Made in Massachusetts

Scott Lebeda - Posted in Entertainment on January 05, 2018

2017 was a big year for the entertainment business in Massachusetts.

Many feature films and one television show called Massachusetts home this year. Castle Rock is the first episodic television show to be filmed in Massachusetts since Spenser for Hire back in the 80s. The show is a positive boost for the industry here and has already been green lit for season 2. A huge percentage of the crew on Castle Rock and all of the movies made in Mass in 2017, are Massachusetts residents.

Along with Castle Rock, there were many feature films made in Mass in 2017. Sony Screen Gems, which is the independent branch of Sony Pictures, produced three feature films here this past year.

I had the opportunity to be the A camera operator on all three of these films produced by Sony Screen Gems, Proud Mary, Slender Man and Cadaver.

Proud Mary will be in theaters very soon on January 12th of 2018. This film was the most fun to make out of the three films we made. It tells the story of a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston. Her life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes awry.

The cast of this film was what made it so much fun to work on. Mary is played by Taraji P Henson form Empire on ABC and the film Hidden Figures. She was a blast to work with and brought a lot of positive energy to set everyday. The supporting cast was also extremely talented. The legendary Danny Glover turned in an awesome performance. Neal McDonough did what he does best playing a somewhat questionable character. Xander Berkeley and Billy Brown did a great job bringing the movie’s underground to life. There is also an awesome performance from the young up and comer Jahi Di’Allo Winston. The kid could act and had great chemistry with Taraji. Look for him to be a big deal in the future. Erik LaRay Harvey, from Netflix’s Luke Cage, plays one of Billy Brown’s henchmen in the movie as well. Erik plays one badass dude in Luke Cage and a mobster in Boardwalk Empire, but he couldn’t have been a nicer guy in real life. If all that wasn’t enough, Margaret Avery reunited with her “The Color Purple” co-star Danny Glover for the first time on screen since they did that movie together back in 1985.

Proud Mary Camera Crew - Photo by Dana Starbard

Find showtimes near you at any one of these sites:

Slender Man will be in theaters on May 18th of 2018. This film tells the story of a tall, thin horrifying figure with unnaturally long arms and featureless face, who is reputed to be responsible for the haunting and disappearance of countless children and teens.

This film is gonna be creepy. It stars a group of young talented actresses. Joey King, who is no stranger to horror films, was in Wish Upon and The Conjuring. Annalise Basso of Captain Fantastic and Ouija. Julia Telles from The Affair on Showtime. It felt like the girls had been friends for a long time on set adding to the believability on screen. The make up and effects department did an outstanding job on Slender Man and I can't wait for everyone to see him when the movie comes out it May! You won't be dissappointed! You may notice that the crew photo is missing for this one. That is for good reason. When you do a monster movie you take a camera department photo with the monster, and since we don't want to ruin the movie for you, you'll have to wait till the film is released in may to see it! No spoilers!

Find showtimes near you at any one of these sites:

Cadaver will be in theaters August 24th of 2018. It tells the story of a cop just out of rehab who takes the graveyard shift in the city hospital morgue where she faves a series of bizarre, violent events caused by an evil entity in one of the corpses. We filmed this movie all over Boston and at New England Studios in Devens.

Cadaver is a very well written horror thriller that is sure to have the audience jumping out of their seats throughout. The film stars Stana Katic from the show Castle on ABC as well as Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars and Louis Herthum from Westworld and Longmire. This one was a fun movie to make. Our Cadaver loved to play pranks and scare the crap out of the crew. You had to be careful on set cause you never knew when a random corpse hand would pop out and grab you! The set for this movie was pretty spectacular too. The wonderful art department built a bad ass morgue for us to film in at New England Studios. The morgue is it's own character throughout the whole film.

Non Screen Gems movies

On top of these three Screen Gems movies there was many more movies filmed here this year. Daddy’s Home 2 starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlburg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow and John Cena. I Feel Pretty starring Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski and Amy Schumer. The Equalizer 2 starring Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo. Burning Woman starring Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, Amy Madigan and Will Sasso. The New Mutants starring Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame and Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things fame. (I did not have the pleasure of working on these five movies)

Alongside these larger movies, there was several small indie features filmed here in Massachusetts this year.

The German station Network Television, has been coming to Massachusetts to film their equivalent of our Lifetime movies for many years now. They film about five Katie Fforde movies here a year and employ many Massachusetts residents. They are movies based on the writtings of British romance novelist Katie Fforde. Here is a trailer for one filmed in Mass.

The Spruces and The Pines directed by John Stimpson was a Christmas movie filmed in April in Ayer Mass. It premiered on ION television this past holiday season. It is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but with a feud between two rival Christmas tree farms. Although I did not work on this movie, most of the crew worked with me on Ghost Light

Ghost Light also directed by John Stimpson was filmed in Concord and Ayer. I was the camera operator for this film and it really was a blast to shoot. The ensemble cast in this movie was such a pleasure to work with.

This movie is a dark comedy about a disgruntled summer-stock actor who contemptuously disregards the superstition surrounding Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. By doing so he unleashes the curse of The Scottish Play and wreaks havoc on the company.

Scott, Cary, and Scott

The film stars Cary Elwes, Carol Kane, Shannyn Sossamon, Tom Riley, Scott Adsit, Roger Bart and Steve Tom. The laughs between scenes were never ending. Cary Elwes and Carol Kane reunited for the first time since The Princess Bride. In between setups the two would recount their time on set with Billy Crystal and the scene with Miracle Max. Cary had so many great stories to tell us between takes about working with Rob Reiner and Andre the Giant. Scott Adsit, best known from 30 Rock, who is funny as hell on camera is even funnier between takes. You pair him with Roger Bart and the two of them were non stop laughs.

Cary told us a great story of working with Andre the Giant. He said that due to Andre's size they didn't have cars big enough to get him to and from set in the English country side. So Andre made them get him a gigantic three wheeler to drive around. One day Andre rode up to Cary and said "Hey boss! Wanna give it a try?" Cary refused and Andre drove off. Several times that day Andre drove up to Cary and again asked him "Hey boss! Wanna give it a try?". A couple times more and Cary gave in. Andre dimounted the three wheeler and gave Cary the quick once over on how to operate it. Cary fired it up and took off. He immediatly hit a large stone and pinned his foot between the stone and the three wheeler breaking his big toe! Cary got off the three wheeler not yet realizing what damage he had done. Andre walked over laughed, hopped back on and drove off. Once the adreniline was gone and Cary realized that he had broken his toe, he feared that Rob Reiner would fire him. Late that day when he went to Reiner to tell him, Reiner said "No, I'm not gonna fire you! You're our Wesley!" Reiner then pushed the now famous sword fight scene filming to the end of the shoot giving Cary time to recover.

What it really comes down to is that creating movies and television here in Massachusetts is so enjoyable and sucessful because of the crews. Massachusetts has such a tight knit community that every movie you make is like a family reunion. The camaraderie between the crew is what makes it an honor to work in the industry here in Massachusetts! Here's hoping for many many more years of successful story telling here in Massachusetts!

Ghost Light Camera Department

P.S. Abe and Phil's Last Poker Game was not filmed in 2017. We made this movie back in November and Decemebr of 2015 in Newburyport Massachusetts, but it's worth mentioning because it is in limited theatrical release and on demand January 12th of 2018. This was Martin Landau's last movie before he died July 15th 2017. Click here to read my article on Martin Landau.