Members of Picture Maine, a group working to promote film and TV production in the state, photographed at the U.S. Custom House in Portland, where they planned to hold the group’s first fundraiser. Left to right are Sarah Clarke, Amanda Bowers, Patrick Roche, Molly Conners, Xander Berkeley, Peter Duggan and Erik Van Wyck. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A group of Maine film professionals, frustrated that state officials aren’t doing more to create film and TV production jobs here, is taking on that role itself.

A new film advocacy group called Picture Maine, which plans to host its first fundraiser Saturday, is trying to raise awareness about media production in Maine and what it would take to build up the industry here.

The group grew out of several recent failed efforts by film professionals and legislators to convince state officials to increase tax credits and other financial incentives for media production. The most recent attempt was in 2021, when a bill to increase the incentives was submitted to the Legislature, then held over until this year’s session, and then changed so substantially by state officials that its sponsors decided to let it die, with the hope of coming back with a stronger bill later.

One of Picture Maine’s primary goals, organizers say, is to propose a new film incentive bill, while also making the public and elected officials aware of the filmmaking talent already here and how incentives could turn that talent into a permanent industry and create film and media production jobs.

“It’s absurd that more hasn’t been done to build a film industry here. I’ve driven down to Augusta many times to try to convince people that this would be a good thing,” said actor Jonathan Frakes, who has owned a home in the Midcoast since 1999 and is best known for playing Riker on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” “I know that budgets are tight now, but I’m supportive and optimistic that something will get done this time.”

Frakes is a supporter of Picture Maine but can’t attend Saturday’s fundraiser because he’s working on “Star Trek: Discovery” in Toronto. Canada is one of the places, along with Massachusetts, Georgia and New Mexico, where increased financial incentives for filmmakers have helped create a steady stream of productions and jobs.


Big tax credits for films have been controversial elsewhere too. Some lawmakers in Massachusetts have called for the incentives to be rolled back, saying the expense to the state is too high. The Boston Globe reported that the state had issued $90 million in film tax subsidies in 2016.

Picture Maine began as a website to post information about the film bill effort but was transformed into a nonprofit group this summer so money could be raised to aid awareness and lobbying efforts, said Erik Van Wyck, a Kennebunk-based writer, actor and producer who spearheaded the film bill – L.D. 1334 – and is one of the organizers of Picture Maine.

Erik Van Wyck of Picture Maine says the group will work to increase state incentives for filmmaking here, even though several recent efforts have failed. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Picture Maine’s goal of increasing state film incentives is shared by the Maine Film Association, which has about 155 members and has existed for decades. That group also took issue with the state’s handling of the latest film bill, chastising officials in a public letter in February saying the Maine Film Office, which is within the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, “does not in any way represent Maine’s media-making community, and as demonstrated by its butchery of the LD 1334, lacks the industry expertise necessary to do so.”

Karen Carberry Warhola, director of the Maine Film Office, wouldn’t answer questions about what was changed in the film bill last year or why, but said in an email that her office “works to support Maine’s film industry and productions that film in Maine” and that she is “heartened by growing interest from advocates and other stakeholders interested in strengthening Maine’s film industry.”

Picture Maine’s core group includes two veteran Hollywood actors, married couple Xander Berkeley and Sarah Clarke, who moved to the Hiram area from Los Angeles in 2018 to raise their two children, while continuing to work in film and TV. Berkeley’s 40-plus-year career includes the films “A Few Good Men” and “Apollo 13” and appearances in many TV series, including “The Walking Dead,” “Law & Order” and “CSI.” Clarke’s many credits include the TV series “Bosch,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “24.”

The couple has a barn that they hope to turn into a staging area for films and would like to use the nearby Cornish Inn, which they also own, as a place to host film skills classes for Mainers wanting to get into the business. Since moving to Maine, they’ve been involved in the production of several small-budget films, including the mystery “Alchemy of the Spirit,” now on the film festival circuit.


“We’ve found there’s real hunger here, people who really want to work in the industry but would rather not have to travel to Boston or Canada or New York all the time,” said Clarke.

Picture Maine supporters include longtime film and TV professionals like Molly Conners, a producer of the Academy Award-winning 2014 film “Birdman” and the 2008 film “Frozen River”; and Amanda Bowers, who produced the 2018 Netflix film “Like Father.” Others moved to or back to Maine during the pandemic and want more opportunities here, while some are newer to the business or hoping to build careers.

Veteran actor Xander Berkeley of Picture Maine, moved to Maine full time a few years ago with his wife, Sarah Clarke, who also has had a long career acting in TV and films. The couple would like to see more productions made here and more film and media jobs created. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The invitation to Saturday’s fundraiser – a sold-out event at the U.S. Custom House in Portland – features an “honorary committee” of high-profile actors who support the group’s efforts but don’t necessarily live in Maine and aren’t directly involved, including Treat Williams (“Hair,” “Everwood”), Peter Gallagher (“While You Were Sleeping,” “The O.C.,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Christopher McDonald (“Happy Gilmore,” “Thelma & Louise”). Of those, only McDonald is likely to attend, organizers say. Other committee members who live or have homes in Maine are longtime Harpswell resident Chris Elliott, a comedian and actor who rose to fame in the ’80s for comedic sketches on “Late Night with David Letterman” and recently played Roland Schitt in “Schitt’s Creek,” and Bridgton-based actor Matthew Delamater, who was in last year’s George Clooney-directed film “The Tender Bar.”

The bill that Van Wyck and others worked on last year proposed raising the wage reimbursement for media production, in the form of a rebate from the state. Companies would have been able to get a dollar amount equal to 25% of what they paid in wages to state residents – 20% for non-residents – but only for “below the line” workers, not producers or star actors. The bill would have also created a 25% rebate on all production spending in the state. Both rebates could have been taken in the form of a tax credit if the company had any taxes to pay. Picture Maine members are hoping to help propose a new bill that would also feature rebates for wages and production spending, but are still working out details.

Currently Maine offers a 10-12% wage rebate – for people from inside or outside the state – as well as a 5% tax credit on production spending. The bill was intended to attract productions in the $5 million to $8 million budget range but would not offer incentives large enough to attract big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

Maine has attracted several small-budget films in recent years, often made by people with a Maine connection, including the Portland-shot 2021 gritty crime story “Downeast” and yet-to-be-released comedy-drama “Hangdog.” But Van Wyck and others say they’ve heard from more who wanted to film in the state but found it made more financial sense to shoot in places with greater incentives.

Members of Picture Maine, a group working to promote film and TV production in the state, photographed at the U.S. Custom House in Portland, where they planned to hold the group’s first fundraiser. Left to right are Patrick Roche, Amanda Bowers, Xander Berkeley, Erik Van Wyck, Peter Duggan, Molly Conners and Sarah Clarke. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The results of a Maine Film Association survey, released in May, found that the industry supported 312 full- and part-time jobs in the state, generating $29.25 million in revenue and paying out $16.1 million to workers, and had an estimated economic impact of $64 million.

“There’s this idea that it would be putting money in the pockets of Hollywood people,” Louise Rosen, chair of Maine Film Association’s advocacy committee, said about proposed incentives. “No, it’s about encouraging our local people to keep doing what they’re doing.”

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