Film 

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“Do you mind if the bear grabs your boob?” “No, I don’t mind, Seth MacFarlane. That sounds awesome.”

With eased restrictions and additional tax incentives, lately it seems like you can’t swing a Wahlberg cousin without hitting a Wahlberg proper filming a big-budget movie. But is the Boston-Hollywood infatuation mutual? Are the benefits totally top-tier or can regular Bostonians ride the wave too?

We caught up with some locals with on-set and on-camera experience to get the inside scoop.

CHUCK SLAVIN
FOUNDER, NEW ENGLAND TALENT & CREW
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: SIX FEET UNDER, CREW

I grew up on the South Shore. I was involved in theater, community television, took acting classes. I was a drama club guy. In 2002, a friend and I moved out to LA to “make it.” I got an extra role in Six Feet Under, so I called home and told everyone I knew I was going to be on TV. My job was to push one of the lead actors down a hospital hallway. It was Michael C. Hall, but I didn’t know who he was at the time. I got $75, and it turns out it was only a one second thing on the screen. But for $75, it was a priceless experience.

I moved back about eight months later. And when I came back, there was talk of the film tax credit, 20 percent under Romney and 25 percent under Patrick. I’ve worked in the film industry full time as a benefactor from the Massachusetts tax credit, when The Departed and Mystic River were filming, so I caught the wave early.

I’m very thankful that we’ve become a film-friendly town.

There’s a lot of great talent here. The big studios always want to bring in the LA guys and the New York guys, because there’s a trust issue. But over time, they realize that these guys in Massachusetts are good and able to work. And the key to everything: we need a studio. We need the tax credit, but we also need the infrastructure. If you build one house, you have a great hobby. If you build multiple houses, you’re a carpenter. So we need these movies because it trains people how to work in the industry and get it off the ground.

SKOTY REA
FREELANCE CAMERA AND AUDIO
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: LOTS, NOTABLY BOSTON’S FINEST

I have never had to work outside of Boston since I began in reality TV. I’ve worked on all the shows; Southie Rules, Boston’s Finest. Feature films have teams of people out in LA. We have local guerrilla cameramen working 12 hours a day. It’s easier for them with teams and teams of coordinators than a team of 20 people trying to do a reality show.

When we were doing Season 1 of Boston’s Finest, we couldn’t really discuss what we were doing. But now when we come around, people are like, “Oh, Boston’s Finest? Hey, what’s up?” And especially in places like Dorchester where we wouldn’t be so well received with cameras. Now when they know it’s Boston’s Finest, they’re more comfortable because they know who we are.

We are really polite, really friendly with the community.

I’ll take a person’s trash out if I’m going to shoot on their sidewalk, because those are the people who live here.

If they see us in the street and we’re causing problems, they won’t vote for the film tax credit if we’re rude assholes. Other shows that have aired about Boston that came out before that didn’t do so well; those other shows have a reputation. I didn’t personally work on them, but whatever they were doing when they were filming was pissing people off.

Boston is going to be a goldmine. From a production standpoint, I can think of 10 camera rental houses within a 10-mile radius. Places like the Fort Devens studio, when that gets up and running, it’s going to breathe new life into the whole Hollywood East idea.

ALLY TULLY
ACTOR
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: TED, R.I.P.D., STAGE

The influx of films hasn’t really affected the theater community as much as one might think. For theater people, film tends to be a good in-between job. Theater doesn’t pay as well, and it’s nice to get the attention. It’s good to have people coming into Boston because maybe they’ll see Mark Wahlberg or whatever, and maybe they’ll catch a show!

With big movies, when you’re an extra, you may or may not be seen, which is why it’s a good paycheck. You do it so you can make your bills and pay rent, and the thrill of being on a big set.

In theater, it’s immediate gratification. You rehearse for a month, work things out, hope it’s funny, flying by the seat of your pants, and you get immediately gratified by the audience. When you’re in a film, you get as many takes as the director allows you. Then a year later, “Wow, that’s the take they took.”

To big films, Massachusetts is pretty hospitable. They get a big tax break, and they get all sorts of behind-the-scenes deals. It’s really hospitable to new films that come in because they want attention. They want another Grown Ups movie, they want another Mark Wahlberg movie. With smaller pictures, it’s a little more touch-and-go, because people don’t realize there is a community like that in Boston for indie flicks. Not big-budget indie flick, because that’s a thing. If it has millions of dollars and Anne Hathaway, it’s not an indie flick.

One day, I got a call if I wanted to do a scene with Mark Wahlberg. Are you kidding me?! They had us arranged around a stuffed teddy bear. I’m like, “What is going on?” Then Seth MacFarlane comes over, starts giggling like a teenager, and said,

“Do you mind if the bear grabs your boob?” “No, I don’t mind, Seth MacFarlane. That sounds awesome.”

He goes “Great! React like somebody’s touching your boob but react, oh, that’s hilarious!” So it took an hour and a half for a two-minute scene. So Mark Wahlberg comes over, takes our picture kneeling with a teddy bear, he grabs my boob, and I laugh at him, and I walk away. Pretty neat. Turns out it not only made the movie, but the trailer too. I got a billion Facebook posts that day.

TURNER HAGAN
ACTOR
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: THE HEAT, GILDED LILIES, STAGE

For The Heat, I was up for two different roles. One was Good-Looking Guy, which would look great on a resume, but I ended up being Orderly. I’ve not had the milestone of having a name, but it was really, really exciting.

Boston is a theater community, everyone knows each other, and I think people very much identify themselves with that.

It has a pretty rich history of theater that gets overlooked. There have been a lot of terrific actors and directors that got their start in Boston in the theater scene, whereas film has really picked up over the last 10, 15 years. Even though film is so selective and hard to get into, if you’re interested in getting involved there are a lot of entry-level positions. Anyone can call Boston Casting. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get in, but if you want to get involved in the scenery, you can sign up. And really, anyone in Boston could pretty much do it. It’s a lot of fun.

KEN MURRAY
WRITER, ACTOR, PRODUCER
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: EVERY BOSTON MOVIE SINCE 2009

Once you’re on set, you either learn that you love it or you hate it, and I love it. But it’s a lot of waiting. You’re in makeup, you’re waiting for the director to show up, and you’re on set for 15 hours and never get used. It’s a lot of waiting. It’s not as glamorous as people make it out to be.

I think with Boston, it’s so new to a lot of people that everyone’s appreciative of it. And everyone loves the work. We’re not jaded yet—everyone loves it because it’s new. Five years from now could be a different story. You have these people who create a Facebook fan page. You’re an extra, you don’t need a Facebook fan page.

Boston really is an untapped market. Will it become like New York or LA where a movie shooting is just a part of life? Maybe. But Happy Madison comes back every year. Ben Affleck, obviously. There’s a reason they’re coming back. Boston looks amazing on the big screen.

I was an extra in Ted. Between takes, Mark Wahlberg went to give a PA who knew him a little punch, but the guy turns around so Mark ends up hitting me. I go, “Did Mark Wahlberg just punch me?” And he goes, “I just punched that guy.” Deer in headlights moment.

I tend to get hit a lot. I got tackled by Ryan Reynolds, I shot at Ben Affleck, and I got Kevin James’s sweat on me in Here Comes the Boom.

That was gross.

I don’t think we’ll have enough consistent work unless we have a soundstage and sets built, especially for a TV show. The weather in Boston, you can’t shoot 12 months out of the year. We need these already in place. Fort Devens studio, there’s a lot riding out here. You have to have something they can shoot 24 hours a day in, 365 days out of the year.

MICHAEL J. EPSTEIN
FILMMAKER, MUSICIAN, SOCIAL MEDIA GURU
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: DIRECTOR OF TEN, DO NOT FORSAKE ME, OH MY DARLING

All creative processes have so much in common. The details of making an album are different than making a movie. And one of the great things about working in town is that you have artists who are working in all different mediums. We have very few people in Ten who consider themselves actors as their primary thing, and I have the sense that that might be kind of unique to what happens here as opposed to New York or LA.

There aren’t that many feature independent films coming from the arts community. What’s interesting in our case is we have all these communities looking at us because we are the first to make a movie from this group. So people are pretty enthusiastic. Walking down the street, I have people I’ve never met before going, “Oh, you’re doing that movie.” They know somebody else involved, or they’re friends with someone. I feel like there’s something unique about it.

Our production scale is small enough that we can get away with guerilla shooting. We can’t have any giant spotlights, but we’re working on a small enough scale that we’re not getting in the way of the city.

I’m nervous that the film community will, not resent, but look at us as encroaching on their territory.

We are in a lot of ways taking advantage of our existing music audiences. We used Kickstarter to fund the film, and I know others have tried and not been successful, so they view us as coming up with limited film experience saying, “Come on, give us money.” Like when Red Sox guys make a record, like, “Oh yeah, now this guy is selling 100,000 records while I’m over here …” I don’t want people to feel like we’re the Red Sox guy of the film world.

In LA, if you want to shoot in a restaurant, there’s no way. Every restaurant in LA is used to being in movies. “You want to shoot here? Pay us a lot of money.” Here, everyone is really excited to be involved. It’s really easier to get community support in Boston.

EMT
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT HAVE) SEEN ME IN: R.I.P.D.

I’ve been on movie sets as a medical standby, where we’re part of the medical team if anything happens. Somebody gets heat exhaustion, somebody falls down. Normally very relaxed, just tucked away in our own little corner.

About a year and a half ago, my division manager came up to us and said, “We need you guys out of here ASAP on a movie set.” So me and my partner set off for Chelsea near the docks in the industrial area. I was driving, my partner was riding shotgun. We get there, and it’s all Boston and Chelsea police. We drive down, and there are all kinds of staff and crew members, and I see a Boston fire engine, and also other ambulances. We pull up, and a guy who introduces himself as the assistant director hands us a radio and says “We have the other ambulance staged down there. You’re going to go behind them, we’ll yell action, and then you’re going to take off as fast as you can.

Then Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, and Kevin Bacon are going to be walking across the street. The first ambulance is going to pass right before then, then you follow.”

He spits these directions at us and laid all this information on us, and I go, “Wait a minute, what are we doing?” And my partner is just as confused. “Are we in the shot right now? I thought we were just medical standby. This is … different.” We hear the crew, “We’re on channel 3. Are you familiar with what you’re doing?” “Uh … no.” I’m just taking it in, but I have no idea what is actually going on. We get in line, we sit there for a while, getting more and more nervous. Radios are chirping, people are running around.

Then we hear “Go, go, go!” I see the actors, they’re getting pretty close. I can see the headlines now, “Ambulance driver kills Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, and Kevin Bacon.” Ryan Reynolds, sure, but not Jeff Bridges! There must have been no more than two, three feet between my mirrors and their faces, and they don’t even realize that I’m not a stunt driver. They have no idea that they’re putting their lives in our hands.

We did it a few more times, I’m going faster, they’re getting closer, and they’re not even looking.

In the end, I did not kill anybody, so that worked out.


About KRISTOFER JENSON

IN BVRRITO VERITAS kris@digpublishing.com
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