is currently in development.

7. Where are you based and are your reasons for pursuing your career there?

I am originally from Boston, but am now LA-based and have been for eighteen years. I come to Boston a lot because it is where my heart is. Thank god for the wonderful casting directors back home. I have been blessed that Angela Peri and Carolyn Pickman call me in for projects. Because of them I have got parts in films such as THE GAME PLAN, GOD ONLY KNOW, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, and now AMERICAN HUSTLE. I have now done eight movies in Boston and many have been Blockbuster hits. For me to be able to go home and work is the best thing, so I can be with my family.

8. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Don’t give up. You’re going to get discouraged and get the door slammed in your face. Keep your chin up and don’t get down. Your performance can be great in an audition, but the director may not see you in the role. Just keep on moving forward and your time will come. Create your own projects. Do what you love. Don’t compete with anyone except yourself.
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Melissa McMeekin

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

I play Alfonse Simone’s assistant. Simone is played by Paul Herman from GOODFELLAS and SILVER LININGS PLAYBACK.

2. What scenes did you act in?

I filmed a few scenes, but not all made the final cut.

3. Which of these scenes made the final cut and which scenes didn’t?

The pool party scene and a key scene that I can’t get into or it would be a spoiler. However, my lines were cut from both scenes and they were a bit whittled down. But I’m certainly not complaining! That my face just pops up at all in this movie is pretty cool.

4. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I worked with Christian, Amy, and Bradley. It was great. This was my first time working with Bradley, although I had met him before at a visit to the editing room of SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. It was really fun to reunite with Christian and Amy (who I worked with on THE FIGHTER.) Christian is incredibly funny and charming and I really enjoy being around him and joking with him.

It was so great to work with Amy again, especially since our characters weren’t supposed to hate each other this time… she’s so warm and down to earth, and I enjoy being around her. Not only were they a lot of fun, but they were all so incredibly talented and focused. I learned a lot; it was really like a master-class. I’m so impressed and amazed by Amy and the way she immersed herself completely and the places she let herself go to. She really showed me how to be fearless and brave, and I’m very proud of her and really rooting for her. And Christian is like some kind of freak of nature in the way he transforms completely, and is without question one of the best actors of our generation. To have been given the gift to learn from him up close and just being around him is priceless.

5. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was nothing short of amazing. This movie is definitely going to be a loved and well respected part of cinematic history, and to be even the teensiest part of that is unreal, and the fact that I was with people that I have a rapport with just made it so great. I love working with David. I love the way he works and I love watching him work; he gets so in to it and it’s really inspiring to witness his passion and creativity in full force. And he has become one of my very favorite people, he’s very fun to be around, he shares my affinity for jokes second graders enjoy, and I love laughing with him.

6. How did you get your role?

I had an initial audition with Boston Casting, but all of the larger roles went to established actors out of LA as everyone wanted to work with David. He very graciously called me and told me he created a place for me and asked if I’d like to make a cameo appearance in the film. I was incredibly humbled and honored.

7. What other acting work have you done recently?

I just finished working on BUSINESS TRIP with Vince Vaughn and have been working down in NYC trying to build my TV credits. My goal is to get a series regular role on a show.

8. What are your upcoming projects?

I’m currently working in NYC on Steven Soderbergh’s new series, “The Knick”. It will air on Cinemax in 2014. I have a recurring role playing the real Typhoid Mary. I also am in the early development stages of a script that I wrote and am currently working on writing a TV pitch for a one hour drama.

9. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I love living in Boston. I am not from the area originally, I’m from Washington state. I moved here seven and a half years ago for no reason other than I wanted to live here. I had no family, friend, or ties of any kind to the area and had, in fact, never even visited the area before I stepped foot off an airplane to live here. The best way I can describe it is that when I would look at pictures of New England I felt homesick. And, indeed, it truly feels like home to me.

So it is very important to me to find a way to do what I love and still get to live where I love. It has certain challenges, sure, and I have to travel to NY a lot and have gotten very used to putting myself on tape, but it is all worth it to me when I walk around Rockport or meet a friend for lunch on Newbury St. And I believe there is just so much talent here in New England, so it has also become very important to me to write and do what I can to bring work here.

10. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Work on your craft. Train. Take classes. Both Boston Casting and C.P. Casting have one day workshops where you can meet the casting directors, and that is great and I strongly advise that, however, I am a believer in the adage that “success happens when preparation and opportunity meet.” So while it’s great to get on the CD’s radar, you need to be prepared for when that opportunity does come along, so you should look in to their other more in-depth classes, as well. I did stage for years, and worked on my craft taking classes and working with a private coach.

I also recommend to new actors to work as much as you can; do plays, short films, student films, etc. Work creates work and you will get better and more confident. This also helps you build a resume and have something for a reel. Outside of Boston you really need to have a reel to compete as a lot of submissions won’t even be looked at if a reel is not attached. This doesn’t have to be major films with major stars.

And we are so blessed here in Boston in terms of the colleges and universities that are here and the superb film programs. If you are willing to go to NY for work, NYU has an amazing film school and they are constantly doing student films of really great quality.

11. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I’m just really proud to be a part of this dynamic and talented community and was so thrilled to see so many familiar faces on the screen in AMERICAN HUSTLE. I felt true and sincere pride and can’t wait to see the local industry grow.
dininni

Rob DiNinni

1. What was your role in American Hustle?

Desperate Businessman. I’m humbled and grateful to play a small role in a widely acclaimed film.

2. What scenes did you act in?

An office scene where I’m desperately asking for money; a loan. It was mostly improv and additional direction from DOR… I embezzled money from my own parents clothing manufacturing business located in the garment district NYC, and traveled to France numerous times and bought cars and boats on my parents company money for love. Or was it lust? Either way I’m in big trouble and my parents will disown me.

3. Which of these scenes made the final cut and which scenes didn’t?

Most of my scene was on the cutting room floor except a small part used in a montage. I’m one of three of the business types begging for money.

4. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

Amy Adams and Christian Bale: It was very rewarding to work with such generous actors fully committed to their characters.

5. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was an invigorating and inspiring process, which left me begging for more time on set with the desire to perform more with actors of their stature and a director/writer hitting his stride, enabling incredible acting performances and filmmaking.

6. How did you get your role?

Model Club, Inc. got me an audition with Boston Casting’s, Angela Peri. Angela put me on tape for an audition and after three callbacks I auditioned for a final callback directly with David O. Russell.

7. What other acting work have you done recently?

I played the lead, Cause, for a new comedy play, “The Break-Up of Cause and Effect,” which premiered at the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland and then performed in London – thirty shows from August through Sept 2013.

8. What are your upcoming projects?

As Principal of StageCoach Improv, I have a few holiday improv and sketch comedy shows and I’m also involved in writing a new comedy short film for a web series on dating and relationship traps.

9. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I moved to Boston for a sales job and was wishing to do stand-up and theatre, which I did to kick off my acting career on stage and film throughout New England, coming from Rotterdam in Upstate NY. I’ve been acting and performing since 2003 and am looking to go bi-coastal LA and Boston.

10. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

My advice for actors looking to land roles in a major picture is to keep working your chops on independent films and industrial videos to increase you comfort and confidence on a film set. Audition a lot and take classes for auditioning and improv so you focus on the role, the character, and the choices you make to emotionally commit to the scene and the moment so you can let go that it’s a major motion picture… it’s just another film. And, make sure you are visible to all casting directors by making them aware of your performances in fun and creative ways. And, keep an eye on who is casting for major motion picture films and find ways to get an audition, get yourself seen, and of course, an agent can also help.

11. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

You must love, love auditioning and prepare like you’re shooting that day and that mindset will hopefully translate into a more relaxed state to give you more impact and presence on film. Be true to you, showcase your personality, and take risk to heighten, not sabotage a scene.
seaneklund

Sean Eklund

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

I played a street punk.

2. What scenes did you act in?

My scene was to get into a fight with Bradley Cooper on the street.

3. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I worked with Bradley Cooper in that scene, but was able to be around the set and entire cast for days. They were amazing!!

4. What was your experience like working on this film?

It was a phenomenal experience, as is working on any David O. Russell film.

5. How did you get your role?

Through Boston Casting and David O. Russell.

6. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I live in Lowell and over the past few years there has been a major increase in major motion pictures being filmed in the Boston area.

7. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Just to audition as often as possible and never give up!

8. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Just how amazing everyone on the set was. From the entire cast and crew, nothing but true professionals and top tier talent!!
stevegagliostro

Steve Gagliastro

1. What was your role in AMERICAN HUSTLE?

Agent Schmidt

2. What other actors did you work with and what was that like?

I was fortunate to work with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K., Jeremy Renner, Shea Whigham, Liz Rohm, Erica McDermott, and most importantly, my partner, Chris Tarjan (Agent Stock.) It was inspiring to watch such accomplished actors find the right tone and perfect their timing. I realized the experimentation and methods they executed in front of the camera were universal. All actors use them in some form or another. What was clear to me was the preparation before they got to set. This is what separated these actors from their peers.

3. What was your experience like working on this film?

I was very fortunate to spend a good deal of time on set. Together with my partner, Chris Tarjan, we became very familiar with everyone who was there on a daily basis. From hair and makeup, to props, to AD’s and PA’s, they all got to know and trust us. This trust is important when it comes to the delicate issues of privacy and respect that surround high profile sets.

4. How did you get your role?

I auditioned through Boston Casting, had a callback for David and got it!

5. What other acting work have you done recently?

Most recently I was on the US National/North American Tour of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” and I am performing in the Hanover Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” in Worcester through December.

6. What are your reasons for being a Boston-based actor and pursuing your career here?

I am from Worcester originally and have settled here. My family and side work are here, as well. I am on the road so often that it makes sense for me not to have an expensive apartment in NYC or Boston when they are so accessible to me (one hour to Boston, three and half to NYC.)

7. Do you have any advice for actors looking to land roles like the one you had in a major motion picture?

Be yourself. Casting directors are seeking interesting, talented people, not cookie-cutter actors. And, of course, prepare.

8. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

As a full time performer, it is heartening to see the high level of work created here in New England. We are an excellent community filmmakers should utilize. Whether it is the exceptional talent base or the diversity/proximity of locations, Boston and its’ surrounding communities are ideal for shooting. Except desert locations, those we don’t have.
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Steven Barkhimer

I survived the cut. I’m one of the guys begging Christian Bale for a loan as Amy Adams looks regally on. David had me play the HBO producer in THE FIGHTER, the one making a documentary about crack addiction, so I had a working knowledge of his singular directorial style – not for the faint of heart, by the way. So when I was called in for AMERICAN HUSTLE he gave me a tremendously warm welcome at the audition and afterwards said there should definitely be a spot for me in the film (even if not as large a role as in THE FIGHTER.) They were keeping a pretty tight lid on information about the project, so I didn’t even know Christian Bale and Amy Adams were in it until I got to the shoot that day. Not surprisingly, I had to do a double-take before realizing it was actually Christian walking right by me onto the set, looking well-fed and skeezy in his purple velour jacket, with a hilariously pathetic comb-over.

My prior experience with David O. Russell served me very well on this day because time was getting very limited and the pressure became pretty intense to get it done. Several of the “businessmen” were lined up and one by one, and we were to go beg Bale for money. This is also when I found out Amy Adams would be in the scene as well. Okay. We were to be fired one after the other out of the torpedo chute into the room, do our scene, and get the hell out. Next! A revolving door, bam, bam, bam. Well, David’s films do have scripts; however, what he likes to do is prompt the actor as the camera is rolling. He suggests things that you aren’t expecting, and you just have to go with the flow and be ready to improvise. Or often he will just suddenly order you: “Do This. Now! Faster. Again. To the left? The left!!” It does give a wonderful immediacy and improvisatory sense to scenes, but it can be unnerving for the unsuspecting or the uninitiated. I’m sure it makes editing very interesting, too!

On other scores, a play of my own called “Windowmen” just finished a gratifyingly successful and well-received production at Boston Playwrights Theatre and is now in consideration by several theatres around the country.

Before I came to Boston back in 1998, I’d taken a couple years off the circuit to pursue a Master’s degree among other things, but I’m glad I didn’t run right back to New York as a sort of default. There are marvelously talented actors, directors, playwrights, producers, designers, etc., right here in Boston, and it is an extraordinary honor and pleasure to have worked almost non-stop here for most of the last fifteen years.

In January, I head back to the theatre with the Actors Shakespeare Project (now in our tenth season) in a production of “The Cherry Orchard” before I perform in Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” in March and April.

*These responses were contributed by the actors themselves, except for Angela Peri and Jay Giannone, who were interviewed by Becki Dennis. Please note that there are other Boston actors who had roles in “American Hustle” who did not contribute to this article.

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Steve Ross: Giving Back To America

New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, MA. Photo courtesy of the New England Holocaust Memorial.
New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, MA. Photo courtesy of the New England Holocaust Memorial.

by Roger Lyons

It began as a simple assignment—to produce one-minute profiles of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. One turned out to be an inspiring story, worthy of a feature-length film. The subject was Holocaust survivor Steve Ross, founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial. His story was beyond remarkable. Producer Roger Lyons arranged to meet him at the Memorial in downtown Boston.

Steve was articulate and compelling, explaining why he had been so determined to build a memorial. He said he wanted to create a place where he and other survivors and descendants could pay their respects to the family members who had died in the Holocaust.

Dachau Liberation. Steve is seen left wearing stripes. Photo courtesy the United States Holocaust Museum.
Dachau Liberation. Steve is seen left wearing stripes. Photo courtesy the United States Holocaust Museum.

STEVE ROSS: GIVING BACK TO AMERICA was born. My intent was not to make a “typical Holocaust film” but to tell the story of someone who had not survived, but triumphed over adversity, evil and hate…and dedicated his life in America to helping others do the same.

Steve’s journey began in Lodz, Poland. As a 9-year-old child, his family hid him from the Nazis at a farm. But the Nazis found the Jewish child, nee Shmulek Rozenthal, hiding in the woods.

He was sent to ten concentration camps over five torturous years, where he endured savage beatings and horrific medical experiments. Selected many times for extermination, he miraculously eluded death—once by clinging to the underside of a moving train leaving Auschwitz and another time hiding in the waste of an outhouse.

Finally liberated from the hell of Dachau by American troops, one soldier showed Steve particular kindness—giving him food and embracing the sickly youth. This GI also gave him a small American flag, which he still carries with him today. Ross spent much of the next seven decades trying to find that “angel” who freed him and showed him that human love and compassion still existed in the world.

Steve’s life after the war is the focus of this story. Arriving in America as an uneducated orphan who spoke no English, he eventually became a licensed psychologist—the ultimate at-risk child working with at-risk youth. He worked with inner city kids, steering them from the street to school. He touched countless lives and inspired people with his example of resilience.

Steve made the New England Holocaust Memorial a reality, with the help of then-Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. Today, the Memorial stands in downtown Boston, where visitors are engaged and enlightened by the striking glass towers and rising steam, paying homage to the millions whose lives were taken in the camps. Steve was determined to build this space as a way to tell present and future generations that the Holocaust was both real and unimaginable.

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Steve Ross reading names etched in glass at the Memorial. Photo by Peter Slabysz.

Over the last thirteen plus years, my crew and I have documented many compelling events in Steve’s life. We’ve captured his lectures at Boston schools, where inner city kids hung on his every word—in awe of what he had gone through compared to their lives. We recorded two Holocaust Remembrance events at Faneuil Hall. At one event, Steve reads a Yiddish poem he learned in the camps. At the second one, he recounts his life in captivity. Following each event,we go with Steve from the hall to the Memorial, where survivors and descendants alike pay their respects to the family members who had died in the Holocaust.

We’ve recorded events where dozens of people were sworn in as new citizens. Steve spoke to them about his love for America and his life here. At the John F. Kennedy Library event, Steve meets with a new citizen from his native Poland and speaks perfect Polish, having not spoken the language in decades.

Steve Ross with the Sattler family. Photo by Dina Rudick/Boston Globe.
Steve Ross with the Sattler family. Photo by Dina Rudick/Boston Globe.

 

Throughout the film, we witness Steve’s search for that American soldier who made such an impact on his life. Remarkably, the soldier’s granddaughter discovers a TV show on You Tube, featuring Steve’s story and his search for his “angel.” The film climaxes with an emotional reunion at Boston’s State House on Veteran’s Day.

After more than a decade of gathering material, we have arrived at the stage where we need finishing funds for edit and post to complete the film. My hope is to finish the film soon and share Steve’s story with young people and adults all over the world.

Ideally, Steve’s story warrants a theatrical release and is a good candidate for European and Israeli foreign sales and distribution, American Public Television, History Channel, VOD and DVD. It is sure to be a favorite on the film festival circuit, especially Jewish Film Festivals, and has a multitude of web and school distribution possibilities.

Producer Roger Lyons.
Producer Roger Lyons.

Steve’s story is one of perseverance and hope. It’s a lesson in never giving up, and I won’t give up on getting this film completed in order to honor Steve for all the people he’s helped in his adopted country.

Producer Roger Lyons is seeking finishing funds for STEVE ROSS: GIVING BACK TO AMERICA along with foreign sales/ distribution and domestic distribution opportunities.-PUB

The production can be contacted through www.steverossfilm.org.

 

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Passion and Politics: 2 New Films From Whitebridge Farm Productions

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Ernest Thompson at Whitebridge Farm, photo by P.T. Sullivan

ELYSIAN FARM

A complicated young man rescues a little girl from her abusive parents and is instantly suspected of kidnapping. And the chase is on.

PLATO’S PARTY

A college professor is far more interesting, witty and intelligent than the presidential candidates whose debate he’s moderating and is approached to run as a favorite son.

I’ve spent four years scripting and directing, acting in and writing songs for two new movies, TIME AND CHARGES and HEAVENLY ANGLE, offering both as On Location Training; more than 800 people participated. The movies’ combined budgets might keep a Hollywood movie stocked with M&Ms but both films are playing festivals now and the audience reactions have been gratifying, exultant crowds warming to what we all love in movies: a lot of heart, a lot of humor, a lot to think about. And now, along with my Whitebridge partners Morgan Murphy and Lori Gigliotti Murphy, I’m inviting distributors to help us expand that audience. Our trailers can be seen at www. timeandcharges.com and www.heavenlyangle. com.

We’re developing two new projects at Whitebridge. My script for ELYSIAN FARM is ready to roll, a ripped-from-the-headlines story of child endangerment, never, tragically, more timely. PLATO’S PARTY, about the bizarre state of our elective process, I rewrite every day because every day it gets, speaking of headlines, more bizarre.

ELYSIAN FARM asks a question we all may face and never know the answer to: if you saw a mother smacking her little girl in public, not in a TV What Would You Do way, but in real-life life- and-death, would you get involved? Gus Mullins does. Coming from a Dickensian childhood, too, he responds without thinking and, in no time, finds himself running from the police and the girl’s vindictive mother and step-father in a desperate race to find little Polo a safe haven.

Because of the implications of taking Polo away from her small town and because Gus tries, without immediate success, to enlist his own abuse-victim siblings, the frantic manhunt unfolds in the claustrophobic confines of the woods and streams of rural New Hampshire, ending, eventually, on Elysian Farm, the house of horror Gus grew up in. Bailey, a well-meaning, if bumbling, female cop trailing Gus, complicates matters further by seeing Gus for the hero he is and falling for him.

It’s a story of passion, more than compassion. Compassion means kindness, seeing a social problem and writing a check maybe, but this is the deep, hard emotion of FEELING the little girl’s agony and ACTING ON IT. First Gus, then Bailey, then most of the community in an uplifting, dramatic courtroom scene when the judge decides who will provide Polo with what she needs most – solace, safety, love.

We have our script and director; all we need is you. At Whitebridge Farm Productions we’ve demonstrated that we can make powerful films for next to nothing. With a budget of 5-7 million, ELYSIAN FARM could be the movie-star movie it deserves to be. Gus and Bailey are great roles. But we want it to be more than a film; it’s a cause. We want to shoot social media and TV PSAs to educate and reassure children in trouble that it’s okay to ask for help. And to encourage caring adults to follow their passion.

We have our script and director; all we need is you. At Whitebridge Farm Productions we’ve demonstrated that we can make powerful films for next to nothing. With a budget of 5-7 million, ELYSIAN FARM could be the movie-star movie it deserves to be. Gus and Bailey are great roles. But we want it to be more than a film; it’s a cause. We want to shoot social media and TV PSAs to educate and reassure children in trouble that it’s okay to ask for help. And to encourage caring adults to follow their passion.

In PLATO’S PARTY, Thaddeus Barker teaches political science at the small college hosting a primary debate and, with his superior knowledge, acumen and charisma, far outshines the conga line of candidates. On a whim, KB Hardy, a veteran operative fed up with what used to be HIS passion, suggests that the professor throw his hat in the ring; why not? Thaddeus, well-versed in the travesty American elections have become, surprises him by accepting the challenge, but only if they can do it old school – no war chest, no commercials, no lies.

For KB, it’s refreshing to back a candidate with nothing to lose – Thaddeus unbound is a resounding voice of clarity and unmitigated courage – until he starts to win. The voters are charmed by Thaddeus’s no-nonsense, take-me- for-what-I-am approach and he pulls ahead of the career politicians. When Thaddeus’s colorful past comes calling, he’s unapologetic. “People aren’t voting for my past; they’re voting for their future.” The cutthroat battle to Primary night is as suspenseful as a thriller and will end depressingly predictably. Or will it?

PLATO’S PARTY isn’t just a good story; it’s a good chance to make a statement, to make a difference. We’re looking for True Believers to join us in the campaign. For a million or two, we could change theheadlines. To get involved or learn about these projects and more, visit www.ErnestThompson.us.

 

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Arlington International Film Festival: A New Generation of Winning Filmmakers

Saturday, October 26th at the Robbins Library and The Regent Theatre

Marley Jurgensmeyer is a tenth-grade student at Arlington High School and the winner ofthe Arlington International Film Festival Poster Contest for the second year. Photo courtesy of AIFF.
Marley Jurgensmeyer is a tenth-grade student at Arlington High School and the winner of
the Arlington International Film Festival Poster Contest for the second year. Photo courtesy of AIFF.

The 3rd annual Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) shows independent cinematic masterpieces from filmmakers around the world. It is also dedicated to promoting the next generation of filmmakers by showcasing a special category of student shorts. This year twenty-one high school students competed for “Best” in film categories awarded by the festival’s Selection Committee. Submissions came from as near as the Massachusetts towns of Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Dorchester, Roxbury, Wayland and Winchester and as far as Montreal, Canada. AIFF is proud to show these excellent student filmmakers shorts reflecting the opinions, fears, dreams and talents of a young generation as represented through the eye of the lens.

The winner of the “2013 Best Narrative Short” is Malcolm DC, a Boston resident, for his film, THE SHINGLES. Tessa Tracy and Sophia Santos of Cambridge, MA received “2013 Best Documentary Short” for their film, LA LUCHA.

Shorts that received “Honorable Mention” are as follows: 2013 Narrative Short awarded to Jasper Hamilton of Arlington, MA for his film, ELIZA; 2013 Documentary Short awarded to Diana Julien of Roxbury, MA for her film, MY PHOENIX; 2013 Experimental Short awarded to Henry Nineberg of Cambridge, MA for his film, BRAND NEW.

 

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The Arlington International Film Festival’s New Generation of Filmmakers Honorable Mention was awarded for the 2013 Narrative Short by Jasper Hamilton of Arlington, MA for his film, ELIZA. Photo courtesy of AIFF.

Other film shorts that have been chosen for the festival screening and will be presented as part of the two hour 2013 Student Short Program are: BOSTON 2:50 by Franklin Santiago, Dorchester; OUT OF THE WOODS by Asa Minter, Arlington; PERSEVERANCE by Jacob Sussman, Wayland; RECOLLECTION by Karen Chen, Cambridge; WITH THE EYES OF BEAUTY by Izzy Ramirez, Boston and the program will close with DON’T TEXT & DRIVE by Adrián García, Boston and a graduate of MassArt.

You are invited to a Pre-screening Reception Saturday, October 26th at 10 am at the Robbins Library Community Room, hosting our student filmmakers, parents, teachers and the community. Anna’s Taqueria is sponsoring the event followed by the Festival

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New England Studios Opens in Devens MA

Mike Meyers, Director of Real Estate Development for New England Studios and MJM Development, Managing Partner supervising its construction
Mike Meyers, Director of Real Estate Development for New England Studios and MJM Development, Managing Partner supervising its construction

nes-logoOn June 26, 2012 New England Studios broke ground in Devens, Massachusetts for a state-of-the-art movie studio and there was a ground breaking celebration luncheon and ceremonial shovels in the ground.

The excitement and anticipation for a ground up, state of the art movie and television studio with sound stages that will be equal to or better than any stages in Hollywood was palatable then and its about to explode now as the giant complex nears completion. The finishing touches and final occupancy certification are the only things left on the drawing board.

Chris Byers, Director of Studio Operations and Marketing
Chris Byers, Director of Studio Operations and Marketing

The project has been on that proverbial drawing board for more than three years from its veritable conception, private financial partners and Mass Development coming on board, the land acquisition, breaking ground and finally a year long massive construction period that we all watched on a week-to-week basis. Is it ready yet?

Mike Meyers, Director of Real Estate Development for New England Studios and MJM Development Managing Partner supervising construction told IMAGINE as  wewere going to print “This is just a phenomenal project. Cutting edge design, iconic Hollywood features with space ship technology… “We are very pleased to be a part of the growing Massachusetts Film Industry,” Myers continued. Meanwhile the final landscaping is going in along with the carpeting, shelving,the furniture will have arrived by the time you read this, and the grip and electric company associated with the New England Studios begins the process of moving in. Chris Byers who spearheaded the campaign to build New England Studios praised the The New England Studios Staff is now up to twelve and about 240 construction workers are still on site attending to those closing construction details.

nes-concretewaltzA Grand Opening is being planned to coincide with the first client production to use the brand new studio space. The management team says they will be announcing that in about a couple of weeks.

For now the complex is anticipating its internal soft opening. There is someone on site to do business with everyday now. Their plan is to have a day or two open house for industry people and ancillary businesses, The formal Grand Opening will be by invitation and will include studio heads, and those individuals and businesses that have helped them over the years leading up to this great addition to the infrastructure for our industry and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is expected to be heavily covered by the press as this studio is an important new entry into the world of film and television production for all the studios and networks.

August shot of construction in progress at New England Studios. Photo by Michael Meyers.
August shot of construction in progress at New England Studios. Photo by Michael Meyers.

Lowell, Massachusetts native Chris Byers, who serves as Director of Studio Operations and Marketing, has spent the last two weeks on the West Coast meeting with studio heads at this vital juncture. New England Studios is no longer a dream, not just breaking ground, not half way through construction; New England Studios is a reality. It’s time for business to come to this world-class home for the film industry.

Progress in late summer at the New England Studios compound in Devens, MA.
Progress in late summer at the New England Studios compound in Devens, MA.
The conference Room with vaulted ceiling emulating the iconic barrel vaults of the New England Studio Stages.
The conference Room with vaulted ceiling emulating the iconic barrel vaults of the New England Studio Stages.

In addition to the 72,000 square feet of stages, this complex includes 4,000 square feet of sound stage support space, a 30,000 square foot three story production support building with dressing rooms, a 20,000 square foot mill building to house production construction facilities, mechanical effects, grip and lighting and set storage and parking for 358 cars. Each stage has six 1,200 amps power and 120 tons of heating and cooling and each is NC25 rated. There are six 20’ x 20’ exterior elephant doors and three 42’ x 24’ interior elephant doors. Wooden catwalks crown every stage. It is a full service film studio encompassing 126,000 square feet.

Visit the NES website here

 

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22nd Annual Woods Hole Film Festival Focuses on Community

July 27 – August 3, 2013 in Woods Hole, MA

woodsholeposter
The quaint village of Woods Hole on Cape Cod is perhaps best known as the stomping ground of scientists, Nobel laureates, and vacationers on their way to the islands, but every year during the last week in July and the first week in August the population swells to include a community of filmmakers and film goers involved in sharing stories and insights during the annual Woods Hole Film Festival, which at twenty- two years is the oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the islands.

The eight-day festival, which runs July 27-August 3, features an abundance of riches: five phenomenal filmmakers-in-residence, a record thirty-three narrative and documentary feature-length films, and nearly seventy narrative, documentary, and animated films. Besides the requisite film screening followed by a Q&A it features a rich selection of workshops and master classes with the filmmakers-in-residence, retrospectives, and panel discussions for the true film aficionado. The nightly parties at various restaurants at the water’s edge within walking distance of the screenings also offer lots of casual and relaxed “schmoozing” with filmmakers and fans and top-notch musical entertainment, including a kick-off concert featuring the John Jorgenson Quintet on Friday, July 26. Recently chosen to portray Django Reinhardt in the feature film HEAD IN THE CLOUDS, Jorgenson played guitar with Elton John’s band for six years and is often sought out by artists such as Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt and Earl Scruggs.

The festival also continues its tradition of showcasing and promoting the work of independent, emerging filmmakers, particularly those from or with connections to New England and Cape Cod. “We’ve stayed true to the vision of supporting emerging independent filmmakers,” says Judy Laster, the festival’s founder and executive director. “I think because we stayed true to this vision, it is a very attractive place for independent filmmakers, with many first-time filmmakers returning to the festival with subsequent films or as filmmakers- in-residence. After twenty-one years we have accrued a large and loyal alumni network.”

In fact, nearly twenty filmmakers are returning with their subsequent films this year. Based on the novel by Howard Frank Mosher and set in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Jay Craven’s (A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT) latest narrative feature, NORTHERN BORDERS, stars Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold as a quarreling couple who take their ten year-old grandson in with them with humorous and sometimes startling results (August 2). Boston-based Allan Piper (STARVING ARTISTS) returns with his award-wining documentary MARRIED AND COUNTING about a gay couple who celebrate their 25th year together by getting married in every state with legalized gay marriage (July 30). Festival favorite Bill Plympton returns with his latest animated short, DRUNKER THAN A SKUNK, an adaptation of Walt Curtis’s poem about a cowboy town that torments the local drunk (July 30).

"The Last Song Before The War "by Kiley Kraskousas
“The Last Song Before The War “by Kiley Kraskousas
Of the returning filmmakers, two are screening their first feature length films at the festival: Maria Agui Carter (CLEATS), a Boston-based multicultural filmmaker, presents her first feature documentary, REBEL, about a Cuban woman soldier and spy of the American Civil War (July 28), and Andrew Mudge (THE PERFECT GOOSEYS), whose entire body of short films were shown at the festival when he was living in Boston, presents the regional premiere of THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM, a narrative feature about returning to one’s roots that was shot entirely in South Africa and Lesotho (August 1). It is sort of a homecoming for Mudge who earned the distinction of being the first filmmaker to produce a feature-length film in Lesotho.

Even crew members connected to festival alumni make sure to put Woods Hole on their lists: Amir Noorani, the director of SHAYA, a narrative short about a tribal Pakistani family that is sent to live in Los Angeles as refugees, only to find life more challenging than in war-torn Pakistan, was an assistant editor on Justin Lerner’s (2011 Best of the Fest winner THE GIRLFRIEND) graduate thesis film.

"Knuckle Jack" by John Adams and Toby Poser
“Knuckle Jack” by John Adams and Toby Poser
Several filmmakers-in-residence are also returning to the festival after either presenting their films or attending as filmmakers-in-residence in previous festivals. Director James Mottern, who brought his first film, TRUCKER starring Michele Monahan to Woods Hole in 2010, returns to the festival to conduct two workshops, one on breaking into the film business and one on directing actors. He recently finished a Boston shoot of his second feature film, GOD ONLY KNOWS, starring Ben Barnes, Leighton Meester, and Harvey Keitel and is currently prepping another performance-driven action-thriller set in New England. Documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing (DETROPIA, JESUS CAMP) filmmaker-in-residence in 2011 and her co-director and co-producer Rachel Grady will conduct a workshop on DIY (do-it-yourself) film distribution, based on their experience self- distributing DETROPIA after they received less than satisfactory offers from distributors when the film premiered at Sundance in 2012.

Two additional filmmakers-in-residence are making their first appearance at the festival: Chicken and Egg Pictures and Working Films founder Judith Helfand, whose BLUE VINYL won the best cinematography award at Sundance in 2002, and Megan Sanchez-Warner, currently executive producer and show runner for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” who will hold a workshop on storytelling in film and television.

A significant trend this year is films created by, within, and about communities. Oscar winner Ernest Thompson (ON GOLDEN POND), who works out of New Hampshire with a regular community of writers, actors, and producers, brings his group’s most recent effort, HEAVENLY ANGLE, to the festival on August 1, with Thompson and a number of the folks involved with the production in attendance. Set in a small town in New Hampshire, the film is about a down on his luck Hollywood film director who shows up to con the town’s mayor and residents into putting money into a movie he has no intention of making. NORTHERN BORDER’s Jay Craven, mentioned earlier, creates films that celebrate regional character and culture, most often that of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Similarly, Australian director Philip Crawford’s RITES OF PASSAGE was filmed over the course of three years in New South Wales, Australia and features the true stories of six individuals from the region in their struggle to grow up amidst a variety of problems, including homelessness and addiction (August 2). Each of these films enlisted their communities to participate in the filmmaking process. Stephen Silha, co-director and producer of the documentary BIG JOY: THE ADVENTURES OF JAMES BROUGHTON and formerly a reporter at The Christian Science Monitor in Boston, also communicates in his films about what makes communities and relationships work. BIG JOY illustrates the power of art and poetry to change lives, using the life and work of pansexual poet and filmmaker James Broughton as a lens (August 2).

Besides the filmmakers with New England connections mentioned earlier—such as Ernest Thompson, Jay Craven, Andrew Mudge, Allan Piper, Stephen Silha, and Maria Agui Carter— regional filmmakers, especially those with a Cape Cod connection, are represented in large numbers this year. Although her short film is set in Ireland, LAMBING SEASON writer and director Jeannie Donohoe was raised in Massachusetts and attended Dartmouth College; many of her producers and crew members either live near Woods Hole or are from New England. Boston University student Kristin Holodak’s KILLER, a narrative short about the dangers of waiting for a bus, features an entire cast of Boston actors.

"Between Us" by Dan Mirvish.  Photo by Nancy Schreiber, ASC
“Between Us” by Dan Mirvish. Photo by Nancy Schreiber, ASC
Films made on the Cape or by Cape Cod filmmakers include: Cape born and bred Isaak James’s BY WAY OF HOME, a narrative feature shot in Brewster, Chatham and Provincetown about a woman who returns home to work in her family’s restaurant (July 29); Eastham- based on Joseph Laraja’s THE GOLDEN SCALLOP, a narrative feature about three finalists in the Golden Scallop contest on Cape Cod (July 27); Kristin Alexander’s MY NAME IS AL, the true story of a grizzly, old-timer named Al who started the Committee on Drug and Alcohol Dependency, a recovery program for doctors and dentists (July 28); Sky Sabin’s ART IS A VERB, a documentary short in which the filmmaker asks for advice from three of the most inspirational people she knows- -Stephan Connor, luthier and owner of Connor Guitars on the Cape, Martin Keen, founder of Keen Sandals and CEO of Focal Upright Furniture, and Mike Fink, professor and author at RISD (July 29); Natasha Kermani’s short documentary ATLANTIS EARTH, an artist’s interpretation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Atlantis voyage (July 29); and MASS DOLPHIN STRANDING, a short about 180 dolphins that were stranded on the Cape during winter 2012 (July 29).

Fans of George Romero won’t want to miss BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD, a documentary feature that demonstrates how Romero gathered an unlikely team of amateur actors from Pittsburgh—policemen, iron workers, teachers, ad-men, housewives, and a roller-rink owner—to be part of his revolutionary film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The film shows how the young Romero created a world-renowned horror film that also provided a profound insight into how society really works (July 27, August 2). Romero also has a cameo at the end of Matt Birman’s and Sam Roberts’s A FISH STORY, which stars Eddie McClintock (NBC’s Warehouse 13) as a fugitive on the run whose body becomes inhabited by the soul of a another man (July 27). Birman and Romero are old friends, as Birman has worked as a second unit director and stunt coordinator on Romero’s films since 2004. Birman and McClintock are in discussions to make an upcoming zombie movie under Romero’s aegis.

DETAILS

Screenings and events are held at a variety of venues—including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s modern Redfield Auditorium and the folksy Woods Hole Community Hall—with most taking place within walking distance of one another in compact Woods Hole.  Getting around is easy and specific festival parking is available. Admission to screenings, panels and parties are $12 (ticket packages and full festival passes also available). Tickets are for sale online through the festival’s web site at www.woodsholefilmfestival.org on June 29, or at the box office during the festival. For more information, contact 508 495-3456 or <a href=”mailto:info@woodsholefilmfestival.org”>info@woodsholefilmfestival.org</a>.

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