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New England Studios in discussion with interested film, TV clients


DEVENS — The lights and camera equipment are ready, but Devens is still waiting on some action.

About four feature-length films are interested in using the brand new, $36 million New England Studios that has been heralded for its potential to lure Hollywood to New England.

Marketing and Operations Director Chris Byers said he is in discussions with a few interested films and one TV series.

“I think with the end of March we’re going to start seeing a slew of shows coming into the studio and coming into the state,” he said from California, where he is roping in potential clients.

Since opening in September, NE Studios has been finalizing smaller details.

“We’ve really been digging down on the operations part of this — the IT system, the phone system, which crews we want in there as far as things like cleaning crews,” he said.

At this point in the year, many film studios are beginning to land their pictures, Byers said.

“Everyone’s sort of got their feelers out right now and they’re looking for where they’re going to land, what state they’re going to land in,” he said. “And we’re getting a lot of interest in Massachusetts.”

Although bookings have yet to be finalized, NE Studios will rent out its production offices for the romantic comedy “Tumbledown,” which Byers said will shoot in nearby Groton.

In California, the reception from major studios and shows has been “tremendous,” Byers said.

“They’ve all been absolutely blown away by how efficient the studio is and how well done the studio is,” he said, adding that now is his busiest booking time.

The studio features four sound stages at 18,000 square feet each, in addition to a 30,000 square foot production office. The studio also offers lighting and grip rentals and an overall “upgraded design” that Byers said sets it apart.

“We’re a totally updated studio style, and that means we’ve added things that needed to be added,” he said. “The IT is second to none.”

Meanwhile, the studio’s preferred catering company Dolce Brands is ready to feed the hungry mouths of Hollywood.

“Bring on the films,” said managing member Steve Catalano, a Pepperell restaurant owner who has been catering in the film industry for two years. Last year, the company bought land from MassDevelopment to build a commissary for the food needs at NE Studios. Catalano plans to take down the Hodges Theater included in the purchase, which is still in the planning stages of development.

“We’re very excited about the studio and what’s going on over there, and we’re very happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Catalano said he used to do catering out of his restaurant, but this project is a completely different industry.

“It’s a completely different ballgame,” he said. “You’re feeding 250 to 300 people within 45 minutes to an hour.”

A booked studio will mean a booked schedule for Dolce Brands, which will have to expand its current staff of 14 when films come rolling in. The local food industry might also feel the economic boost as the company tries to buy local foods.

“We are definitely going to shop in Nashoba Valley and we’re going to do as much as we possibly can,” he said.

If all goes well, NE Studios might embark on an expansion in the future. The plan would quadruple the size of the current studio, Byers said, offering more stages, office space and room for hair and makeup.

In the meantime, all that stands between prospective clients and movie magic is a decision and a contract.

“I think that business will come as it comes,” Byers said. “We’re very optimistic.”

Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.

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