NM film office head coming to Mass.

Strout leaves behind a state scaling back its tax credit for one that isn’t

The former head of New Mexico’s film office is coming to Massachusetts to take a similar job, a strong signal that Gov. Deval Patrick wants to grow the state’s movie business and maintain the film tax credit at its current level.

Lisa Strout, who ran the New Mexico film office for seven years, resigned in January after the election of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez sought to scale back New Mexico’s 25 percent film tax credit, calling it “a subsidy to Hollywood on the backs of our schoolchildren.” The New Mexico legislature recently passed a law maintaining the tax credit at its current level but capping yearly outlays at $50 million.

In a telephone interview, Strout said she was drawn to Massachusetts because Patrick and legislative leaders were all on the same page in support of the state’s 25 percent film tax credit with no cap. She also will be returning home in a way; she grew up in Lexington and worked on a number of films in Massachusetts and later in California before taking the New Mexico film office job.

“Massachusetts is moving forward very quickly,” Strout said.

Officials said Strout will be paid $100,000 a year as an employee of the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism. Strout said she is taking a pay cut in her new job.

She is replacing Nicholas Paleologos, who was ousted by Patrick late last year after the state’s film office, which was then part of the quasi-independent Massachusetts Sports and Entertainment Commission, was merged with the state’s tourism office. Paleologos, who was paid $103,000, championed the state’s film tax credit at a time when Patrick was considering implementing his own $50 million cap on the program. Paleologos is currently suing the state, saying his termination was unlawful.

Strout brings a wealth of experience to her new job in Massachusetts.  She is a well-known figure in Hollywood and helped develop New Mexico as a serious alternative to California for shooting movies. New Mexico has two movie studios and attracted 156 film and television projects during her tenure at the state’s film office, including No Country for Old Men, Thor, Terminator Salvation, and The Avengers.

Strout said her goals for Massachusetts include attracting more major movie productions to the state, encouraging the local film community, and landing a TV series or two to shoot here. She said she also wants to build a movie-making infrastructure so that a job in the movie business in Massachusetts can blossom into a career.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

To encourage the construction of a movie studio in Massachusetts, state officials in the past have have handed out tax breaks and considered offering tax credits. So far, no approach has worked. Strout said construction tax credits would be one way to encourage the construction of a studio in Massachusetts, but she said it was too early for her to say what the best approach would be.

Next year the state’s Revenue Department is expected to start disclosing the names of recipients of film tax credits and the number of jobs they create. Strout said such disclosures should boost transparency and accountability and are unlikely to discourage production companies from shooting their films here.