Execs mull filming in New England

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MANCHESTER — What will it take to bring more major productions to the state of Vermont?

As the nascent Vermont Production Council works to do just that, a panel led by "Boston Strong" author and journalist Dave Wedge, and featuring director Bobby Farrelly, filmmaker Jenna Laurenzo, and producer Kris Meyer, provided some insights based on their experiences making films in New England.

"For me it was kind of a dream come true to be honest with you, because Bobby [Farrelly] is one of my idols," Wedge told the Journal."To be able to talk to someone like Bobby and get to know him on a personal level was awesome, and that's really what I think makes ITVFest incredible. It's not like Sundance or anything where you don't have access to anybody."

Wedge, who has attended ITVFest for the past two years and was asked by ITVFest direct Philip Gilpin Jr. to run the panel, says that the festival has found an ideal home in the town of Manchester.

"It's the perfect place to host something like this," said Wedge. "What a beautiful introduction to Vermont with this beautiful weather we're having, and to see this town buzzing the way it is with all of these incredible panels and screenings. It's just a great thing for Vermont."

Regarding filmmaking specifically, Wedge asserts that the state's natural beauty could prove to be a valuable asset when it comes to attracting productions.

"You've had some great films here in Vermont, and I think you're only going to see more as time goes on," said Wedge. "The natural beauty of this area is unparalleled, and I think any filmmaker who wants to make a movie with a lot of heart and soul would be wise to look at New England."

Wedge, who spoke on his experience filming "Patriots Day," based off of his novel "Boston Strong," says that those natural assets are amplified by resources like the Vermont Production Council, the Weston Playhouse, and ITVFest.

"What it all adds up to is there's a lot of opportunity for filmmakers in New England now, especially with the technology, where maybe you don't have to be in L.A. full-time like you used to," said Wedge. "I wrote a story for Stratton Magazine on the 30th anniversary of "Baby Boom" featuring Diane Keaton, which was kind of a classic 80's movie filmed all around this area, and now they're about to open a state of the art sound stage in Weston."

A major benefit of attracting productions to Vermont, as pointed out by the Vermont Production Council, is the impact those projects can have on the economy. During the panel, director Bobby Farrelly (known for films such as "There's Something About Mary," "Me Myself and Irene," and "Dumb and Dumber,") pointed to the state of Georgia for an example of those economic benefits.

"In the state of Georgia they came out with some very aggressive tax credits for the film industry," said Farrelly. "A lot of people moved there, a lot of people are working there, the hotels are all full. It's stimulated the economy."

"I think the number is about seven billion dollars that the film industry has brought into Georgia," said Meyer, whose most recent film "Super Troopers II" was filmed in Massachusetts. "More films are shot in Atlanta than Hollywood."

While incentives such as tax credits — which the state of Vermont does not offer — can help to attract filmmakers, variable weather conditions in the northeast can prove to be a deterrent.

"The weather conditions in LA are predictable, but in the East Coast you don't have that predictability," said Laurenzo, who battled two blizzards during her recent filming of "Lez Bomb" in New Jersey. Nonetheless, Laurenzo says that some of her favorite scenes in the film came out of rewrites forced by snow.

For native New Englanders like Wedge, however, weather is not enough to deter them from filming in the northeast. As filming for "Patriots Day," wrapped up, the author began on a new project almost immediately.

"After we finished `Boston Strong' we weren't really planning on jumping right into something, but when the movie `Patriots Day' came out there was a lot of stories coming at us," said Wedge, who recently penned "The Ice Bucket Challenge: Pete Frates and the Fight against ALS" with co-author Casey Sherman. "We went and met with them and there was an instant connection. After about an hour of being with them I knew that this was a story we had to write."

Following the panel Wedge signed copies of his newest book at the Northshire Bookstore, and hinted that the story may transition to the big screen soon.

"We're getting pretty close on the movie — I think we'll have something to announce soon — and I think it's going to be incredible," said Wedge. "The Frates family are such incredible people, and I can't wait to see how it comes out on film."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.


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