Category Archives: Scenic Artist

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My name is David Rickson. I am a working scenic artist and taxpaying member of my community. I am the provider of our single-income household. If the film industry left Massachusetts, it would be devastating to my family and, as a result, I would no longer be contributing as a taxpaying citizen of our commonwealth. This is not just a job, it’s a profession.

Killing the tax incentive is shortsighted. Over a thousand well-paying jobs would be lost, and I don’t think the ripple effect that would have is being thoroughly considered.

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I have been an artist my whole life, and a scenic artist for ten years, but I only found film work three years ago. For me, my film career supports my personal artwork. And for that I am incredibly grateful for film work in Massachusetts.

pic-1My name is Roberto Gallo. I have been a scenic artist since my graduation from Dartmouth College in 1989. My parents emigrated to Massachusetts from Italy when I was about four years old and, although I have lived in many different places, I have always considered this state my home.

For many years, I struggled to make a living doing what I love as the arts are always notoriously under-funded. I worked painting scenery for theatre, opera, and dance productions, but was always just getting by or in debt. It wasn’t until the Massachusetts film tax incentive was implemented, which brought the film industry to Massachusetts, that I have finally been able to earn a living wage, become debt-free, and even save a little for rainy days. I have been back in the area now for more than ten years; three years ago, I moved to Lynn, in hopes of finally establishing roots in a community instead of constantly traveling, chasing the next job. This has been made possible by the film tax incentive. In that time, I have paid taxes here and frequented local businesses; I hope to continue to do so.

The people that work in the film industry are by no means “well-off.” The two or three highly paid “stars” acting in a film do not represent the hundreds working behind the cameras. We work hard, long hours to earn a decent middle-class income. Abolishing the film tax incentive would mean a significant step backward for all of us who have chosen this industry as our livelihood and Massachusetts as our home. It would mean uprooting many individuals and families and a great loss of talented artists from the commonwealth. I ask you to reconsider repealing the tax incentive.

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My name is Mary Hopkins. I’m a scenic artist/set painter. I was born and raised in Dorchester, MA. In 1990, I saw the delightful, made-in-Massachusetts movie Mermaids, starring Cher, Bob Hoskins, and Winona Ryder. I was made aware that it had been filmed in Massachusetts because of the local press it received. In the movie, I noticed the colorful, fabulously painted walls, how the sets were dressed, and the funky props. I thought, “Who does this work?” I went home, opened the telephone book, and listed under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the Film Office. I called, and the woman I spoke gave me the number of IATSE Local 921; I spoke with the business agent that day. I met him at WBZ studios shortly thereafter and I have not looked back. At the time I was a self-employed painter and a showroom employee at the Boston Design Center; I bartended on the weekends and I had to travel all over the state and New England for periodic film work.

Fast forward ten years. In 2004, I was commuting to Rhode Island for work. Gas hit $3.00 a gallon. I had an opportunity to go to New York. I took it. Then I landed on the Sopranos. I was fond of saying Tony bought my house. I’m a homeowner in Abington, MA. Shortly after purchasing my home, my father died. My travelling for work was no longer easy on my mother, who is now 87. And it was no longer necessary due to the film tax incentive. I have a livelihood in my home state, where I was born and raised, where I am registered to vote, and where I pay taxes.

I have witnessed the growth of this industry here in Massachusetts. We have built and are building a future here for many people. We are the behind-the-scenes employees dedicated to their skilled crafts in pre- and post-production. We work a minimum 50-hour week to a common 72-hour week. My husband Charlie was able to become employed in this industry due to the significant demand for skilled labor as a carpenter. My cousin Sean, a recent graduate of the Museum School, is completing an application to my union and was employed last summer on The Finest Hour, filmed in Quincy, MA. This is one Massachusetts family who will be financially hit hard if the tax incentives go away. We are landlords who were able to refinance our mortgage due to our earnings here in Massachusetts, a direct effect of the incentive. Because of that, we are able to charge a below-market rent, $1200 for a three-bedroom, in this state, to a family that lost their home. Through my union, I have had health insurance since 1993. The film tax incentive was signed by former Republican Governor Mitt Romney. I think we could agree he is an astute business man.

Like it or not, our country is information- and entertainment-driven. It’s an economic machine that impacts the entire world. Think of the future, too. Let Massachusetts residents and businesses continue to earn a significant monetary piece of this. Yes, certainly expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, but please do not be misguided by astronomical salaries of the rich and famous.

Please come to one of our sets right now. We are currently making the magic happen in rented spaces (empty or occupied), warehouses, storefronts, apartments, homes, entire floors in high rises, on farms and in barns, and in forests and parks and schools located in Wilmington, Everett, Sturbridge,  Saugus, Chelsea, Haverhill,  Danvers, Lynn, Roxbury, Dorchester, North Reading, Winchester, Woburn, and many, many more localities. Soon to be seen on the screen: Worcester, South Boston, and the South Shore communities of Quincy, Weymouth, Marshfield, Chatham, Cohasset, Wellfleet, and Old Cape Cod. These are well-paying jobs performed all over the state. I can never think of how the film may or may not be received in the box office. By the time it is released, due to the tax incentives, I’m on the next one, here in Massachusetts. All I know is the checks have cleared. I also must work as hard as I can under a physically taxing schedule as safely and as quickly as I can, so that I can continue to be employed in this industry. Please reconsider the financial damage that can and will be done to us, the working residents and property and business owners of the commonwealth.

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My name is Kim Codner-Nelson. I’ve been working as a scenic artist for the film industry since 2009. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. Please help keep the film incentive.

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My name is Cheryl A. Jeffries, and I have been a scenic artist in the film industry for seven years in Boston. The film industry coming to Boston has given me my bread and butter job. It allows me to utilize my creative talents from years of theatre work and finally support myself as an artist. The film tax incentive is important to keep here in Boston, MA, to bring the films here.

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My name Lori Hruska, and I’ve been a scenic artist in the film industry for 24 years. Scenic work has provided my family with a living wage and health care. Please keep the film tax incentive.

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My name is Tina Ulee. I am a set costumer in the film industry. In the past few years, I have chosen Massachusetts for my job security. I bought a home and settled in Massachusetts. I had a secured hope in continuing work in the film business here in Massachusetts, but now there is a risk. Please save our jobs!

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My name is Dan Courchaine, and I have been working in the film industry as a scenic artist since 1989. The work has increased dramatically since the tax incentive came into effect. We have used Massachusetts as a stand-in for locations from New York to Los Angeles to Alaska to Europe. Most of these productions would not have come here if not for the tax incentive. As a direct result of this increase in work, I have been able to support my family, own a home, pay my bills, and save for retirement. The loss of the tax incentive could put any sense of stability in jeopardy. I will be forced to work out of the area if I wish to continue my career in the film industry. Our product may be less tangible, but our industry is strong and worth fighting for.

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My name is Paula Bird. This year marks my 20th year working as a scenic artist in the film industry. I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love and that, in recent years, I’ve been able to work consistently. I have had the opportunity to work on 19 films in Massachusetts, one third of which I have painted on within the last two years. The recent increase in films in the state directly correlates with the film tax incentive.

My husband and children, age 12 and 15, benefit from my working contributions to the household and share my happiness in my creative endeavors and professional achievements.

Massachusetts takes pride in being a state that supports innovators in education, medicine, technology, manufacturing, and athletics. Why not arts and entertainment? The film tax incentive helps create more jobs here in Massachusetts, not export jobs from here.

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My name is Carrie. I come from a decades-long theater background, and I’ve only started in on film in the last few years. It’s a joy. And what’s more, it’s the first time in my life that I’ve really been paid in pace with my skill level and what’s asked of me as a working artist. There are very few industries that do that.

I’m also a Rhode Island resident that works almost exclusively in Massachusetts — which means I pay Massachusetts income tax on most of my work. Why the commute? A few years ago, Rhode Island capped its tax credit, and what was previously a thriving film industry in that state dried up almost immediately. They said “no” to thousands of jobs and the tax revenue that comes from thousands of jobs. They apparently had no need for the enormous boost to local small business, nor the attraction of other businesses and workers to their state.

Today, hundreds or thousands of non-residents like me pay tax money to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — instead of our home states. We patronize Massachusetts hotels and eateries. We rely on it for every aspect of our daily lives during the long hours and months of working on a film, even more because we often can’t make it home. We’re pure revenue. Can Massachusetts afford to say no to that? Looking out my window in Rhode Island, I’d say the answer is obvious.

MartiniglassCarvingI came to Boston to study technical theatre at Emerson College. I got my BFA and then went on to Boston University to focus on scenic painting. For eight years, I freelanced as a scenic painter, carpenter, theatre electrician, and house painter; I even scooped ice cream at JP Licks. I loved Boston and wanted to make my life here (after growing up a military brat, being able to choose my place of residence was huge).

In the years following college, I struggled to pay my bills, was buried under student loan debt, and actually started planning to relocate to someplace “warm and cheap.” What changed my mind was working on my first film, The Equalizer, in 2013. I realized that there was a way to do what I love, to make a living wage and build a career and a life in a city that I love. I now live in an artist collective in Charlestown, and share a studio space at Artisan’s Asylum (a Somerville-based nonprofit maker-space). I even bought a new-to-me car, replacing the junker I had been driving for over a decade. My family has deep New England roots and staying nearby to help take care my elderly grandparents has become a priority.

Without the Massachusetts film tax incentive, the film industry will leave; and without the film industry, I also would probably have to leave, leaving my home, my family, my friends, and the career that I am building here.

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I moved to Cambridge three years ago and got involved in the growing film industry here in Massachusetts. I work with a lot of creative and talented artists that will be forced get work out of state, change careers, or become “starving artists” if the tax incentive is removed.

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Hello, my name is Amber Subelka, and I am a scenic artist. I have been working in the Massachusetts film industry for a year now. I rely on the films for my livelihood. With the jobs, I am able to provide for myself and family. I am fearful of what will happen if the film tax incentive goes away.

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My name is Julian Osorio. I am a scenic artist, sculptor, prop maker, and proud member of IATSE USA 829 and IATSE Local 481 for four years.

My journey in the film industry began when I was first presented with the opportunity to join Local 481 as a prop maker, just when I was going through the toughest time in my life.  I had been unemployed for over a year, struggling to find a job, and recovering from a house fire that left my mother and me homeless, penniless, and literally empty-handed. All my paintings, dreams, and expectations to succeed and have a decent living in this country were burned to the ground on Christmas Eve.

But everything changed when I started working on my first motion picture production in 2012 in Salem, MA. I started as a carpenter, although I was a bit unexperienced then! I received great support from all my fellow brothers and sisters from Local 481. Meanwhile, I was introduced to members of USA 829, who encouraged me to join them and become a scenic artist. I realized then that I could still have a future ahead of me, and a great career doing what I love the most — something that will definitively make me proud and make my family and friends proud of me as well!

Since then, I have pursued and accomplished my dream of being part of a movie-making process. As a result, I have worked as a scenic artist in numerous films throughout the state, receiving the benefits of the film tax incentives, and contributing with my hard work by paying taxes to the state of Massachusetts. Additionally, I spend money while employed by a production company — paying tolls, purchasing fuel at gas stations, staying at hotels, eating in local restaurants and coffee shops, and shopping at convenient stores, paint suppliers, and arts and crafts stores.

The opportunity to work in the film industry has changed my life dramatically in a positive way. Every time I receive an envelope with my paycheck in it, I can’t help it but think how fortunate and blessed I am for being part of this great industry and also for being well paid as a scenic artist (and it isn’t easy to get paid well when you are an artist). Furthermore, all the benefits paid by a production company on my behalf — including health insurance, pension, annuity, and 401K — are also invested in the state of Massachusetts. Without the film tax incentives, none of that would be possible, and I wouldn’t be able to support my family and myself.

I see Massachusetts as my home, and the place where all my dreams are coming true — the state that offers me the unthinkable! Working in Hollywood without going to Hollywood. SAVE THE MA FILM JOBS.

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My name is Kerri McGill. I am a lifelong Massachusetts resident, a ten-year Somerville resident, and a Mass Art graduate.

Soon after graduating, I was plagued with the debt of college loans and family misfortune. I taught, organized art exhibits, and waited tables. I could not make ends meet. The opportunities that the Massachusetts film tax incentive provided changed my life.

An influx of film work in Boston offered a chance at a career totally unfamiliar to me. I entered the realm of the scenic artist six years ago. I spent the first years as an industrial, taking care of all shop needs while learning all of the skills the job of scenic artist demanded.

All scenics are tested. It is truly specialized and skilled labor. I am proud to be a part of Boston’s film industry.

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I was dubbed “Cricket” 12 years ago when I was the smallest carpenter in the shop at a summer stock theatre company. I have been a working scenic artist for almost that long, over ten years, but only after beginning to work for the film industry in Massachusetts in the past year have I actually begun earning a living wage. The film industry has been the only option for artisans like me to make a sustainable living in the dynamic, creative, and challenging field I passionately love. Without it, my options would be (and have been in the past) either to work for the same rates of little-to-nothing as local college students (under the expectation that the experience alone should be my compensation), take a job having nothing to do with my skill set, or to move out of the state. Employment in the film industry, as a DIRECT RESULT of the film tax incentive, has been the only way I have been able to afford non-state-subsidized health benefits and a savings plan for my future, including retirement.

During the last scare of merely capping the film tax credit, several of my colleagues and I were seriously considering relocating in order to feel more secure about our futures. However, once films began coming back to Massachusetts, I began planning to come up with a down payment on a modest condominium. Only after securing a stable home, with the help of a reliable income, were my partner and I then also going to look into fostering a child, or several children. After living here for five years I was planning to set down roots and invest in the state, because it felt like the state was invested in me. That plan will all need to be put on hold, if not scrapped, and rather than investing financially and emotionally in Massachusetts, I will likely need to relocate or continue falling back on state subsidies.

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My name is Sophie Carlhian, and 2015 marks my 25th year in the art department of the film and TV industry in Massachusetts. Born, raised, and educated in Massachusetts, I live 15 miles from my childhood home (where my elderly mom still lives). Before working in the industry, I had neither health insurance nor a retirement plan. Since my first job in 1990, I have worked locally as a scenic artist, set dresser, buyer, art director, set decorator, and production designer. My husband Paul (also in the industry) and I own a home and have two children in the public schools. I have made family a priority over career in the last ten years. Steady film work locally has enabled me to be a parent, as well as a caregiver to my elderly parents.

When counting the jobs created by this industry, I wonder if we also count the nannies, house cleaners, landscapers, and home health aids we hire to support our family when we are both working? What about the tuition and fees we pay to the music school, ballet school, and local summer camps our children attend? In my current position as a set decorating buyer, I am in direct contact with a huge variety of grateful small business owners. For this one single movie project, our one single department will easily spend half a million dollars on purchases and rentals from local businesses, including prop shops, frame shops, rug dealers, antique shops, model train clubs, event rental companies, lamp shops, locksmiths, used auto parts dealers, auctioneers, private individuals (craigslist!), consignment stores, appliance stores, thrift stores, and many more.

We have watched as friends have moved to California and then spent all their time working away from home, in states like ours that offer a film tax breaks. I would like raise my family here in Massachusetts.

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My name is Kristin Cunniff (aka – Ktron). I’m a scenic artist. I’ve been doing this for eight years, thanks to the film tax incentives. Being an artist, it’s difficult to make a living; but being a scenic artist, I’ve been able to start a family, own a house, and live a normal life.

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I am Julia Garrison and I’m from Rockport, MA. When I was in middle school, I remember they filmed two movies in my town: Mermaids and The Good Son. When I’d drive by with my dad, I would try to catch glimpses of the crew. I felt a connection to what they were doing more so than I did the actors. I loved movies and I loved to make things. I studied painting at Mass Art in Boston and started working on movies as a scenic artist in 1995. I wanted to work on films because of the impact they have on us and their power to move us.

As a painter who works on movies, I transform what is oftentimes new and make it look like it has always been there. What I like about being a scenic artist is that on any one day I can paint a sign, make walls smooth, hang wallpaper, apply gold leaf to a whole room, make paint peel over an entire building, or spray 20 cars with mud and have it all wash off when I’m through. What most people don’t realize is that everything they see in movie has been made by someone, painted by another, placed there by someone else, and lit and photographed by six more. It is a truly collaborative process and the difficulty in making movies bonds us together and creates a community.

What I like about working in Massachusetts is the people. I could work in places like New York or LA or Atlanta, where they also make movies, but Massachusetts is my home and it’s important to me to make a contribution to the place where I grew up. Massachusetts is a great place to live because we let films get made here. Not only does it employ thousands of artists and craftsmen, but it enriches the experience of living here. Movies are inspiring and so are the people who make them. Help maintain this thriving community of artists and craftsmen by supporting the tax incentives that encourage movie companies to come here and shoot.

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