The Bulletin Board

State’s Bureau of Film and Digital Media is a budget casualty

By: - July 12, 2021 3:11 pm
NH state house

Without remote access, many people will not be able to participate in the legislative process. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

New Hampshire’s best known film credits may be “Jumanji” (1995), shot in Keene, and “On Golden Pond” (1981), made on Squam Lake. But there have been many others, albeit with less commercial success.

Love in Kilnerry, shot on the Seacoast in 2019, follows panic among small-town locals after they learn a new chemical in their water supply increases libido. The 2016 documentary “God Knows Where I Am,” filmed in Concord, recounts the death of a homeless woman. And the North County is the backdrop for 2010’s “YellowBrickRoad,” a horror movie about the disappearance of an entire town.

Until this week, filmmakers and their location scouts relied on the state’s Bureau of Film and Digital Media and its longtime bureau chief, Matthew Newton, for the ins and outs of making a movie in the Granite State. No longer. The bureau’s $264,350 two-year budget – and Newton’s job – were eliminated in the $13.5 billion state budget signed in June.

Pie chart on film and digital projects in NH
Source: New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development

Lori Harnois, director of the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development, which includes the film bureau, said uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic forced her office to prioritize its budget. The bureau’s workload had been decreasing and was expected to decline even further during the pandemic, she said. 

“We took a hard look and we determined that we could absorb the function of the film office within our travel and tourism work,” Harnois said. The Division of Travel and Tourism will maintain a filmmaking page and contact information on its website and respond to inquiries from filmmakers, location scouts, and others in the industry.

“Our goal is to still be active in the film industry to promote New Hampshire as a location for filmmakers to come,” Harnois said.

Newton, who served as bureau chief for 16 years, declined comment. 

The Bureau of Film and Digital Media was established nearly 20 years ago and has lived within different agencies before landing in the travel and tourism office. It was charged with promoting the state as a great place to make movies, shoot photos, and make commercials and television shows. But its inability to compete with other states offering lucrative financial incentives was a barrier, according to its 2020 strategic plan.

The bureau recorded its highest number of film inquiries (207) in 2014. Two years later, it saw its highest number of completed projects at 84. And 2008 still holds the record for the highest production spending at $1.8 million.

A second barrier was an insufficient workforce because people with media expertise chose other states with a more active film industry, according to the strategic plan. The bureau had planned to address that challenge by increasing interest in filmmaking among high school students and creating a directory of workers with crew and production services experience.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.