If you build it, they will come. That iconic line, lifted and paraphrased from the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams,” has been Chris Byers’ mantra ever since he opened New England Studios in 2013.
Back then, the viability of that dream at Devens, which took roughly 15 months and $36 million to realize, rested on the ability to attract enough movie, TV and advertising business to make this venture a financially sound investment.
Many challenges had to be overcome, including that of a skeptical governor and many in the Legislature who didn’t believe in the state’s film tax credit.
It also involved the classic chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: How to attract a TV or movie production company without a long track record from which to judge?
Despite state-of-the-art facilities, which include four 18,000-square-foot and four-and-a half story sound stages, sleek conference rooms and office space, the home run of a long-term commitment has been elusive.
That all changed when diehard Red Sox fan and celebrated-author Stephen King stepped up to the plate. It resulted in the first TV series made in Massachusetts in 30 years — “Castle Rock,” a psychological-horror series produced by the streaming subscription service Hulu.
Backed by well-known executive producer J.J. Abrams and King, the 10-episode series should be in the can by mid-January.
While Byers wouldn’t reveal what other projects might be in the pipeline, he did reveal that he believes given the creative talent behind it, “Castle Rock” could be around for several more seasons. That in itself should create interest from other TV and movie production companies in New England Studios.
The economic benefits go far beyond Byers’ and his company’s bottom line. Scores of skilled labor also contribute to the production of a TV series — a ripple effect that also goes to boost other businesses in North Central Massachusetts.
Byers believes he’s proven that Massachusetts can provide the infrastructure needed to produce Hollywood material, but bringing that to fruition won’t happen without the generous tax credit afforded the film industry.
He believes a film-friendly environment plays an essential role in persuading companies like Hulu to make that commitment of time and money.
Some lawmakers — even the governor — sought to make it more difficult to exercise that tax credit in the last budget negotiations. We urged them at the time to rethink that pennywise, pound-foolish proposition. The tax credit’s potential economic benefits far outweighed a potential $15 million savings in a $40 billion spending plan, we argued.
In the end, common sense prevailed and the credit remained intact.
New England Studios’ success proves the worth of that credit, which now likely will help lure a steady stream of TV and movie business to the Bay State.