WATERVILLE (AP) – The movie production of “Empire Falls” has drawn plenty of attention this summer, but it’s only a part of what’s being called a successful filming year in Maine.

There’s been a slew of commercials and catalog shoots all over the state, plus PBS is shooting a television series Down East called “Colonial House.”

“Right now we’ve just been on an incredible roll,” said Lea Girardan, director of the Maine Film Office. “We’ve got two major productions going on at the same time.”

Maine is getting more productions than New Hampshire and Vermont, Girardin said. She did not have information about Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, which tend to be busier.

Vermont has had one moderately sized production in the past two years that was under $1 million and New Hampshire reports very little recent film business, Girardin said.

The Maine Film Office estimates 20 to 25 percent of a film’s budget goes directly into the local economy in the form of limousine rentals, catering services, camera accessories, lodging and other moviemaking necessities.

But like other states, Maine is competing for filmmakers’ business with neighboring Canada, which can be made to look like New England and offers enticing subsidies and a favorable exchange rate for American film productions.

Even the movie versions of author Stephen King’s Maine-based novels are being filmed in Canada.

In some parts of Canada, Girardin said, the government covers lofty workers compensation costs and gives incentives to films that employ large numbers of Canadians.

As a general rule, savings in Canada come to almost 40 percent, Girardin said.

Those television movies often, with budgets of around $10 million could be great for Maine, Girardin said.

In order to lure filmmakers back to Maine, Girardin said, U.S. film industry officials need to provide better incentives on a national level.

Maine offers a few incentives to filmmakers, including use of surplus office equipment for temporary production offices, no fee for filming on state land and tax exemptions on certain film production items such as props and film.

One reason films based in New England get filmed elsewhere is cost, said Michele Meek, publisher and founder of New England Film, a New York City-based trade magazine for the region.

“That’s one of the problems: that location can be so easily faked,” Meek said. “That’s part of the business.”

But Meek said Maine is still doing well in large part because many filmmakers still look for authentic New England communities for their films.

AP-ES-08-24-03 1352EDT



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