Marina Cappi read all the signs: film and series production in Massachusetts was increasing, lawmakers extended the state’s very attractive production credit and there was a desperate need for soundstage space. To commercial real estate veteran Cappi, building a soundstage and studio campus made good business sense.
Marina Studios — the only dedicated soundstage near Boston — opened in 2021 in Quincy, Mass.’ Marina Bay, offering over 26,000 square-feet of space just a 12-minute drive from Logan Intl. Airport. The Marina Studios campus also includes 15,000 square-feet of multi-use production office and a 3-acre backlot. There’s also new housing nearby that offers short-term leases, restaurants, markets and other amenities.
Marina Studios is already booked through 2026, and the fact that Massachusetts made the generous tax credits permanent — a tax credit equal to 25% of spend in Massachusetts, as long as 75% of production costs are spent in the state — has also leveled up Marina’s ambitions: plans are underway to build additional soundstage and studio space in two more suburban Boston locations: Watertown and Canton, which will host a 30,000-sq.-ft. studio set to open this year.
“They’re the largest single sound-stage in the state from a single-stage perspective, and then we offer the production offices and backlot with everything from preferred equipment vendors so that we can make it seamless, and hotels that we’ve partnered with — we help with anything a production needs,” Cappi says.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” the Whitney Houston biopic directed by Kasi Lemmons and written by Anthony McCarten, was the first big feature to use the space. Compelling Pictures, where Cappi serves as an exec producer, is one of the entities behind the film.
The Whitney Houston film created a big splash, and now “because of the tax credit, there’s more job security here. So a lot of crew don’t have to travel anymore. It’s really allowing for people to stay here or move here for the job,” Cappi says.
McCarten is back at Marina as the writer of “The Collaboration,” exec produced by Cappi and Josh Crook and produced by Denis O’Sullivan. The story revolves around the friendship of artists Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, and will begin filming at Marina in the fall.
“We’re excitedly gearing up to co-finance and shoot ‘The Collaboration’ this fall in one of our newest state-of-the-art soundstages at Marina Studios. … We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with Anthony again after becoming great friends and collaborators on ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody,’ and long-admiring his string of box office hits ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Darkest Hour’ and ‘The Theory of Everything,’” Cappi says.
You can build a soundstage, but crew depth is critical. And while the state has a lot of pros who’ve worked on such features as “CODA,” “Free Guy” and “Little Women,” Marina is creating an internship program, and reaching out to the myriad universities and high schools in the area. “We’re starting an internship program with the local high schools, and then with the city through Boston Arts Academy.”
She wants young people in the area to apprentice with unions and get good jobs in the entertainment business without having to go to college “because a lot of people think it’s too much of a barrier to entry and it’s really not,” she notes.
“It’s about getting everyone in the same room, figuring out how this program can work for with the unions and then what protocols need to be done whether you’re a student or you’re an adult, how you get the training to become a permanent crew member. It’s really important to us.”
Cappi notes, “We actually became a member of Women in Film, worked with them, and McKenzie [O’Connell, Marina Studios COO] and I gave a keynote speech for their big conference. … I think that’s a great step because there’s already a community based here in Massachusetts that directly addresses women” in the business. Her goal is to not only build studios, but also to produce.
Marina Studios is backing “Daddy Issues,” starring Katie Cassidy, and Cappi has another women-driven pic on her plate set for an October start.
“I’ve really been able to engage with female producers and directors, and the landscape is so much moving towards women in this industry, which is why I think that my timing was very interesting, because we’ve all seemed to have found each other and … women are approaching me. And it’s been really, really neat to learn it, but to do it with these powerful females.”