When Amalia Thermopolis didn’t have her eyes glued to screens, she encountered high-profile celebrities and absorbed the extravagant atmosphere of the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival in southern France as part of a student program. She recalled getting miffed looks from Sean Penn and Bono for her excited behavior.
“They were staring at me because I was being so loud on my way to the ladies room from my seat,” said Thermopolis, a native of Gardner, Mass. The now-Emerson graduate parlayed that experience into a staff writing position with HollywoodEastConnection.com, a blog that delivers career and entertainment news and resources for the New England film and television industry.
“I found the job through Craigslist, and it was really the only position that was similar to what I actually enjoy,” said Thermopolis, 22.
Hollywood East Connection employs Thermopolis and several other staff writers, whose collective job is to keep us plugged into the entertainment industry, which in New England and particularly Boston has experienced significant growth in the past five years.
Founder Christine Tello-Lorenz created the website as a freelance project last year in an attempt to be the singular online voice of the New England film industry.
“I wanted to create an online community that offers stories about local creative individuals in film, TV and online, and the hard work they’re doing,” Tello-Lorenz said.
Tello-Lorenz, a self-employed career coach with more than 15 years of experience, understands the difficulty of breaking into the entertainment industry, and prides herself on giving local filmmakers and actors the publicity they deserve.
“I’m proud to be able to promote these individuals who otherwise may not get enough exposure in the industry,” Tello-Lorenz said.
Despite its difficulty as a career path, film production in Massachusetts has grown rapidly in the early 21st century. According to a recent study by the University of Massachusetts in Boston, jobs in the Mass. motion picture industry rose sharply between 2005 and 2008.
Their study shows that of the 15 states with the most film and TV employees, Massachusetts’ total employment in those industries increased by 33 percent, the largest of all. Furthermore, production and post-production employees grew by 117 percent and 126 percent, respectively.
The study concluded with an economic impact analysis which calculated that for every new job in the Mass. film and television industry, another .79 jobs are created for the Commonwealth.
Despite the economic growth of film and TV production in Mass. and New England, state legislators still grapple over the tax credits given to producers and filmmakers. The House rejected a proposed cap on the tax credit just earlier this year.
Tello-Lorenz holds a BA from Boston University and MS in training and organizational development from Lesley University. She said she hopes the site will one day be profitable, but understands the hard work and patience required to achieve that.
A single visit to the website immerses viewers into Boston’s entertainment scene. The blog updates daily with stories featuring films both mainstream and independent, artists both world-famous and unknown, and events both low-key and high-profile. The most recent event covered was an annual conference for the National Association of Broadcasters.
One of the more comprehensive sections of the site is the “Film Festivals” section, which lists each and every film festival that takes place in New England each year. Many of the independent artists and filmmakers that have featured their work at these festivals have been profiled for the website, such as Conor Timmis, who recently filmed “The Silver Key” in Connecticut and submitted it to more than 30 festivals.
Another popular topic the site frequently covers is the filming of movies in the Boston area, which has obviously been in abundance to them since the site’s inception. Kevin James’ new movie The Zookeeper recently filmed a chase scene at the Boston Common. Staff writer Victoria Kichuk went to the site that day, and ended up getting even more than she expected.
“When I was taking some pictures of the equipment, some guy started talking to me telling jokes and I asked him what he does and he told me he was the caterer,” Kichuk, 25, said of her experience poking around the set. “I asked him about what Ben Affleck eats and how he is on set, and he totally spilled a few things, probably thinking I was just some ditzy girl fan of his when actually I was a working journalist looking for a scoop.”
What the caterer told Kichuk, a native of Wallingford, Conn., about Affleck remains off the record, but her story and photos of the upcoming Adam Sandler-produced film can be found here.
Wondering what other movies have been filmed around here and anywhere in New England? Whether it’s independent or mainstream, each and every film shot at least partially in New England going back to the silent movie era is listed on the website. And with the way the industry is growing around here, the list is following suit.
New England-born celebrities are another frequent topic on the site. It chronicled Conan O’Brien’s and Jay Leno’s recent saga with NBC, and also likes to let fans know when other New Englanders such as Steve Carrell, Uma Thurman or Matt Damon, are working on.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more all-inclusive resource on the film industry in New England. With the possibility of the building of Plymouth Rock Studios still looming, Hollywood East Connection may very well be ahead of its time.
The site only continues to grow and gain exposure, and Tello-Lorenz hopes they eventually become regarded as the leading voice for the New England film industry, summing it up by saying, “There aren’t many other websites that feature creative talent the way we do.”
The above video features a few of Boston’s most famous landmarks, and their role in some of the newest Hollywood movies being produced around here. Boston has earned a well-deserved nickname of “Hollywood East” in recent years due to the sharp increase in film and TV productions happening around here as a result of generous tax breaks given to production companies.
Career coach Christine Tello-Lorenz founded HollywoodEastConnection.com back in 2009 as a reaction to Boston’s burgeoning entertainment industry. The website is primarily a blog, with an intensive focus on happenings in both mainstream and independent film production in Boston and the New England area. The site also functions as a one-stop resource for aspiring entertainment professionals to find a multitude of production companies, casting agencies, and other organizations on the site’s “career scene” page.
Many of the posts on HollywoodEastConnection have a magazine-style quality to them, such as this recent Q&A with local filmmaker Kathleen Fitzgerald. They also occasionally post an original video story, such as this exclusive profile piece on local media company Mass. Movie Mavens.
People who have a film to distribute- or just enjoy watching the work of local independent filmmakers- will find a comprehensive list of film festivals all over New England. Another comprehensive list is the one of every film ever shot at least partially in New England, which goes all the way back to the silent movie era.
An important question to ask about a site like this is: how journalistic is it? Entertainment-focused sites are usually either borderline journalism or pure entertainment. HollywoodEastConnection is more journalistic than, say, TMZ. It’s not a gossip site, although it does keep us updated with what’s going on in the lives and careers of New England-born celebrities such as Conan O’Brien and Matt Damon. But as far as pure news stories are concerned, they are relatively hard to find.
One big news story involving the entertainment industry is the state’s attempts to cut back on the tax breaks given to production companies, which would significantly reduce the amount of productions taking place in Mass. and all over New England. A rollback would also severely hurt the chances of a movie studio being built in Plymouth, Mass., a building whose construction has now been in limbo for years. They recently covered the ongoing story here.
Of the things HollywoodEastConnection can improve, its overall design is the most noticeable. It’s very blocky-looking, and not very streamlined. All the graphics seem sort of pasted on, rather than part of a whole seamless design. They have pages on Facebook and Twitter that they update frequently, but one wouldn’t know that from a visit to the main page. Scrolling down is required to find the links to their social networks on the right sidebar, when these links should be featured prominently somewhere near the top of the page. The whole site would definitely benefit from a complete design overhaul.
Ultimately, for entertainment news in New England, HollywoodEastConnection is ideal. They update the most important ongoing stories and give many local filmmakers the publicity they need. Though much of it is entertainment-driven, it would be hard to find a more comprehensive website on the New England entertainment industry.