Media: Town Hopes To Benefit From Film Industry Growth

By JESSE LEAVENWORTH for The Hartford Courant

MANCHESTER — — To position the town for film industry growth in the state, officials are proposing an ordinance that would guide moviemakers to local sites and businesses and set rules for film production.

Jack Sayre, chairman of the economic development commission, wrote recently to the board of directors that the town should be ready if and when neighboring South Windsor becomes home to a new film studio complex.

The commission is asking the board to consider a film production ordinance that would set policies and procedures for making movies in town. The ordinance would create a local point person who would guide filmmakers to shooting sites and coordinate filming with property owners, police and other local agencies, among other tasks. The town would set a $100 film production permit fee under the ordinance.

The economic development commission and planning staff also hope to develop a website that will include a catalog of local filming locations, municipal contact information, filming guidelines and a list of local businesses that can provide goods, services and temporary housing and rent or sell industrial and commercial space for filmmakers’ use.

The commission is aware, Sayre wrote, that the South Windsor studio is still under discussion and that the state’s film tax credits may not survive in their current form. Nevertheless, he wrote, “we believe Manchester should be in the position to encourage and facilitate film production here.”

At the commission’s request, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center prepared a report on the potential for business development related to filmmaking. The report cites federal statistics that show film and video industries expanding and offering relatively high-wage jobs, with an average annual salary of $65,500 in 2008.

In Connecticut, the industry added only about 90 workers between 1998 and 2008, but that was an increase of 22 percent increase, the report says. Connecticut Studios had hoped to start construction this summer on a $140.7 million project in South Windsor that would have included a studio, hotel and restaurants, but the plan was scaled back to focus on studio construction.

Still, the planned studios would add hundreds more workers and increase sales of lumber, paint, furniture and equipment for building and maintaining sets, according to the CERC report. Catering businesses, hotels, restaurants and bars also stand to benefit.

Local workers and companies appear to be limited by lack of trained film production workers and specialized equipment, the report said, but industry growth would encourage businesses with those assets to move into the area. Such businesses include companies that provide lighting and sound equipment and cameras; computer programming; technical, environmental and scientific consulting services; and architectural and specialized design services.

The increase in film production and digital media across the state “provides opportunities for Manchester to use its fine historical and architectural assets to proactively structure itself as a prepared and welcoming location for shooting film,” the report said.


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