Providence has always acquitted itself admirably in the film education area. Its environs in the country’s smallest state are getting even better: A new multi-million-dollar media hub at The Rhode Island Harrington School of Media opened in 2016 at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, adding to Providence’s programs at the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University and other schools.
Little Rhode Island offers a significant tax incentive, too—25 percent credit with a $100,000 minimum spend. Of the titles that capitalized on that, a couple features made it to Sundance: Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky’s The Polka King, starring Jack Black and Jenny Slate, and Charlie McDowell’s The Discovery, starring Rooney Mara, Jason Segel and Robert Redford, which shot in Newport and Middletown as well as Providence.
Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film & TV Office, has amassed a collection of letters over his 13 years in that position, from filmmakers praising the state’s lovely coastlines, its historic preservation, even its lemonade (Del’s). A highlight of his 2016, though, was a note he got from Redford: “While leaving, he sent me a letter and asked me to share it with the Rhode Island community via a local newspaper.” In it, the actor writes that “For me, the welcoming and warm spirit of the community will not soon be forgotten.”
Feinberg was moved: “We are so proud of this letter because he recognized the beauty of our state and our hospitality.” It’s an endorsement that’s hard to argue with.