In Massachusetts the missing piece in the infrastructure puzzle has been large studio space and stages – a place to build sets and stay awhile. Everyone knows that’s what a TV series needs like oxygen and the absence of this infrastructure is what the Commonwealth has held accountable for the absence of TV series locating here. The last major scripted TV series was Robert Parker’s Spencer for Hire for Warner Bros. Television starring Robert Urich in the ‘80s.
The Mass Studios concept has been spearheaded by Barbara Guertin who moved to Worcester sixteen years ago as a result of falling in love while working on a production at the Foothills Theatre. She married, stayed and fell in love with her new home, but didn’t lose her industry contacts.
After producing a film in Worcester in the late ‘90s she was cognizant that large studio spaces were nonexistent. That experience prompted her to begin looking for just that.
Guertin found and seized upon the opportunity to sign a long-term agreement to lease the former home of the Pullman Co., which had manufactured the still famous Pullman Sleeping Cars and at the height of the industrial revolution trolleys and buses in Worcester.
Now she and her team are rehabilitating the old Pullman Plant into studio space for film companies shooting movies in Massachusetts. She believes, “This project will have a major impact on Worcester.”
Barbara Guertin has surrounded herself with versatile leadership for Mass Studios. Anton Nel serves as CEO, Brian Crane DOP, General Manager and LA Film Industry Consultant, Ed Madaus, Government and Community Relations, Kristen Lucas, Marketing Director, Dan Benoit AIA, Architectural Consultant, Dee Wells, Videographer/Photographer, Timothy Loew, Gaming Consultant and Molly Oliver as Production Associate.
As work crews bring 30 Pullman Street up to code, Barbara and her team invited a group of industry leaders for a tour and the prospects of her “Pullman Project” now properly known as Mass Studios. Clearly what you see is what you get in their first phase. The doors will be opening this spring to productions and events “au naturale.” No frills, in “as in” condition up to code, of course.
What you will get is 44,000 SF of space with a 65’ceiling, 45’ with lighting grid and a 100’ span. Two hundred parking spaces, with additional unlimited parking adjacent or easily accessible. An additional 80,000 SF of ancillary space for food trucks and trailers inside the Main Building, which is monstrously huge (think Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose Hanger where AVATAR was filmed). Two-story production space adjacent to the main sound stage. 20,000 SF sound proof soundstage in #10 and an additional 119,000 SF of space for Mill production, design and construction.
Mass Studios has acquired $1 million of lighting and grip equipment. The facility offers a commissary area that can hold up to 300 actors and crew. There are lobby and ticketing areas. Hair, makeup and wardrobe trailers can be attached at the bays.
And onsite services include casting, location scouting assistance, catering, trailers, HVAC and more. It isn’t state-of-the-art built from the ground up, but everything a production needs is portable, attachable or can be moved in. The best example of successful use of this style of studio property is the Spruce Goose Hanger in LA. I visited the set of AVATAR and was suitably impressed. It’s a different approach, but each production can have and get exactly what they want.
The facility tour was also attended by members of the Worcester community, noticeably excited about the prospects of this building being renovated were the management staff at Worcester’s DCU Center, which hosts major sports, entertainment, convention and conference events. But even they aren’t always big enough to host some requests and they were eyeing this rehabilitated property as a possible extension of what they have to offer their clients.
Mass Studios expects to embark on Phase II to be completed in late 2014. In the second phase, they will raise the roof, literally, another 15’ making their sound stage the second largest in the nation. And they plan to add another 90,000 SF of space for editing suites, conference rooms, a 5,000 SF restaurant serving three mills a day and nightlife! A full service conference and meeting center including business services, a motion capture studio – the largest and most technologically advanced studio on the east coast and four fully outfitted sound proof stages,10,000 to 20,000 SF each.
The Mass Studios team is currently forging alliances with educational institutions for internships and outreach programs and sees the studio as a center for learning for local colleges and high schools as well as foreign students wishing to learn the American secret to content creation. Yes, this interest has already been expressed.
Mass Studios is exercising a different approach to studio and set production than what most are accustomed to, but they exhibit an avid degree of confidence quoting the need for viable space, the Massachusetts’ lucrative and solid Film Tax Credit Program, the City of Worcester as a backdrop along with all the amenities it has to offer including a major airport, train service, inviting hotels and restaurants close at hand and the growing community of production related cast and crew members in the central region of the state.
The entire project is expected to cost $8 million. When completed, the Mass Studio complex will be only the second studio facility in Massachusetts, outside of Boston. For more information visit www.massstudios.com.
Carol Patton is the founder and publisher of IMAGINE Magazine. She introduced film tax credits to the region in early 2000s, writing the definitive piece in October of 2004. By the end of 2005 film tax credit legislation passed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut in that order.