Win or lose, this year's Academy Awards belong to Massachusetts.
The Social Network, with eight nominations including Best Picture, taught the world how Facebook started here at Harvard. Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter performed an even greater feat — up for seven trophies including Best Picture, the portrayal of Lowell boxer brothers Dick and Micky Ward spotlighted parts of Massachusetts outside of Greater Boston. Then there's Jeremy Renner, whose work as Charlestown nihilist Jem in The Town earned a nom for Best Supporting Actor.
It's been one hell of a run since the legislature passed delicious movie tax-credit incentives in 2005. With 54 feature films shot here between 2006 and 2009, a bustling supporting industry was spawned: the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reported a tenfold wage increase for Massachusetts members; the Boston chapter of the Screen Actors Guild grew by nearly 30 percent; Teamsters more than tripled the amount of workers servicing the film industry here.
Now, though, it seems that Massachusetts is re-earning its old reputation as a dangerously political place to make movies, and Hollywood execs are heading for the hills. Film production here dipped by more than half in 2010. This year only two studio flicks are set to shoot, and next year's not looking much better.
Major players who attracted the magic have been sidelined in a game of full-contact political football. And the state's film office — the body that once brought marquee productions here — has been steadily marginalized, first declawed and markedly defunded, and finally folded into another department. For the first time in nearly a decade, the state doesn't even have a designated film commissioner.
So on Sunday night, party like the Sox won the World Series. Just be sure to take pictures, because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
THE BRINK'S JOB
On a sketchy day in the late 1970s, masked gunmen broke into an editing room on Stuart Street in downtown Boston. Brazenly crashing a major motion picture operation, the bandits liberated stacks of film reels to hold for ransom. The thieves, later determined to be Teamsters, soon discovered that their booty had no value. But that didn't stop them from bleeding the visiting Hollywood producers for more than $1 million in payoffs.
This wasn't the side plot of a bank heist flick. It's what really happened when The Brink's Job was shot here.
Federal charges were eventually filed against five Teamsters for their role in extorting producers of the movie. But the incident tarnished the local film industry.In his 2008 book, Big Screen Boston,Harvard Program Coordinator and film critic Paul Sherman wrote: "The shenanigans surrounding The Brink's Job forever overshadow the movie . . . 'Brink's Job' became Hollywood shorthand for 'Why would you ever want to shoot a movie in Boston and put up with that, you schmuck?' "
The Brink's affair also forced the formation of a body built to guard against future embarrassment: the Massachusetts Film Office (MFO).