With New York and Boston getting most of the ink and accolades in mainstream and independent film, it’s easy to watch hidden treasures slip by the wayside. But for many moviemakers, New Hampshire offers a range of cultural and geographic possibilities. The state understands that its attraction lies in its New England vistas—wide lakes, stretches of farmland, seacoasts—and doesn’t go overboard in promotions. New Hampshire Film and Television Office film specialist Matthew Newton loves his state the way it is, and talks to MM about the possibilities for the future.
Andre Ward (MM): New Hampshire offers moviemakers beautiful New England locations to shoot, but what sets it apart from other beautiful New England states like Vermont or Maine? What makes it unique?
Matthew Newton (MN): If you’re talking about the look, then there’s really not a lot that separates us from our Northern New England neighbors. We do hear a lot of feedback, however, about how accessible New Hampshire is. Fly into Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and you’re just a couple hours from
the mountains, one hour from the seacoast, one hour from farmland and just minutes from urban areas. It really helps filmmakers reach a number of diverse locations in a short amount of time.
MM: Nearly everyone knows the images of Squam Lake from On Golden Pond with Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. What are some of your favorite New Hampshire film moments?
MN: I’m particularly fond of the animal stampede sequence from Jumanji. That was shot in Keene, NH. The Good Son has some thrilling moments as well—the ice skating scene in North Conway and the multiple car pileup in Newington.
MM: The state has no general sales tax, personal income tax, capital gains tax or use tax. It also requires no general filming permits other than an application to be filled out. Do you think this is enough to compete with bigger, nearby cities like New York, which has a very appealing incentive program?
MN: We don’t really see New York as the competition; we have enough of it right in our own backyard. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have really
aggressive incentives, so I’d say they are our closest competitors. But is it really a competition? I don’t think so. New England is so small a region that when there’s a project being shot in any of our neighboring states, New Hampshire folks can be found working on it.
Regarding incentives, however, no, I don’t think our tax structure and lack of permits are enough. Many states are offering sales tax exemptions for
productions. Sure, New Hampshire is taking a look at how we can play in the incentive sandbox, but we’re doing so carefully—and we’re doing it in a way that will best fit the state—not just the filmmaker. We’re very protective of our resources and quality of life here in New Hampshire, and we’re not going to implement a filming incentive just for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. We need to create an incentive, if any, that complements New Hampshire and doesn’t just open the floodgates for production. We do need to broaden our crew base and equipment suppliers—because we don’t want to offer incentives to production if a majority of the spending will naturally go out of state. We’re taking a very honest approach to all of this before jumping on the
MM: New Hampshire has its fair share of film fests. What do these events bring to the community? Are there plans for any other festivals in the works?
MN: The New Hampshire Film Office takes pride in looking at not only the economic benefits to film production in the state, but the cultural benefits, as well. We’re fortunate to have both the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth and the SNOB (Somewhat North of Boston) Film Festival in Concord. Both of these festivals have really opened up a world of independent cinema to our communities that normally don’t have access to anything outside of mainstream films. The Film Office actively supports both of these festivals and is in the process of developing a state-wide high school short film festival.
MM: How do you plan to encourage moviemakers to come to New Hampshire in the future and continue to promote the state as an ideal location?
MN: We’ll continue to promote our ease of accessibility to diverse locations and our quality of life. A high percentage of independent filmmakers
looking to shoot in New Hampshire do so because they want the relaxing, creative atmosphere that comes with our state. That’s just as important
to us as the economic benefits of having production here.
Find out if New Hampshire is right for your production at http://www.nh.gov/film/.