Related News

Home » Feature

Newport film group wants to keep Hollywood coming

NEWPORT, Rhode Island, is known for its jazz festival, its ritzy yacht clubs and its "Great Gatsby"-type mansions. Hollywood is discovering its other charms. Eric Tucker reports. Arnold Schwarzenegger danced the tango in the ballroom of Newport's Rosecliff mansion in his 1994 action film "True Lies."

The Rhode Island city was a stand-in for Long Island in the 1974 film version of "The Great Gatsby." And Steven Spielberg used Newport's colonial architecture as the backdrop for "Amistad," his 1997 drama about a slave ship mutiny.

Movie crews for decades have capitalized on Newport's cobblestone streets, Gilded Age glamor and oceanfront beauty, arriving through word-of-mouth and more recently with the help of a state film office.

Though Newport has wooed plenty of movie business over the years, a band of local volunteers - including a documentary producer, antique store owner and retired dentist - has started a commission to lure even more film crews, especially as more small communities compete for Hollywood action.

Commission members say they envision themselves as on-the-ground ambassadors for Newport - shepherding around film crews, using local contacts to secure sought-after locations or arranging other conveniences and promoting lesser-known locations beyond the ones generally advertised in state marketing materials.

"All the films that have been shot here have had, for the most part, venues that are obvious - mansions, big houses, that type of thing - leaving undiscovered the dozens of potential film sites that have yet to be showcased," says Commission Chairman Federico Santi, an antique store owner.

Santi says the commission is a necessary offshoot to the Providence-based state film and television office, which coordinates productions in all of Rhode Island.

Steven Feinberg, the office's executive director, says the Newport commission is well-intentioned and could be valuable, but he cautions the group against adding unnecessary bureaucracy.

"I just want to make sure when a production is looking to film in Newport, they come to the state film office because we have a lot of tools at our disposal," says Feinberg, whose office doles out tax credits to Rhode Island-based productions.

"You want to keep things simple for the filmmaker and you don't want them jumping through many, many hoops."

The new commission, operating without a budget, will meet twice a month. An initial goal, Santi says, will be a Website advertising sites in the city - whether vintage streetscape, the waterfront or the local Navy base - that may be available for movie shoots and of interest to independent filmmakers who don't need one of Newport's opulent mansions.

"A lot of scripts are just basic scripts about ordinary people living quiet lives on regular streets in average homes," says Paige Kane, another commission member and documentary film producer who has worked on the sets of "Dan in Real Life" with Steve Carrell and "Evening" - both partly filmed in Newport and released in 2007.


She says the commission's Newport know-how could help crews with everything from parking to reserving hotel space.

"When I worked on 'Evening,' people were asking me, 'Where's a great place to go for Mexican? Where do I park? Are there any back-route ways where we can get the actors from point A to point B? We're looking for a massage therapist,'" she says.

"It's not big things that are going to change the entire production, but little things that are convenience factors."

There's a financial component, too. Film crews pump money into the city's economy through spending on restaurants, hotels and supplies.

Feinberg estimates that Rhode Island film and television productions have spent around US$250 million since 2005.

The state has aggressively courted Hollywood, landing among other features the Showtime series "Brotherhood," the romantic comedy "27 Dresses" and comedies from the Farrelly brothers.

But more states are jostling for Hollywood's attention with their own tax credits.

And cities and towns in neighboring states have their own film commissions to advertise their communities, making the competition more difficult.

Celebrity sightings from past film shoots still resonate in Newport, especially among restaurant and shop workers.

David Huggins, the bar manager of the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant, recalls Spielberg and his family dining there one night.

But, Santi says, "Just because Steven Spielberg was here and shot something here, it doesn't mean the word is out," he adds. "There's so much more that can be shot here."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend