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So long, nerdy sidekick: Female animators aim to nix clichés

The California Institute of the Arts was created partly by Walt Disney's desire to bring more top-flight animators into the profession. And it has during its 47 years, though for a long time almost all were men.

Now, nearly three-quarters of CalArts' more than 250 animation students are women, and there's a new goal: ensure that when they land jobs, they get to draw female characters reflective of the real world and not just the nerds, sex bombs, tomboys or ugly villains who proliferate now.

"Male villains, for example, can be any shape or size. But female villains are usually in their menopausal or postmenopausal phases. They're older, they're single, they're angry," said Erica Larsen-Dockray, who teaches a class on "The Animated Woman" for CalArts' experimental animation program.

"Then you have the innocent princess," she added with a chuckle, "whose waist is so small that if she was actually alive, she wouldn't be able to walk."

To call attention to that cartoonish reality, CalArts has played host the past two years to "The Animated Woman Symposium on Gender Bias." This year it focused on the roles of "Sidekicks, Nerd Girls, Tomboys and More."

During a recent raucous two-hour symposium, nearly a dozen student researchers who spent months watching cartoons and reading comic books questioned why almost all female sidekicks look like nerds. Also why female heroes like Kim Possible are over-the-top beautiful. And why there are so few gay, lesbian and transgender characters.

"What are nerd-girl stereotypes? They have glasses, they're shy, they're awkward, they have some freckles going on," said film-video student and artist Madison Stubbs as she flashed drawings of several, including two of the most popular: Velma from "Scooby-Doo" and Meg Griffin of "Family Guy."

"And we have Tootie from 'Fairly OddParents,'" Stubbs said of the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon show's pig-tailed, braces-wearing, bespectacled sidekick. "Basically, she's just in the show to go, 'Oh, Timmy. I want you. Why do you ignore me?'"

Not that all female cartoon sidekicks are unattractive.

Velma could be the "hot girl," Stubbs said, if only she would lose those nerdy glasses. But every time she does, she trips over stuff, walks into things and nearly upends another paranormal investigation by those meddling kids from Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated.

Kim Possible, who couples her intellect with martial-arts skills to scuttle nefarious Dr. Drakken's plans to take over the world, has her own problems. Unable to attract any handsome, smart guy, she ultimately settles for her nerdy male sidekick, Ron Stoppable.

There's a reason for such drawings and scenarios, said Marge Dean, president of the industry group Women in Animation: Men still fill animation's writing rooms and director's chairs.

"Many, many, many women are going to animation schools. At CalArts, it's over 70 percent. But yet if you start looking at women in creative roles, the last number we have is only 22 percent," said Dean, whose organization tracks figures through schools and industry groups.

In an effort to boost those numbers, CalArts faculty invites studio representatives to campus for events like portfolio days and maintains a close relationship with groups like Dean's, which is pushing the studios to have a creative workforce of half women and half men by 2025.

CalArts, with a student enrollment of nearly 1,500, offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in such fields as animation, art, music, film, acting, photography and others. The small school situated amid picturesque rolling hills some 30 miles north of Los Angeles has produced many of the entertainment industry's leading creative figures, including director Tim Burton and Oscar-winning animator and Disney-Pixar executive John Lasseter.

Other alumni, including Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, have directed nine of the 15 Oscar-winning animated feature films since that category was created in 2002. Only two of those 15 films had female directors. Both of them, Brenda Chapman and Jennifer Lee, are CalArts graduates.

Dean believes the character landscape will change as the popularity of animation continues to grow. Three of last year's top 10 box office films were animated — "Finding Dory," ''Zootopia" and "The Secret Life of Pets."

None were directed by women, although Lee, who wrote and co-directed the 2013 Oscar-winning film "Frozen," had a writing credit on "Zootopia."

To make real change, students entering the animated world must demand it, said Stacey Simmons of the production company Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.

"The only way you're going to change it is to keep doing it," she said. "The industry itself has changed a lot, but it has not changed at the same rate the country has."

'The Last Jedi' revealed as title for 'Star Wars' VIII

"Star Wars: Episode VIII" finally has a title: "The Last Jedi."

The Walt Disney Co. announced the title for the next chapter in the Skywalker saga on Monday. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will be released Dec. 15.

Speculation over just who the last Jedi is immediately ran rampant on social media. "The Force Awakens" chronicled Daisy Ridley's Rey discovering her powers with the Force, but ended ominously with a withdrawn Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a remote island. If there's to be just one Jedi left, Luke's days could be numbered.

In an interview Monday at the Sundance Film Festival, Mark Hamill said he liked that the title was "straightforward" and "minimalist."

"They told us that when we were making the movie and I said don't tell me these things. I talk in my sleep," said Hamill. "They have us so jacked up with paranoia over leaks."

Writer-director Rian Johnson has previously said "Episode VIII" will start right where "The Force Awakens" left off.

'Batman v Superman,' 'Zoolander 2' lead Razzie nominations

The much-derided superhero clash "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and the far-too-late comedy sequel "Zoolander 2" are the leading nominees for the 37th annual Razzie Awards.

"Zoolander 2" drew nine nods and "Batman v Superman" landed eight in nominations announced Monday for the worst films and performances of 2016. Both are up for worst picture, along with "Gods of Egypt," ''Independence Day: Resurgence," ''Dirty Grandpa" and the political documentary "Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party."

Many nominees are typically acclaimed performers, including Robert De Niro ("Dirty Grandpa"), Naomi Watts ("Divergent Series: Allegiant" and "Shut-In"), Kristen Wiig ("Zoolander"), Johnny Depp ("Alice Through the Looking Glass"), Will Ferrell ("Zoolander 2"), Ben Affleck ("Batman v Superman") and Julia Roberts ("Mother's Day").

"Winners" will be announced Feb. 25.

Dee Rees' American odyssey 'Mudbound' captivates Sundance

Director Dee Rees wanted to get to the big questions in her enthralling period epic "Mudbound." Specifically: What is it to be a citizen and what is it to fight for a country that doesn't fight for you? The film, which premiered Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, had audiences raving and some already speculating about Oscar chances.

Based on Hillary Jordan's 2008 novel "Mudbound," chronicles the lives of two families in the WWII-era South — one white and one black, and the complicated intersectionality of their paths. There's the McAllans, Laura (Carey Mulligan), her husband Henry (Jason Clarke), his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and their father Pappy (Jonathan Banks), and the Jacksons, Florence (Mary J. Blige), her husband Hap (Rob Morgan) and their son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell).

They're tied together by a rental agreement — the Jackson's rent their land and home from the McAllans — and the deeply complicated racial relationships in the segregated South in which Henry can demand help from Hap at any moment and Pappy can insist that Ronsel exit the local store from the back entrance.

It's a sprawling and deeply American story about women, men, race and personhood that defies a simple summary.

"It's not didactic, it's not preachy," Rees said. "The thing I love about it is it's multiple points of view."

Both Jamie and Ronsel go off to fight in WWII, where Jamie's once shiny life becomes clouded by the horrors of war and alcohol. Ronsel finds freedom and acceptance that he'd never had in the U.S. embodied in his appointment to Sergeant status and a relationship with a German girl. But back at home, nothing has changed.

"I wanted to juxtapose the battle at home versus the battle abroad with the battle at home sometimes being even bloodier than the battle abroad — to show these two families fighting on the front lines," Rees said, whose grandfathers both fought in wars, one in WWII and one in Korea.

"Both went away and came back and both didn't quite get what they should have gotten," she said.

Rees, who directed "Pariah" and the HBO movie "Bessie," found in the story a deep resonance with her grandmother too. She integrated images and truths from her grandmother's life in the Louisiana into the story, like how she wanted to be a stenographer and not a sharecropper (one of the Jackson children declares this her dream) and how she remembered as a child being pulled on the back of a cotton sack.

Blige, who is earning raves for her subtle and deeply powerful performance as the Jackson family matriarch, also had a grandmother who grew up in the South in Savannah, Georgia. She channeled her to embody Florence.

"She was so strong and silent. She never really said a lot, but when she said something it meant something ... She planted her own food, she killed her own chickens, she killed her own cows. (She) and my grandfather were Hap and Florence," Blige said. "Southern people are really all about love, and that's what I took. I'm born and raised in the Bronx in New York, and as a child I went down South every summer so I saw my grandmother give love. I was raised with 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am.' "

Though it's been less than a day, so far the response has been rapturous. The audience at the premiere gave Rees and the cast a long standing ovation, and subsequent screenings have elicited similar praise. "Mudbound" does not yet have distribution, but it is expected to be one of the Festival's hottest properties, and, one that people will be talking about long after Sundance comes to a close.


AP Entertainment Reporter Ryan Pearson contributed from Park City, Utah.

Shyamalan's 'Split' rules inauguration weekend with $40.2M

M. Night Shyamalan's psychological thriller "Split" blew away box-office expectations, earning $40.2 million in ticket sales over inauguration weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Though many were focused on Friday's presidential inauguration and Saturday's nationwide women's marches, "Split" doubled forecasts to easily lead all films. The Universal Pictures release again brings together Shyamalan, director of "The Sixth Sense," with the low-budget horror experts of Blumhouse Productions.

The PG-13-rated "Split," starring James McAvoy as a man with split personalities, cost less than $10 million to make.

"This is an unusual weekend in our society and a lot of things have been going on that would otherwise divert our attention," said Nick Carpou, head of distribution for Universal. "A film like this based on the elements that it brings and the audience that it attracts, I think can take some advantage of that either as a relief to current events or perhaps as an adjunct to them."

It's the second collaboration between producer Jason Blum and Shyamalan, whose fluctuating career has recently found a lucrative home at Blumhouse. They previously combined for 2015's breakout horror hit "The Visit."

The Vin Diesel action sequel "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" opened in second place, with $20 million. It's the third film in the trilogy and first installment in 12 years. Though a modest start for a film designed to recharge a dormant franchise, it is faring better overseas. It took in $50.5 million internationally over the weekend.

Last weekend's top film, the stirring mathematician drama "Hidden Figures," held on well, sliding to third place with an estimated $16.3 million.

Despite the weekend's political events, the North American box office was up 29.2 percent from the same weekend last year, according to comScore.

"You would think that those events would suck the air out of the room, but that didn't happen," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "The movie theater experience with the right content is irresistible no matter what is going on in the outside world, and in fact may even benefit from so much going on in the outside world. To have your wits scared out you is one of the greatest escapes."

A pair of other new releases had more difficulty rounding up audiences. The Weinstein Co.'s "The Founder," a biopic about Ray Kroc of McDonald's starring Michael Keaton, launched in 1,100 theaters but gathered only $3.8 million. It will be hoping for an Oscar nomination on Tuesday to help it stand out of the adult-skewing releases.

Oscar favorite "La La Land" is still going strong with $8.4 million in its seventh week.

Bombing altogether was the Christian drama "The Resurrection of Gavin Stone," which took in $1.4 million from 1,000 theaters.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final four-day domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Split," $40.2 million ($5.8 million international).

2. "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," $20 million ($50.5 million international).

3. "Hidden Figures," $16.3 million ($731,000 international).

4. "Sing," $9 million ($8.3 million international).

5. "La La Land," $8.4 million ($16.6 million international).

6. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," $7 million ($9 million international).

7. "Monster Trucks," $7 million ($2.4 million international).

8. "Patriots Day," $6 million.

9. "The Founder," $3.8 million.

10. "Sleepless," $3.7 million.


Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," $50.5 million.

2. "La La Land," $16.6 million.

3. "Passengers," $13.4 million.

4. "Moana," $12.9 million.

5. "The King," $10.5 million.

6. "Arrival," $9.8 million.

7. "Assassin's Creed," $9.2 million.

8. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," $9 million.

9. "Sing," $8.3 million.

10. "Confidential Assignment," $6.5 million.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP .

'Before I Fall' explores Groundhog Day themes, for teens

"Before I Fall" begins by telling the audience that you're watching the last day of its heroine's life. Yes, 17-year-old Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is about to die. You don't know when, or where, or how it'll happen, but after it does, she wakes up again in her bed, sweaty and disoriented, to find that she has to live that same day over again. And again. And again.

It's no wonder that the film, which debuts Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival in advance of its March 3 theatrical release, is being described as a teenage "Groundhog Day." Director Ry Russo-Young's film, adapted from Lauren Oliver's novel of the same name, is more thriller than existential comedy, but the big themes remain similar. How could they not? Both explore the nature of how we use our time on earth.

"The recurring day construct was really rich and fertile, both emotionally and psychologically and actually philosophically as well," said Russo-Young. "Sam's journey was one I could really use to ask those deeper questions about what it is to be human and how we live our lives. I thought that was really intense and that we should all be asking ourselves those questions no matter what age we are."

In "Before I Fall," Sam is a popular member of a group of beautiful but vicious girls (including Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu) who mercilessly taunt their frizzy-haired peer, talk endlessly about their own status in the school (as reflected by how many roses they get on "Cupid Day"), and selfie and party and tease as though this moment will never end. In other words, there's a lot of room for growth.

"It reminded me of my own experiences being a teenage girl and my peer relationships — the authenticity of those girl friendships and the intensity of them. Love one day and hate the next," Russo-Young said.

She was excited, too, to be directing a teenage girl movie as a woman, noting how many of the classic teen pics about girls have been directed by men, including "Pretty in Pink" and all the John Hughes fare, "Mean Girls" and "Easy A." Her own personal experiences, and that of the author and the screenwriter and the cast helped add an authenticity to this story of female friendships and life because they've all "lived it in some shape or form."

Open Road Films acquired the distribution rights to the film shortly after they finished the movie, making it one of the rare Sundance features that audiences will definitely be able to see. In the case of "Before I Fall," it's coming up quickly too. Russo-Young says Open Road plans to release it on over 2,000 screens on March 3.

"I hope it finds its audience," she said. "It's the kind of movie I wish had been around when I was a young woman. It's the kind of movie I wanted to see."


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Thelma Schoonmaker on sculpting 'Silence' and editing Powell

Thelma Schoonmaker would still be working on Martin Scorsese's "Silence" if she could.

The legendary editor is sitting in the Midtown Manhattan office where she cut Scorsese's latest, his deeply felt spiritual epic about Jesuit priests in feudal Japan. Schoonmaker sits in between her monitors and those for Scorsese, added about a year ago so he could sit even closer to Schoonmaker while they worked. It makes for a jumble of screens, especially when the one devoted to Turner Classic movies is factored in. "This used to be quite a beautiful room," Schoonmaker says with only mild regret.

The struggle to form and shape "Silence" is still fresh for the 77-year-old three-time Oscar winner, probably the most famous editor in film. (On Jan. 27, the American Cinema Editors will present her with a lifetime achievement honor.) Questions still linger over the thousands of decisions that led to the final cut, one — like most — reluctantly relinquished rather than absolutely completed.

"It's hard to let go of it," says Schoonmaker, whose gentle demeanor tends to mask the passion within. "It's always hard to let go."

"Silence," which opened nationwide Jan. 13, is her 20the Scorsese feature as editor. Since 1980's "Raging Bull," they've been inseparable: one of cinema's great duos. They first met as film students at New York University. Schoonmaker recut Scorsese's 1967's "Who's That Knocking at My Door," though a 12-year gap followed before Schoonmaker managed to get into the editors union. Scorsese taught the initially untrained Schoonmaker before they became mutual collaborators.

"He'd had some experiences where the editor did not want the director in the editing room. And he's a great editor, Marty. It's his favorite part of filmmaking. So that was very hard," says Schoonmaker. "I think he sensed with me that we could collaborate and it wouldn't be an ego fight all the time."

They've had their disagreements, notably including different takes of the final shot of "Raging Bull" in which Robert De Niro's Jake LaMotta looks into the mirror. But, she says, "It's always about what's best for the film."

"If we disagree, we screen it two different ways and ask friends what they think," says Schoonmaker. "It's hard to describe. You'd have to be here for three months with us. It'd be very boring because we make a thousand decisions a day and then go back the next day and change them. It's a very mysterious craft, editing."

Schoonmaker speaks of editing like sculpture: countless massages that subtly shape a film and its actors' performances. Often it means cutting your favorite scene. "The struggle to do right by the film," she calls it.

"Silence" had its fair share of challenges. It's based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel, which is largely told through letters, so Scorsese and co-screenwriter Jay Cocks had to invent most of the film's dialogue. Schoonmaker and Scorsese quickly decided to strike most of the original voiceover. "The images were so powerful that we could strip away a lot of it," she says.

"It's a very different film from anything I've ever worked on because it's so meditative. So we had to find the right pace without being boring," Schoonmaker says. "And to give the film the right shape and the right build toward the end was quite a challenge. Normally what we like to do is ramp up toward the end, whereas this was sort of the reverse."

Most naturally link Schoonmaker with Scorsese, but her life has been spliced between two filmmakers. Schoonmaker was married to the British director Michael Powell for six years before Powell's death in 1990 at 84.

They were first introduced through Scorsese, a passionate admirer of Powell's films with Emeric Pressburger ("The Red Shoes," ''Black Narcissus" among them). At the time, Powell's standing had badly dwindled following his controversial, now classic "Peeping Tom." Scorsese helped resuscitate his reputation. Powell, Schoonmaker says, gave them the ending to "After Hours" and encouraged Scorsese to give his once-languishing "Goodfellas" one more try.

"To have lived with one and worked for so long with another — two geniuses, so similar in so many ways but so different," says Schoonmaker. "Without knowing it, Michael taught Marty how to be a filmmaker and then Marty repaid that great gift by bringing him back to the world, which was a beautiful thing to watch. I can't tell you what it was like to watch the two of them together."

Her devotion to Powell remains. When Schoonmaker isn't at work on a Scorsese film, she's plumbing Powell's archives and helping restore his films, the latest of which was "The Tales of Hoffman." She hopes to soon tackle the extraordinary "I Know Where I'm Going!" Schoonmaker previously edited his two-volume memoir and is currently making her way through his journals.

She edits Powell and then she edits Scorsese, who's due to start "The Irishman" in June. It's a comfort, she says, to always have another Scorsese film on tap, unlike most who worked on "Silence."

"When they leave, they go into Marty withdrawal and I have to sort of help them through it like a shrink," she says, laughing. "I'm lucky. I know I always have another one coming."


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

A year later, Sundance grapples with 'Birth of a Nation'

What started as a Sundance celebration turned into a cautionary tale.

No one foresaw the ultimate collapse of Nate Parker's "Birth of a Nation" after its stellar reception at the Sundance Film Festival last year, when perfect timing, immense hype and a vigorous bidding war resulted in a record-setting $17.5 million sale. One year later, as Sundance begins again, "Birth of a Nation" isn't exactly top of mind for many — at this point a distant story as its would-be awards run suddenly dried up. But it remains a blemish that could affect how much distributors are willing to spend on a single film.

All agree that the rise and fall of "Birth of a Nation" had such a unique set of circumstances that it would be unimaginable that any film could ever recreate its path. One insider called it an "exception with a caveat."

"It was a film that was received with a once-in-every-10 years kind of reception," recalls Tatiana Siegel, a senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter. "There was a standing ovation before and after the film."

The enthusiasm, abetted by the fact that it debuted right as Hollywood was grappling with a second year of "OscarsSoWhite," and the ambitious money-spending from new distributors like Amazon and Netflix helped bump the sale price up to a Sundance high of $17.5 million. A very confident Fox Searchlight intended to run an awards campaign for their new film.

But that fall, the focus shifted away from the narrative of "timely passion project" to Nate Parker's past, which included a 17-year-old rape case in which he was acquitted.

Handicapped by Parker's personal life, and new reviews that seemed less enthusiastic than those born in the mountain air of Sundance, by the time the film actually hit theaters in October, its Oscar chances were slim and audience interest seemed even slimmer. At the end of its run, Fox Searchlight's big bet had grossed only $15.9 million.

Siegel thinks there's no way a film this year will sell for as much. Some say that distributors are now performing background checks on new filmmakers before making a deal, while others say they haven't heard this.

That a Sundance film underperformed in the marketplace is nothing new, however. Just a year earlier, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" sold for a then-record $12 million, also to Fox Searchlight, and Indian Paintbrush, and went on to make only $9 million worldwide.

"There's always the film or two that sells for what's perceived to be above market value at the Festival," said Arianna Bocco, the executive vice president of acquisitions and production for IFC Films, and an over two-decade Sundance vet. "You're seeing prices driven up by new distributors like Amazon and Netflix, but that is nothing new. It's very cyclical. In the past any new distributor coming onto the screen will want to make their mark and they know they have to spend money in order to do so."

Bocco still thinks that this year's Sundance will see some films sell for a lot, but whether it's to that level remains to be seen.

Sundance filmmakers, too, are inclined to take the case of "Birth of a Nation" for the anomaly that it is and know that every year, at every film festival, sale prices can fluctuate.

"It's a crap shoot," said "Newness" director Drake Doremus. "I've been on different sides of different kinds of sales over the years."

Doremus said that sometimes movies are sold for the right price, though. He noted "Manchester by the Sea," which Amazon acquired last year for $10 million and has earned $38.4 million to date.

For others, the entire idea that an independent film might sell for that much money is disconcerting.

"I'm just curious about that as a spectator. People should be nervous to buy movies for that kind of money anyway," said "Golden Exits" director Alex Ross Perry. "They could have bought 15 movies for $1 million and put out a movie every three weeks for the entire year. That would have been really interesting. That would have been way more shocking and relevant."


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Premiere of 'A Dog's Purpose' canceled amid treatment issue

This weekend's premiere of "A Dog's Purpose" has been canceled following the release of a video that appears to show a frightened dog being forced into churning water during production of the film.

TMZ published the video Wednesday showing a man struggling to put a dog into a pool of rushing water while the animal fights to stay out.

Producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures haven't disputed the authenticity of the footage.

They say in a joint statement that Universal decided to cancel the premiere because Amblin's review of the video is ongoing and they don't want "anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans."

"While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking," the statement said.

The companies say the film will be released nationwide as scheduled Jan. 27.

W. Bruce Cameron, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, says the events in the video don't reflect what he saw when he visited the set in person.

"The ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs," Cameron wrote in a Facebook post Friday.

"The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water," he continued. "When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the cancellation of the premiere appropriate after earlier calling for a boycott of the film.

How much are marathon bombing films getting in tax credits?

Hollywood films about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings shot on location last year to bring the story to the silver screen, but not all the for-profit productions have been forthcoming about the taxpayer-funded benefits they're seeking or have already received for filming in Massachusetts.

"Patriots Day," the $40 million film starring Mark Wahlberg that opened nationwide Jan. 13, sought state film tax credits, but production officials declined to provide more details when asked by The Associated Press.

"Other locations would have been less expensive for us to film, but everyone involved in our production felt it was important to make 'Patriots Day' in Boston," spokeswoman Mariellen Burns said in an emailed statement. "This was Boston's story."

Representatives for "Stronger," an upcoming film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a bombing survivor, declined to comment.

And "Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing," a documentary focused on bombing survivors that aired Nov. 21, did not apply for credits because it didn't meet program requirements, said HBO Films spokeswoman Lana Iny.

The Massachusetts Film Office provided the AP with emails and other documents exchanged between the productions and the agency as part of a public records request, but nothing that hinted at how much the films sought or received in credits.

The state Department of Revenue, which administers the tax credits, denied the AP's request, saying it's not obligated to disclose specific information about the productions at this time because they're still considered private taxpayer records.

Roger Randall, a department lawyer, said in a letter that Massachusetts law permits disclosure of this "otherwise confidential information" only through an annual report listing tax credits issued during the previous calendar year.

That means the amount of subsidies awarded to "Patriots Day," ''Stronger" or other productions that filmed in 2016 won't become public until the end of 2017 at the earliest — unless the productions themselves choose to disclose the information sooner.

"In short, you are seeking tax credit information in a form different from or ahead of the time that the legislature has expressly determined it should be disclosed," Randall wrote.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a Democrat who has proposed ways to curtail the program and improve its transparency, said the films have an obligation to be more forthcoming, even if state law doesn't require it.

"Any film production or company that receives any public subsidy should be discussing that," he said. "It's taxpayer dollars. It's public money."

Massachusetts and other states included confidentiality provisions in their laws at the industry's request, said John Bails, executive vice president at Film Production Capital, a Shreveport, Louisiana-based film tax credit consulting firm.

While Massachusetts and others have become somewhat more transparent by adding annual reporting requirements, some states remain stubbornly opaque, he said. Georgia, for example, does not provide information about what specific productions received, only annual totals for the program.

"All of these states are competing against each other for productions, and productions don't necessarily want people to know sizes of budget or exactly what their stars are getting paid," Bails said.

But the lack of disclosure is starting to give way as policymakers in a number of the 36 states that currently offer some form of film incentive take a harder look at their costs and benefits, he said. Louisiana, which in 1992 became the first state to create such a benefit, now provides a searchable database of productions seeking or receiving credits.

At least one film production touching on the marathon bombings was willing to address its tax credits.

"Boston," an upcoming documentary tracing the marathon's history, received $126,695 in credits in 2015, the latest report from the state, released last month, shows.

Producer Megan Williams said the credits helped offset production expenses, including filming of the April 2014 race — the first running of the marathon following the bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds more.

She declined to speculate on why the other productions were refusing to say how much they sought or received in credits, which are transferable tax discounts worth up to 25 percent of a qualified film's payroll and production expenses in Massachusetts.

"I can't really judge," Williams said. "Ultimately, it will be known information in the public record."


Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/philip-marcelo.

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