CGI Studio: Film Credit Change Could Generate Jobs

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Walt Disney Studios
The state's film tax credit helped Synthespian Studios nab the CGI work on 'Surrogates.' The studio is hoping to extend the credit to attract investors to fund a feature animated film - and jobs for North Adams.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A change in the state's film tax incentive could bring hundreds of jobs to the city.

That's the prediction of Synthespian Studios owner Jeff Kleiser, who's hoping to ramp up production on a full-length animated feature film right here.

"We have a script and completed the very early stages of preproduction," said Kleiser on Thursday afternoon. The movie would be based on the studio's Corkscrew Hill ride through Irish myths in Busch Gardens in Virginia. "We're interested in doing it all in Massachusetts."

But Kleiser said he could really use a longer-term tax credit to get investors lined up for his $60 million project.

The tax credits were established in 2005 and expanded in 2007 to lure production companies to film in the Bay State. They've been a rousing success, bringing in $3.6 million more in revenue than they cost and generating from $500 million to $900 million in ancillary revenue and thousands of jobs, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The number of major films being shot in Massachusetts more than doubled, from 10 films in seven years to 26 in the three years since the credits were enacted.

However, the credits — ranging from sales tax exemptions to payroll deductions, up to $7 million — only apply to films shot in the state within a 12-month period. Synthespian's "filming" could take 18 months, said Kleiser.


So he was at the Joint Committee on Revenue's listening-tour stop at Berkshire Community College on Wednesday to laud the program — and to ask for help.

"It's been very good for us," he told committee Chairmen Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Jay R. Kaufman, D-Lexington. "Disney came to us to work on the 'Surrogates' project because we were in Massachusetts and they were shooting in Massachusetts. We got a $2.5 million contract based on that program."

Synthespian, previously known as Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co., specializes in groundbreaking computer-generated imagery. In addition to making Bruce Willis look like a 30-year-old android version of himself in "Surrogates," the company's worked on such films "Spider-Man" and "X-Men." At one point, nearly 100 people were working for the studio in North Berkshire.

Downing said on Wednesday that the 12-month time limit may have to do with the Legislature "trying to avoid the cost being beyond what the state could afford." Kleiser suggested Thursday that it may have more to do with the way live-action films are shot on location and then finished elsewhere.

"We really want to bring people here. That's perfect for us because we wouldn't have to go to another state," he said on Thursday. The company has a larger studio in Los Angeles but Kleiser and wife and partner Diana Walczak have called the area home for years. The film tax credit program has been a factor in keeping them here the last few years, said Kleiser.

Working on the Corkscrew Hill project could generate 250 to 300 jobs for 18 months to two years on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art campus. Kleiser said the company would try to fill its work force locally first before recruiting outside.

"We can certainly look into that especially when you say 250 to 300 jobs," said Downing. "I'm not kidding," said Kleiser. "I'm not kidding either," responded the senator.
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Letter: To the Voters of North Adams

Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

Earlier this spring, I announced I was running for City Council while still a senior in college. Within just a few days of taking out my papers, I had surpassed the number of signatures needed to appear on the ballot. I want to thank everyone who lent me their signature, their support, or even just an encouraging word along the way.

Late last week, however, I wrote to the City Clerk and asked her to withdraw my name from the election. I accepted an offer to work for the New Hampshire State Senate that will, obviously, take me out of the city for the foreseeable future. This was an offer that I, a 22-year-old recent college graduate from the college known as New Hampshire's home for politics, could not turn down at this point in my young career. I am very thankful to everyone who supported my campaign along the way. I especially want to thank state Rep. John Barrett III, City Council President Keith Bona, and City Councilor Marie T. Harpin, who all gave me valuable insights and guided me along the way.

I hope to return to the city one day and give back to the great community that shaped me into who I am today and who inspired me to launch my campaign. I would not have withdrawn from the campaign if I did not think that the city would be in good hands while I am away. No matter where I live, I will always consider North Adams home.

Cameron M. Lapine
North Adams, Mass.

 

 

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