Rhode Island wants to be
BY KRIS FRIESWICK
a filmmakers’ paradise.
And thanks to one screen-
writer and a lot of political
support, America’s smallest
state has set the stage to
make it happen
Steve Feinberg is tired.
For two and a half years, he has been the busiest and,
until a few months ago, only member of the Rhode Island
Film and Television Office. His job is to woo Hollywood
heavies and persuade them to make their feature-length
films and television series in the country’s smallest state. It’s a full-time-plus job, and he can’t remember his last real vacation.
For Feinberg, this job is more than a paycheck—it’s about hometown pride, which is why he doesn’t mind working seven days a week
(well, not much anyway). Born and raised in Cranston, R. I., Feinberg
spent 22 years living and working in Los Angeles as a filmmaker (he
co-wrote the screenplay for the 1993 action movie Fortress, starring
Christopher Lambert). He loved the West Coast life, but his dream was
to return to his home state and help develop a viable film and television
industry in the place he calls “a big back lot,” a reference to the variety
of locations in Rhode Island—city, country, ocean, farmland, historic
streetscape—within a half-hour drive of each other.
“I always loved Rhode Island more than California,” Feinberg says.
“I had goals in my head … about what we really needed to do to change
things up” in Rhode Island’s film community. His goals were to create
a tax incentive to lure moviemakers, build a soundstage so production
crews could do more of the total filming and postproduction work in
the state, and ramp up its promotion as a great place to shoot. “We had
great ingredients but no leadership,” he recalls.
His wishes have come true in spades. Since he began his role in
April 2004, Feinberg, with the help of a film and television tax credit
approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 2005, has lured
more than $120 million in production to the state he loves. That
doesn’t include the undisclosed amount that Disney expects to spend
shooting Dan in Real Life, starring Steve Carell, and Evening, starring Meryl Streep, both of which will be shot entirely in Rhode Island.
Evening is the second film Disney has made here in less than a year.
The first, Underdog, the largest production in a New England state,
wrapped in August. Rhode Island is well on its way to earning the
nickname “Little Hollywood.”