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In Bahston, the Accent Is on Attracting Moviemakers

Robin Dawson, director of the Massachusetts Film Office, is constantly knocking on the doors of movie-studio executives hoping to convince them that Massachusetts would be the perfect place to film - whether the Bay State is already in the movie's script.

And her efforts have paid off.

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The bright lights of Hollywood are shining on historical Massachusetts, from working-class neighborhoods to the halls of academia.

The 1998 Academy Award-winning "Good Will Hunting," starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon, has helped transform Boston into a cinematic hot spot. Other movies shot recently in Massachusetts include "The Matchmaker," "The Spanish Prisoner," "Little Women," "The Crucible," and this year's independent film "Next Stop Wonderland," still in re-lease.

"There's no question that 'Good Will Hunting' helped us," Ms. Dawson says. " 'Little Women' also did a lot in the area of tourism [worth $52 million to the state]."

Later this year and early next, two more films shot in Massachusetts will be released: "A Civil Action," starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall, and "In Dreams," with Annette Bening and Aidan Quinn. Smaller independent films are thriving as well. "Monument Ave.," "Southie," "The North End," and "Next Stop Wonderland" have all helped film-production companies in and around Boston flourish.

"There's definitely a buzz in Hollywood regarding Massachusetts and filmmaking," Dawson says. "Good Will Hunting" star Ben Affleck thinks Boston makes an attractive locale because it's distinctive "in everything from the cultural atmosphere to the dialects to the jobs people have and the way they go about their daily lives."

Hollywood has "started to see that we not only have the look - the architecture and the history - but it's also cost-effective to film here," Dawson adds.

To compete with more than 270 other film offices hawking locations worldwide, Massachusetts offers an attractive incentive: fee-free locations. This program allows studios to utilize state-owned facilities at no fee for offices, sets, workshops, and storage. Prior to this program, Massachusetts lost much of its business to Canada and other places where the cost of filmmaking was lower.

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During 1997, film and TV production in Massachusetts generated about $101 million, the state's best year ever. And between 1994 and 1995 (the latest figures available), local employment in filmmaking and related industries rose 20 percent.

The state realizes "the value of the film industry here," Dawson says. "It's a green industry, an outside source of revenue, and ... it helps to support the local infrastructure.... We just want to be competitive and get our share of the business."

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