By Rachel Riley/Daily News Correspondent
Posted Apr. 22, 2016 at 7:18 PM MetroWest Daily News
A Framingham security agency makes more than $1 million a year servicing one activity: the filming of Hollywood blockbusters, including "Spotlight," "Black Mass," and "American Hustle."
RSIG Security, now involved in the production of the Boston Marathon bombing movie "Patriots Day," starring Mark Wahlberg, has worked on more than 30 feature films, each of which requires a team of 70 to 80 people, according to president and CEO Tim Mazzie.
The security agency is one player in an entire sector of trades and businesses — carpenters, electricians, tailors, rental companies, dry cleaners, and many more — that reap the benefits when a large-scale production sets up shop in town.
"It’s work they would have never gotten to begin with if the movie hadn’t come to the state," Mazzie said.
Other businesses, from restaurants to hotels, also prosper when filmmakers choose to shoot in the commonwealth, said Kristen Lucas, owner of Worcester-based Goldilocks Productions.
"Anything that a set needs, they’re going to get nearby," said Lucas, who has a $12 million film in the works that will be set in Worcester.
The MetroWest towns of Acton, Sudbury, Natick, Wayland, and Framingham have served as filming locations for 21 television and film shoots since 2007, according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 481 union.
Wahlberg and production crews filmed scenes for "Patriots Day" in Framingham several days this week. Crews will be shooting for the movie in Greater Boston until late May, a publicist for the film said.
Under Massachusetts law, if filmmakers spend more than $50,000 in the state, they receive a 25-percent tax credit on production and payroll expenses, as well as a sales tax exemption. If the taxes don't amount to one-fourth of the cost of making the film, the credits can be sold or refunded at a rate of 90 percent.
Critics of the tax policy argue it’s overly generous and puts an unfair burden on Massachusetts taxpayers. But Robert Tannenwald, who teaches public finance at Brandeis' Heller School for Social Policy and Management, says it is a complicated issue.
"There are winners and losers from film tax credits," Tannenwald said. "The winners are going to be concentrated in the areas where the film takes place, but everybody in the state pays for the film tax credit."
Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget Policy Center, said while there are some economic benefits created by the tax credit, the money often isn’t spent in the commonwealth.
"A disproportionate share of the money leaves the state," Berger said. "Most wages paid when movies are filmed go to out-of-state residents, largely movie stars."
Last year, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced a measure to eliminate the film tax credit that was struck down by the Legislature, Berger said.
Baker filed another bill earlier this year with the fiscal 2017 budget proposal that would reinstate a $7 million cap that originally existed on the credit and make it non-refundable, according to Billy Pitman, deputy communications director at Baker’s office.
According to the most recent report on film industry tax incentives issued by the state Department of Revenue, film production in Massachusetts generated $81.2 million in tax credits in 2012 and $69.3 million in 2013.
In 2013, the credit spurred $265.2 million in new spending by filmmakers, 59 percent of which was spent outside of Massachusetts. Production also provided full-time employment for 796 Massachusetts residents, versus 439 non-residents, according to the report.
But Chris O’Donnell, IATSE Local 481’s business manager, said the Revenue Department’s annual report fails to take into account other benefits spawned by the film tax credit, including increased tourism and publicity for filming sites and development of sectors within the Massachusetts film industry, such as post-production and digital effects companies.
"It (the film tax credit) has created thousands of jobs and helped out thousands of businesses across Massachusetts," O’Donnell said. "It’s revitalized an industry in the state that didn’t exist 10 years ago."
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