Film Is Rolling in RI: Diving into the mind of Steven Feinberg

Steven Feinberg is a legend of the silver screen. Currently serving as the executive director of the Rhode Island Film & Television Office, Feinberg previously spent 22 years in Hollywood where he worked with every major studio you can think of, developing a Saturn-nominated Best Science Fiction Movie, Fortress, in the process. Since returning to the Ocean State in 2004, Feinberg has been instrumental in the meteoric rise of the RI film industry, attracting more than $500 million of movie and television productions, including his own award-winning documentary, Pell. When not pulling the cinematographic strings, Feinberg is the co-host of the RIPBS weekly series “doubleFEATURE,” a show that explores the art of cinema. Eager to learn more, I caught up with Feinberg on a steamy Thursday afternoon and dug into what the future might hold for film in RI.

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): Any big projects in the works?
Steven Feinberg: 2019 has been an exciting and busy year for film and TV production in RI. We wrapped Season 1 of the supernatural series, “NOS4A2″ during the winter months, and saw the premiere launch on AMC in June. Local filmmaker Tommy DeNucci (Vault) wrote and directed a fun family feature starring a talking dog. The hit TV series “The Bachelorette” filmed in Newport, presenting a postcard of our gorgeous locations to a worldwide audience. On July 20, AMC announced that they would bring “NOS4A2,” starring Zachary Quinto, back for Season 2. The show is currently in pre-production and will commence filming in September.

We are very excited about this year’s Academy Award qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival, which had the distinction of premiering the Oscar-winning Best Short Film The Silent Child two years ago [see center spread for story and schedule].

In addition, we’ve had a fantastic year of showcasing various industry professionals and their work to a loyal audience via the RIPBS weekly television series “doubleFeature.” Our talented, diverse guests included Joe Alves (Jaws,  Close Encounters), Douglas Trumbull (2001, Bladerunner), Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Judge Frank Caprio, Deloris Grant and many others.

There are several outstanding productions currently lined up for 2020, which we will announce as we get closer to the start of principal photography.

AF: Why do filmmakers come to RI?
SF: Rhode Island is the smallest state with the greatest backlot! A filmmaker can shoot in the city in the morning, in a Newport mansion in the afternoon and on a beach or farm in the evening. The Film & TV Office is a hands-on one-stop shop, providing assistance with locations, housing, crew, tax credits and anything else a production may need. We have a competitive 30% transferable tax credit, which levels the playing field against other potential locations around the world. We are also blessed with a fantastic local crew base and superb group of performers prepared and waiting for their opportunity to shine.

AF: What is the purpose of the Rhode Island Film & TV Office?
SF: To promote Rhode Island as a film-friendly location to independent filmmakers and major studios outside the state while also nurturing our local “homegrown” filmmakers, crew and talent base, local businesses and tourism industry.

We also work closely with the local film festivals, support film and media education at the local institutes of higher learning, and sponsor the teen filmmaking program GiveMe5.

AF: Why did you choose film as a career?
SF: I was born that way! I’ve been making films since I was 8 years old, and it was all I ever wanted to do. And I’m doing it!

AF: Any advice for all those students in the state dreaming of a career in film?
SF: Be prepared, and when an opportunity presents itself, make the most of that opportunity. Remember to treat others as you would want to be treated. Be on time. And thank people for the opportunity when it is given to you. Also, it’s important to make as many friends as you can, because friends look out for each other and can help educate each other. Film is a collaborative art form and there’s nothing better than working with friends. One last piece of advice: Always leave a location in the same or better shape than you found it, because you not only represent yourself and your production, you represent the entire Rhode Island filmmaking community, and we always respect the location and those who have granted us permission to use it.