BOSTON — In a move that is being criticized as a political vendetta gone out of control, the Massachusetts Film Office went dark Friday. Files were removed, and executive director Robin Dawson and her staff were asked to turn in their keys and government IDs.
Originally set to close at the end of June, the office received $25,000 from the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism to remain open four more weeks. However when the state Legislature overrode Acting Gov. Jane Swift’s veto of the budget Thursday — providing no funds for the Film Office — Dawson was ordered to shut down.
The timing comes as Clint Eastwood is set to arrive in town to shoot “Mystic River,” the first major film to have its primary production in Massachusetts this year.
Speaking from her office Friday afternoon, Dawson said Eastwood’s crew would be in good shape, “They’re pretty much up and running.”
However as of today, there will be no one working to bring production to the state.
The charge that this was a political hit derives from the yearlong investigation into Local 25 of the Teamsters Union by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Among the charges were that the local had intimidated film companies shooting here and was involved in violence against one supplier who would not cede a position to someone the union favored.
Swift attempted to fire Dawson several months ago over what was deemed excessive and unexplained expenses for meals until it was disclosed that Dawson had been cooperating with the investigation. The investigators vouched for Dawson that her expenses were related to her meeting with testifying studio executives.
Dawson kept her job, but when the new budget was hammered out the Film Office lost all funding. Dawson said it is possible that there will be a supplemental budget to provide the additional funding, however nothing has been officially submitted.
The shuttering of the state office comes just a few months after Boston closed down its film office, leaving no Massachusetts officials responsible for bringing film production to the state.
While Dawson has been fielding calls from people interested in hiring her — she headed the Film Office for nine years under three governors — she has not yet decided what to do next. She did confirm that she has retained counsel as she contemplated her next move.
The Film Office had been operating on a budget of approximately $500,000 per year. It brought many times that amount into the state via production expenditures.