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Small state, big stage

By IAN DONNIS  |  August 2, 2006

The other approach is tax incentives, [which] was one of my key strategies, and I thought we also needed to build an effective Web site. The other thing is to have some kind of a soundstage that would at least be a working facility. Those are the main things that we needed to do, and then create a sense of community.

How it particular did Rhode Island get Underdog and Brotherhood?
With Brotherhood, the first thing, I introduced director Phillip Noyes, Blake Masters, the creator, and Elizabeth Stephen, the executive producer, in about four hours, to Senator [Lincoln] Chafee, [Providence] Providence Mayor [David] Cicilline, Governor [Donald] Carcieri, Speaker [William] Murphy, Senate President [Joseph] Montalbano, Lieutenant Governor [Charles] Fogarty, [Providence Police] Chief [Dean] Esserman and 10 detectives. They’ve never had that kind of access, because you can’t get that kind of access anywhere. If you look at California, the governor is up in Sacramento, and the mayor’s down in Los Angeles. One of the benefits of our state is how compact we are.

Phillip Noyes did decide he was going to make the location Providence, and shoot only three days in Providence and the rest in Toronto. And their offices were already set up in Toronto

I asked the producer, Henry Bronstein, who also produces The Sopranos, how much they were saving by filming up in Toronto. It was about $650,000 on the pilot alone, because of their incentive program. Because I didn’t want to repeat what happened with the TV show Providence, where they filmed three days in Providence and the rest in Los Angeles, I went to Speaker Murphy, Senate President Montalbano, and Mike McMahon of the [state Economic Development Corporation], to see if we could give them a legislative grant, because we didn’t have legislation at the time, to create an argument.

Creatively, Phillip wanted to be in Rhode Island, but we needed an economic stimulus for the Showtime executives, and the speaker suggested a $300,000 legislative grant, the Senate president agreed, Mike McMahon asked Governor Carcieri -- who agreed -- and we had a contact signed one week later. We stepped up production in Rhode Island, and they ended up spending $30 million in our state.

With Underdog, I heard about the project on a Saturday, and on a Sunday, I took 250 photographs of locations that I felt would be right for Underdog, if I were the filmmaker -- and they used 90 percent of those locations. Then, when the executives decided to tour Rhode Island, they went to Rhode Island first, and then they were going to Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. So what I did, I had packages for all of them in their hotel rooms.

I had balloons in each of their rooms that said, “Welcome, Jerry,” “Welcome Mary Anne,” and “Welcome, Paul.” I put together these welcome bags that had Rhode Island architecture, pictures books of the State House, another book with the architecture of Providence. There were chocolates, and I made these T-shirts that said, “Rhode Island (Hearts) Underdog,” and on the back, “The Rhode Island Film Office.”

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