â€śDo you mind if the bear grabs your boob?â€ť â€śNo, I donâ€™t mind, Seth MacFarlane. That sounds awesome.â€ť
With eased restrictions and additional tax incentives, lately it seems like you canâ€™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.
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 â€śmake it.â€ť 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 didnâ€™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. Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™m very thankful that weâ€™ve become a film-friendly town.
Thereâ€™s a lot of great talent here. The big studios always want to bring in the LA guys and the New York guys, because thereâ€™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, youâ€™re a carpenter. So we need these movies because it trains people how to work in the industry and get it off the ground.
FREELANCE CAMERA AND AUDIO
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: LOTS, NOTABLY BOSTONâ€™S FINEST
I have never had to work outside of Boston since I began in reality TV. Iâ€™ve worked on all the shows; Southie Rules, Bostonâ€™s Finest. Feature films have teams of people out in LA. We have local guerrilla cameramen working 12 hours a day. Itâ€™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 Bostonâ€™s Finest, we couldnâ€™t really discuss what we were doing. But now when we come around, people are like, â€śOh, Bostonâ€™s Finest? Hey, whatâ€™s up?â€ť And especially in places like Dorchester where we wouldnâ€™t be so well received with cameras. Now when they know itâ€™s Bostonâ€™s Finest, theyâ€™re more comfortable because they know who we are.
We are really polite, really friendly with the community.
Iâ€™ll take a personâ€™s trash out if Iâ€™m going to shoot on their sidewalk, because those are the people who live here.
If they see us in the street and weâ€™re causing problems, they wonâ€™t vote for the film tax credit if weâ€™re rude assholes. Other shows that have aired about Boston that came out before that didnâ€™t do so well; those other shows have a reputation. I didnâ€™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.Â 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, itâ€™s going to breathe new life into the whole Hollywood East idea.
The influx of films hasnâ€™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 doesnâ€™t pay as well, and itâ€™s nice to get the attention. Itâ€™s good to have people coming into Boston because maybe theyâ€™ll see Mark Wahlberg or whatever, and maybe theyâ€™ll catch a show!
With big movies, when youâ€™re an extra, you may or may not be seen, which is why itâ€™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, itâ€™s immediate gratification. You rehearse for a month, work things out, hope itâ€™s funny, flying by the seat of your pants, and you get immediately gratified by the audience. When youâ€™re in a film, you get as many takes as the director allows you. Then a year later, â€śWow, thatâ€™s the take they took.â€ť
To big films, Massachusetts is pretty hospitable. They get a big tax break, and they get all sorts of behind-the-scenes deals. Itâ€™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, itâ€™s a little more touch-and-go, because people donâ€™t realize there is a community like that in Boston for indie flicks. Not big-budget indie flick, because thatâ€™s a thing. If it has millions of dollars and Anne Hathaway, itâ€™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. Iâ€™m like, â€śWhat is going on?â€ť Then Seth MacFarlane comes over, starts giggling like a teenager, and said,
â€śDo you mind if the bear grabs your boob?â€ť â€śNo, I donâ€™t mind, Seth MacFarlane. That sounds awesome.â€ť
He goes â€śGreat! React like somebodyâ€™s touching your boob but react, oh, thatâ€™s hilarious!â€ť 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.
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. Iâ€™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 youâ€™re interested in getting involved there are a lot of entry-level positions. Anyone can call Boston Casting. It doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™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. Itâ€™s a lot of fun.
WRITER, ACTOR, PRODUCER
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) HAVE SEEN ME IN: EVERY BOSTON MOVIE SINCE 2009
Once youâ€™re on set, you either learn that you love it or you hate it, and I love it. But itâ€™s a lot of waiting. Youâ€™re in makeup, youâ€™re waiting for the director to show up, and youâ€™re on set for 15 hours and never get used. Itâ€™s a lot of waiting. Itâ€™s not as glamorous as people make it out to be.
I think with Boston, itâ€™s so new to a lot of people that everyoneâ€™s appreciative of it. And everyone loves the work. Weâ€™re not jaded yetâ€”everyone loves it because itâ€™s new. Five years from now could be a different story. You have these people who create a Facebook fan page. Youâ€™re an extra, you donâ€™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. Thereâ€™s a reason theyâ€™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, â€śDid Mark Wahlberg just punch me?â€ť And he goes, â€śI just punched that guy.â€ť 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 Jamesâ€™s sweat on me in Here Comes the Boom.
That was gross.
I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll have enough consistent work unless we have a soundstage and sets built, especially for a TV show. The weather in Boston, you canâ€™t shoot 12 months out of the year. We need these already in place. Fort Devens studio, thereâ€™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 arenâ€™t that many feature independent films coming from the arts community. Whatâ€™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 Iâ€™ve never met before going, â€śOh, youâ€™re doing that movie.â€ť They know somebody else involved, or theyâ€™re friends with someone. I feel like thereâ€™s something unique about it.
Our production scale is small enough that we can get away with guerilla shooting. We canâ€™t have any giant spotlights, but weâ€™re working on a small enough scale that weâ€™re not getting in the way of the city.
Iâ€™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, â€śCome on, give us money.â€ť Like when Red Sox guys make a record, like, â€śOh yeah, now this guy is selling 100,000 records while Iâ€™m over here â€¦â€ť I donâ€™t want people to feel like weâ€™re the Red Sox guy of the film world.
In LA, if you want to shoot in a restaurant, thereâ€™s no way. Every restaurant in LA is used to being in movies. â€śYou want to shoot here? Pay us a lot of money.â€ť Here, everyone is really excited to be involved. Itâ€™s really easier to get community support in Boston.
YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT HAVE) SEEN ME IN: R.I.P.D.
Iâ€™ve been on movie sets as a medical standby, where weâ€™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, â€śWe need you guys out of here ASAP on a movie set.â€ť 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 itâ€™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 â€śWe have the other ambulance staged down there. Youâ€™re going to go behind them, weâ€™ll yell action, and then youâ€™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.â€ť
He spits these directions at us and laid all this information on us, and I go, â€śWait a minute, what are we doing?â€ť And my partner is just as confused. â€śAre we in the shot right now? I thought we were just medical standby. This is â€¦ different.â€ť We hear the crew, â€śWeâ€™re on channel 3. Are you familiar with what youâ€™re doing?â€ť â€śUh â€¦ no.â€ť Iâ€™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 â€śGo, go, go!â€ť I see the actors, theyâ€™re getting pretty close. I can see the headlines now, â€śAmbulance driver kills Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, and Kevin Bacon.â€ť 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 donâ€™t even realize that Iâ€™m not a stunt driver. They have no idea that theyâ€™re putting their lives in our hands.
We did it a few more times, Iâ€™m going faster, theyâ€™re getting closer, and theyâ€™re not even looking.
In the end, I did not kill anybody, so that worked out.