The head of the state's film office estimates that more than $100 million of production work will be done in Massachusetts this year, thanks largely to two tax credit bills passed by the Legislature.
I can't help but feel left out that I haven't run into a Hollywood celebrity these days. After all, Kate Hudson and Dane Cook are in town to shoot the romantic comedy ''Bachelor No. 2,'' and Meg Ryan and Annette Bening are here for a remake of ''The Women.''
Maybe I'll catch Steve Martin when he shows up to turn the streets of Boston into the streets of Paris in a sequel to his ''Pink Panther'' movie.
The truth is, though, I'm more interested in what their arrival means for the local men and women in the film industry who now have more opportunities to work in the area than any other time in the state's recent history. The head of the state's film office estimates that more than $100 million of production work will be done in Massachusetts this year, thanks largely to two tax credit bills passed by the Legislature.
But there's still one thing missing that prevents Massachusetts from turning into Hollywood East: a major production studio with multiple sound stages, a backlot and editing suites.
Fortunately, we may not have to wait much longer for that to arrive, either. Good News Holdings, a relatively new Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based media company that focuses on what it calls ''spiritainment,'' has been busy in recent months assessing the best place to build a major TV and movie production facility in the state. Although Good News hasn't made a final decision, a wooded, 1,000-acre series of parcels primarily owned by the town of Plymouth off Route 25 near the town's border with Bourne is among the list of top prospective sites.
Good News has yet to make its first movie, although it has acquired the rights to Anne Rice's ''Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt'' and has also been working on a horror film inspired by the doomed Connecticut hamlet of Dudleytown. Good News co-founder David Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures, is heading the firm's film efforts as its director of traditional media.
The company has hired Gensler, a major architectural firm, to assess the feasibility of the studio campus proposal and has tapped former Paramount exec Earl Lestz to work as a consultant with an eye toward creating a tourism attraction as well as a film industry hub.
When it's fully complete, the Good News studio campus could employ nearly 2,000 people year-round. The company wouldn't just use the facility to produce its own Christian-themed flicks. Most of the space would be available to other filmmakers for productions ranging from commercials to TV series to full-length feature films.
The project still faces some obstacles if it is to land in Plymouth. A recent report by MassDevelopment shows that as much as $45 million in infrastructure work - including a new interchange at Route 25 - would be necessary for commercial development there. The town and the developers may look to the state to help pay for some of those costs. Clearing the titles for all the individual properties could also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The company hasn't ruled out other options. A spokesman says Good News is considering other East Coast states as well as Massachusetts, although the company's Web site mentions only the Bay State.
Good News representatives have been getting a warm reception in recent months as they meet with local business and political leaders to line up support for the studio campus proposal, nicknamed ''Project Julia.''
Denis Hanks, director of the Plymouth Regional Economic Development Foundation, has seen proposals for that site ranging from a casino to an outlet mall come and go over the years. But he says the Good News concept would be attractive because it has the potential to bring high-paying jobs and act as a tourism draw.
Peter Forman, CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, also hopes Good News settles in Plymouth. He says it would make the local economy more diverse by introducing a new industry to the mix.
Good News' interest in the state can be traced back to a set of generous tax credits --that the Legislature passed for the film industry in the fall of 2005. To keep up with other states that were jumping into the movie biz, lawmakers enhanced those credits with another bill in July, removing a cap on the size of credits that threatened to scare away big-budget pictures.
Essentially, the credits allow filmmakers to be reimbursed for up to 22.5 percent of any production work done in this state.
Those tax credits, combined with a currency exchange rate that has made shooting in Canada considerably less attractive, have proved to be a boon for the state's relatively small film industry. Nick Paleologos, the Massachusetts Film Office's executive director, says he expects more than $100 million in production work in the state this year, up from an estimated $50 million in 2006 and a minimal amount in 2005.
With the tax credits, Paleologos says, the film industry can thrive here even if Good News decides against developing the studio campus in Massachusetts. Filmmakers typically find underused buildings such as empty warehouses to build makeshift sound stages to augment their location footage in the Boston area.
But Paleologos is still excited about the prospects of a Good News studio campus because it would finally enable the region to become a year-round production hub, something that is difficult right now given our notoriously unpredictable winters.
When the Legislature first considered tax breaks for the film industry, critics worried about handing out money to out-of-state companies that would leave as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. The Good News proposal, if it comes to fruition, would offer proof that those tax credits can bring more permanent benefits to the state's economy.
Jon Chesto is the business editor of The Patriot Ledger. He may be reached at email@example.com.