North Andover sets Hollywood straight
By Gabrielle Gurley
About two years ago, a Hollywood movie production company sought permission from North Andover Town Manager Mark Rees to film at a private home in a residential neighborhood. It was the first request that the town had gotten in a long time.
Thinking that only a couple of trucks would show up, Rees approved the filming and told the company to make sure they “didn’t obstruct traffic or anything like that.” The neighborhood got more than Rees bargained for, including “eight or nine” semi-trailers, and enough portable toilets for all the cast and crew. Residents were not amused.
Except that the company forgot to clue in Rees. Or the police department. A driver pumping gas nearby saw the “robbery in progress” and called 911.
Police arrived with their guns drawn.
That incident persuaded North Andover officials to put its first ever movie and film production policy on the books. The board of selectmen approved the policy earlier this year.
“[Residents] didn’t mind that the filming was taking place,” says Rees. “They thought it was kind of exciting, but they came to us and they said it would be nice if they gave us a little bit more advance notice.”
Larger cities like Boston and Quincy have their own film offices and the Berkshires has its own film commission. But while the Massachusetts Film Office guides creative teams to communities that might appeal to them, it’s up to the local officials to massage Hollywood egos when they arrive in town.
“It’s always for more helpful for filmmaker to know in advance what the procedure is for a city or town,” says Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “Typically, filmmakers gravitate towards towns or locations that make it easier for them,” he added.
For starters in North Andover, a movie production company must provide proof of insurance coverage and name the town as “additionally insured for the duration of the production.” Filming at town facilities requires $5 million in insurance coverage; using town roads or parks requires $2 million in coverage.
Residents and businesses affected by the filming must be notified in writing. If filming disrupts businesses, production crews must consult with business owners to determine whether compensation should be provided.Municipalities also look for extras. Every town has different compensation requirements, “Some towns say, ‘Give us $25,000 in cash for the use of that facility for two days,’ ” says Paleologos. “Others might say, ‘There’s a fence around the old church in the center of town and we’d like you to replace it.’ ” Last year, Essex did just that, getting the producers of the “Grown Ups” to fork out $350,000, including more than $100,000 to renovate a cottage in a local park, an outlay the town could not afford.
Movie and film production slowed due to the economic downturn, so North Andover hasn’t had a chance to test its policy yet. But Paleologos is impressed that town officials took the initiative to come up with specifics. “What the North Andover folks have put together is actually is terrific guide,” he said. “It could be a good model for towns of that size.”