My name is Christopher Evans. I began as a locations assistant in 2009, and have since served as a production/art assistant with the goal of joining IATSE Local 481 this year. It’s been a very busy time for so many of us. It saddens me to think that I and so many others may not be this busy in the years to come when the film industry is currently at its busiest in the history of the state.
I could go on about all the beautiful people whose lives have flourished due to the tax incentive, the families whose lives have been made greater, the spotlight in pop and world culture that has made New England and its many places and characters household names, and the businesses — prop warehouses; camera houses; costume shops; lighting and grip warehouses; construction outfits; car, van, and trucking companies; local “Mom & Pop” businesses; restaurants; hotels; and so forth — that benefit from the tax incentive. Heck, just the increase in Starbucks sales alone should be a heavy weight to throw around. The aforementioned examples have been so wonderfully advocated by so many.
I thought a lot about these things as I traveled as well as, naturally, my own goals and dreams, but I kept coming back to a certain theme over and over as I recalled my experiences in film going back to childhood. I would also like to add that, to this day and for the last 16.5 years, I’ve worked with kids in residential programs here in Massachusetts. I bring this up because it certainly has influence on why this theme kept coming back to me. See, one of the really cool things about my job is being able to see places and meet people all over New England. So this is the story I’d like to share:
In 2011, I had the fortune to be able to work on the set of the first Ted movie. We were filming in Chelsea at a local grocery store, working our usual 15-hour day. I was across the street from the store doing a “lock up” around 3pm when I noticed this young Latino boy standing near me. He couldn’t have been any more than 12 or 13 years old. Now there were a lot of people out there with us, satisfying their curiosity, but this kid stood out to me because of his facial expression. He looked confused, almost shocked, but excited, too; and his eyes darted around, watching everything at once. I laughed to myself and eventually moved on to another task.
Around 8:30pm, I was placed at the same lock up and, to my surprise, the boy was still there! He kept looking at me and I could tell he wanted to come ask me questions. He eventually came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained to him what my job was. He listened intently, smiled, said OK, and went back to his spot. The next day I noticed the young man again in the same spot, only this time it’s 10:30am — clearly he should be in school. The look on his face though was a little different — it was very calm, focused. This kid saw me and quickly and amusingly became a pain in my side!
“Why does that guy have the bear on a stick? Why does that lady have on that funny suit with the balls on it? What does it mean when you keep saying ‘switching, on 2,’ and ‘back to one?’ Does everyone get a walkie? What’s that guy doing up there in that crane? Is that a hot air ballon up there? Why do they wet the street down when it’s not raining?” Barrage after barrage of questions. As the day went, on his expression showed that he seemed to be understanding, like his was piecing together a puzzle — he constantly nodded as if having a conversation with someone no one else could see. It ended when, at 8pm or so, a woman who I assumed was his mother came and snatched him up and marched him home. He waved goodbye to me as he left and I didn’t see him again.
Fast froward to summer 2014. I worked one day on the entire Ted 2 project and, around 6:30pm or so, I see four boys walking towards me, one of them with that “I know you” look on his face. I was on walkie with someone at the time and the boys stopped near me. The “knowing” boy was pointing things out to his friends and seemed to be explaining what was what to them. I thought it was one of the kids I’d worked with in the residential programs I just didn’t recognize. Eventually, he approached me and asked if I remembered him. I looked at him closely, and it clicked immediately! “You’re the boy I met out here when we filmed the first movie!”
His name is Edwin and he was a junior or senior in high school now doing very well in his classes, all so he could go to film school! He told me that ever since that day seeing us filming the first Ted movie, he’d done nothing but watch and study films. He would go online and find out what projects were filming and go sit, watch, and study what everyone was doing. He’d hoped to do well enough in school to go to UCLA or NYU, but planned to set up shop here at his home in Boston and make movies about his neighborhoods; if that didn’t work, he’d become a teacher in some capacity. He reminded me of myself at that age — that youthful fire in the eyes!
As a son of a musician and record producer living in Los Angeles as a child, it wasn’t uncommon for me be around and observe musicians, actors, writers, directors, and producers for TV, musicals, movies, and such. Or to see things being filmed from the freeway, or ride bikes and play in the same neighborhoods where they filmed E.T. and in E.T. Park. I knew what it was like to work a job for years, one you may even like, but still wonder if you could ever live that dream. Edwin may never had found his passion had it not been for that day. But he got to see that this world is not just in California or New York. He could see it with his own eyes; see that it could be possible for him, too.
I’ve worked in and met people in some of the wealthiest places and some of the poorest. I’ve talked with kids from elementary school, junior high, high school, and college who have been affected the same way I was in California by seeing the art that’s created all over New England because of the tax incentive. In the case of Edwin, I would say that’s one of my favorite stories of my experience so far. I truly believe if this decision were mine to make, his story alone would be enough to allow the incentive to live on. Maybe this is corny or a little too dreamy an approach, but that’s the theme that continued to come to mind.