State film czar loses job amid reorganization

By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / December 4, 2010

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The state may need a new cheerleader to sell Massachusetts to Hollywood productions.

Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, will be out of a job Jan. 1, when the film office is reorganized under a bill that was passed in August.

Paleologos did not return calls, but Kofi Jones, a spokeswoman for secretary of housing and economic development Greg Bialecki, confirmed that “at this time, we have elected not to offer Nick Paleologos a position.’’

Under the bill, a new agency called the Mass. Marketing Partnership will be created next year, responsible for development and promotion of film and sports events in Massachusetts. At that point, the state Office of Travel and Tourism will oversee the operations of the film office.

In 1979, Massachusetts was one of the first states to establish an official film office, with a mandate to provide one-stop shopping for studio executives, producers, and independent filmmakers seeking to do business here. Among many other services, it assists filmmakers with location scouting, tax credit information, crew referrals, housing, permitting, government relations, and union issues.

In 2005, the state instituted a 25 percent tax incentive for film and television projects produced in Massachusetts. That triggered a dramatic rise in the number of feature films shot here, including Ben Affleck’s “The Town’’ and Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.’’ Proponents of the program say it has pumped millions of dollars into the local economy.

In July 2006, the state placed the film office under the umbrella of the Massachusetts Sports and Entertainment Commission, a private, nonprofit organization charged with attracting major sporting and entertainment events to the Commonwealth.

Paleologos, a former state lawmaker as well as a theater and film producer, has been the executive director of the office since 2007. During the first years of his tenure, he was a high profile champion of the Massachusetts film community, which was experiencing unprecedented activity as movie producers took advantage of the tax credit.

Mikel Elliott, cofounder and chief executive of Quixote Studios, a Los Angeles production facility that recently opened a $1.5 million operation in Boston, said Paleologos helped smooth the way for his expansion. “He was a good advocate,’’ Elliott said. “He was passionate about promoting the film industry in Massachusetts.’’

Recently, however, the number of movies being made in Massachusetts has fallen off, due to the sluggish economy and increased competition from other states, which have instituted tax incentive programs for filmmakers. After 16 major film productions were shot in Massachusetts in 2008, and another 16 in 2009, the number fell to eight this year, according to the film office website.

Earlier this year, Paleologos lobbied against a proposal by Governor Deval Patrick to cap the film tax credit. The proposal was withdrawn, but afterward, Paleologos’s profile was reduced. In November, he told a Globe reporter that he was no longer authorized to speak to the press about the Massachusetts film industry. His forthcoming departure was first reported in the Boston Herald.

Sam Weisman, a television and film producer and director and chairman of the Massachusetts Sports and Entertainment Commission, said the reorganization had less to do with politics and more to do with efficiency.

“If you’re administering tax credits, and you’re talking revenue and taxes, it makes sense to bring that activity into a state office,’’ he said.

Yesterday, Jones, of the economic development office, said, “We are confident that we will be able to effectively promote and support the film and sports event industries in the Commonwealth through this new partnership.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at