August 20, 2012 | last updated August 20, 2012 8:53 am

New director of film says Maine is ready for its close-up

photo/Amber Waterman
photo/Amber Waterman
Karen Carberry Warhola, new director of the Maine Film Office, is making the pitch to filmmakers that Maine is a great place to make a movie

It's "lights, camera, action" for Karen Carberry Warhola of Bangor, the new director of the Maine Film Office.

Carberry Warhola will be responsible for marketing Maine to producers of everything from feature films to catalog shoots, linking communities, production companies and the state.

Making movies is big business and Maine is no exception: In 2005, the output of Maine's domestic film and video production industry was about $25 million, with $7 million in payrolls. A 2008 study for the Maine Film Office found that for every $1 million spent in Maine by out-of-state productions, about $150,000 in state and local government revenues is generated.

Which is why every Canadian province and 46 states offer something to motivate moviemakers. Maine's package includes a wage tax rebate of 10% of nonresidents' wages, 12% of residents' on qualified productions; an income tax offset and a 5% tax credit on in-state expenditures.

But Maine hasn't seen a major feature film production since 2003 With nearly half the $28.5 million production spent in Maine, "Empire Falls" pumped cash (60% of the film's in-state spending was on payroll) into Skowhegan and Waterville.

Carberry Warhola, a University of Maine grad, started as an MPBN-TV camera operator and later worked as a freelancer at Buena Vista, a division of The Walt Disney Co. She then managed projects for Disney's Touchstone Television.

Mainebiz chatted with her recently to get a sense of her priorities. The following is an edited transcript.

Mainebiz: What are Maine's selling points you believe will be attractive to the film community?

Carberry Warhola: Financial and aesthetic considerations are important, along with a third selling point – you get to live in Maine while you work on your project. I once worked on a show that was shot in a major city, rather than a less expensive city in a neighboring state, because that's where the staff wanted to live while they worked. That's a strong selling point.

Can you give us a sense of your marketing philosophy?

I believe in approaching a project with the idea that the end result is a win-win for everyone, and that goal can be accomplished if you treat every stakeholder like a valued customer. While at Buena Vista, I put together a promotion called "A Salute to American Cities." I worked with [visitors' bureaus], resorts and airlines to put together trips that were given away on a talk show. Everyone was a winner; the show had increased viewership, the destinations and travel partners got great promotional value for their airtime and the audience won free trips.

Maine hasn't had a major film production since "Empire Falls" in 2003. What accounts for this drought?

The novel, "Empire Falls," was set in Maine and the movie was a good fit for production in Maine. Finding projects that are a good fit is the goal. Reaching out to producers, writers and directors provides an opportunity to suggest how a project would be a good fit. I've already started reaching out to my contacts in the industry.

What are your three favorite movies?

I like cinematically rich films like "Alice in Wonderland," and films like "Nor'easter" — an indie film shot in Maine — that have powerful messages that engage me quietly and make me think deeply. I'm also a huge fan of documentaries and am looking forward to the Camden International Film Festival in September. n


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