Globe Editorial

Mass. movies dominate the fall, so why is film-office chief out?

December 14, 2010

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THE FALL movie season has been a triumph for Massachusetts. That’s why it’s surprising, and almost inexplicable, that the Patrick administration would choose this moment to remove the hard-working head of the film office, Nick Paleologos.

Since the state’s film tax credit was enacted in 2006, many movies that would otherwise have been shot elsewhere chose instead to use iconic Bay State locations — from “The Proposal’’ to “Knight and Day’’ to “Edge of Darkness.’’ They produced a lot of free advertising for Massachusetts tourism and businesses, while also creating local jobs in film-production industries. But this fall, the state has been the source of enduring dramas that do something more important: Tell the stories of Massachusetts. Most also feature top-notch writers, directors, and actors who grew up here. It’s no surprise that talents like writer Dennis Lehane, actor Mark Wahlberg, and actor-director Ben Affleck reached new heights after the film tax credit took hold.

Come Oscar time, Bay State residents will watch nominations handed out to films as varied as “The Social Network,’’ set in the academic world of Cambridge; “The Town,’’ about Charlestown; “The Fighter,’’ depicting the rise of Lowell’s “Irish’’ Micky Ward; and perhaps also the forthcoming “The Company Men,’’ about a Boston financial-services firm. The staggering range of stories shows how important the commercial arts can be to promoting local history and identity. The benefits to Massachusetts are immense.

These films were all encouraged by Paleologos, a former state representative. As a producer himself of award-winning films including “Mississippi Burning,’’ Paleologos speaks the language of Hollywood with a Boston accent. His presence, both as a booster of the tax credit and a resource to outside producers, has been essential to putting Massachusetts on the movie-world map.

It makes no sense that his position would be eliminated at precisely the moment that his work is receiving its greatest attention. Yes, the Legislature decided last year to put the film office under the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism, but there’s still no realistic argument for giving Paleologos the boot — except, perhaps, that he fought Governor Patrick’s attempt to place a cap on the film tax credit earlier this year. The governor’s position — that the tax credit, like many worthy programs, should tighten its belt in the midst of a financial downturn — was an entirely responsible one. But so was that of Paleologos, who argued successfully to the Legislature that producers would be spooked by the cap, and fearful of planning Massachusetts productions without knowing for sure that they could get the tax credit.

It’s out of character for Patrick to remove a successful official over a perceived lack of loyalty. The governor should be a big enough figure to tolerate underlings who are outspoken advocates for their work. Patrick’s perceived magnanimity was, after all, a prime reason for his reelection. He should find a way to retain Paleologos — and keep the film office working at top capacity.