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Small state, big stage

By IAN DONNIS  |  August 2, 2006

And then at 1 o’clock in the morning, Chief Stephen Tocco of the Capitol Police came to the State House on a Sunday night, and after dinner, the executives were given a tour in which we went all the way up to the roof, and they looked out over the city. And then I showed them the Cranston Street Armory. We also told them about the intended [tax incentive] legislation, which was gathering a lot of steam. And we had the best package.

How would you describe the impact, culturally, socially, and economically, from this increased amount of filming that we’re seeing?
It’s dramatic. Economically, we’ve brought in well over $100 million worth of productions. If you’re talking about Underdog, you’re . . . looking at about $40 million of a much larger production, because they’re doing heavy special effects outside of our state and country. You have Showtime, which is somewhere between $25 and $30 million. You’ve got Hard Luck, which was about, I think, $15 million. You’ve got Waterfront coming, $4 million just on the pilot alone . . .  And then we did some other productions that are circling for bargains and are ready to plop down. That’s direct money spent into our economy.

On a social level, I always get approached by people who are working, who are grateful. They say, “Thank you,” and I tell them it’s a team effort. I tell them about the General Assembly passing all this stuff, and the support, and the governor signing it. But when you hear about a guy, whether he’s a location manager, or a grip, or a Teamster guy, and he says, “Steve, thanks a lot,” and this just happened to me two days ago, and I said, “What for?” and he goes, “This is the first time in my life where I can work and sleep in my own bed, and my wife -- we just had a child -- my wife gets to stay home and raise our child. Thank you.”

And these are real people. So you’re hearing economics, you’re hearing numbers, but you’re dealing with all of these people who are working. There are interns that are working. I meet so many people that are happy, and it’s not just something in the ether.

The other thing that we’re starting to get is a lot of promotion. When Underdog comes out next year, people have no clue how the state capital is going to be promoted, and how Rhode Island is going to be promoted.

SAVING: THE DAY The Underdog crew shoots at the State House.
What is being done to strengthen the local filmmaking infrastructure?
The Cranston Street Armory is an example. That was a building that was, frankly, a derelict junkyard. We’d go in there and you’d find bird carcasses on the ground, and old computers, just a bunch of old state property, and the place was dead. With Underdog, obviously, they need to build sets, a lot of sets, in there, and they wanted production offices. Part of the attraction of bringing them here is to be able to provide them with that.

I work very closely with the [state] Department of Administration, and in about a three- or four-month period, we really got that building -- it’s alive again. We fixed the lights, put in T1 lines, phone lines, [and] bathrooms. That Underdog, the largest film in the history of New England, filmed entirely in Rhode Island, was housed in the Cranston Street Armory -- it’s almost a miracle.  

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  Topics: Features , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, George Lucas,  More more >
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