On 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.
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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
Leadman – it’s one of those “what-the-heck-do-they-do?” film credits, like Best Boy or Key Grip, that rolls by at the end of every movie. Even some of us in the industry can be struck dumb when asked about it. So, for your convenience, here are two quick facts about the Leadman: 1 – The Leadman is responsible for dressing all the sets on a production. 2 – Despite the old-school Hollywood appellation, the Leadman is not necessarily a man.
I recently spent some time with Katrina Parsons, the only female Leadman currently working on union jobs in New England, about the skills, details and particulars that make up a Leadman.
Falling under the umbrella of the Art Department, the Leadman is directly supervised by the Set Decorator and is, in turn, the supervisor of the swing gang (another great title!) and/or set dressers. “It’s really an administrative job. On a typical movie I’m in charge of two trucks (three trucks or more on busy days) with Teamsters and set dressers driving around doing pickups and rental returns and getting all of the furniture/dressing to a given set. If I don’t do my job right there is nothing there to film.” (No pressure there.) In addition to scheduling, managing a crew, and working within a budget, the Leadman also needs a good eye for detail, a firm understanding of the story and characters plus an incredible resourcefulness and aptitude for creative problem solving.
Katrina worked her way up the art department ranks on the sets of ZOOKEEPER, EDGE OF DARKNESS, THE COMPANY MEN, PAUL BLART: MALL COP as well as many low-budget indies, TV movies, and commercials. Since becoming Leadman she has run a crew on the first thirteen episodes of BODY OF PROOF, the hit comedy TED and Sandra Bullock’s new movie THE HEAT, currently in post.
Generally, one doesn’t go to college with the dream of becoming a Leadman. It is one of those positions in the movie business that people find through any number of different avenues. Katrina grew up in North Reading, Massachusetts and attended Endicott College. With some forethought she decided to major in Communications, a degree that could lead to several possible career choices. “I wanted to be an artist, but not a starving artist,” she said, “and I wanted work experience and a resume when I graduated.” To that end Katrina took full advantage of Endicott’s strong internship program. In 2002 she was interning at Scout Productions in Boston when they were producing the pilot for “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. Preparing the apartment for that program would be Katrina’s first official taste of creative set dressing.
Following college Katrina spent the obligatory amount of time as a PA and toiled in many production offices as a coordinator, bookkeeper and auditor. But, those were all office jobs. “I could get an office job anywhere. Telling the story was the fun part, the creative part. That’s what you can’t get anywhere else.” She knew the art department would help her scratch that creative itch, but she had one requirement – “It had to be here in Boston, because this is my home.” This was at the same time Massachusetts enacted a new tax incentive that would attract the pecuniary eye of Hollywood. In 2006 Katrina joined I.A.T.S.E. Local 481 and began working on various shows as a set dresser and properties assistant.
These days Katrina is in charge of a crew and spends most of her time on the more mundane tasks of getting that crew and their trucks from here to there, but it is the time spent actually dressing the sets that Katrina still finds the most fun and rewarding. When it comes down to the small, fine details of the set, “That’s where I also get to play,” she says. “Let’s say it’s a bar. You put yourself in the position of the bartender. Where is the Direct TV box and remote? There should be a million business cards tacked up over here. It’s too clean. We need more bottles. We don’t have enough empties. That’s the fun part.” Other important considerations include how the set will actually look onscreen once it has been lit and making sure the actor(s) will be comfortable on the set. “You want the actor to walk in and feel that they can be their character in that place.”
Whether it’s filling the closets of a teddy bear with tiny suits on tiny hangers for a tentpole summer comedy or creating a “pig-shrine-of-death” for a low-budget Lifetime horror movie Katrina approaches every project as an artist first. “I do feel a responsibility to the integrity of the creative piece that is being put on the screen. At the end of the day it’s about the creativity and the beauty of the product. You are making art.”
What is next for Katrina Parsons? Winter is usually slow. She has been lucky enough to get about one show a year when Hollywood comes to town. She’s heard rumors that something might be happening in January, but so far they are still rumors. So she waits for the phone to ring.
But, Katrina is also looking past Leadman to the next phase in her career, which looks like it may be producing. Katrina has been working with long-time co-worker and friend Roger Danchik raising funds for a low budget horror movie Roger wrote called APOTHEOSIS. (Look it up.) They have made a trailer designed to give potential investors their idea of the look and feel of the film. “It’s got a total sci-fi/horror/thriller thing going on.”
Making films continues to be fun for Katrina. She still enjoys the challenge and charge of each new project, meeting new people and reuniting with old friends. “That’s the thrill of it that keeps you going. Every six months you’re doing a new job. My sister who is a dental hygienist would hate that. But, I like it.”
-Mike Sullivan studied film at Emerson College. Since then he spends
most of his time in edit rooms and movie theaters. He is currently Senior
Editor at Boston Productions, Inc. in Norwood.